After attempting to kill Sarah Connor in the first film, the Terminator is back--except this time he's been reprogrammed to have a change of heart. Returning from the future, his mission now is to prevent a bigger and meaner cyborg--the T-1000--from killing Sarah's son, who will one day be at the helm of the war between humans and machines.
For die-hard fans of science fiction*, it's easy to see how Terminator 2: Judgment Day is quite the pioneer in terms of its special effects. The film is composed of spectacle after spectacle, from cyborgs morphing into human beings to elaborate fight scenes involving raging fire pits and exploding trucks. The CGI of the film deserves credit, as it's hard to imagine anything prior to 1991 that achieved such sophisticated, awe-inspiring images. In terms of visuals, Terminator 2: Judgment Day undoubtedly delivered, and had me optimistic that perhaps this wouldn't be another run-of-the-mill science fiction debacle.
That hope dwindled, however, with the realization that the film's narrative abounds with gaping plot holes. While the fact that it's science fiction allows leeway for unrealistic events, screenwriters William Wisher and James Cameron seem to feed off the film's precursor, using its success to tamper with the logic of the story and get away with it. Why else, for instance, would it go unquestioned that although John eventually destroys the T-1000 and the microchip that creates all cyborgs, there still somehow remains the risk for a future war between humans and machines? Or that, although Sarah is stabbed pretty forcefully by the T-1000 during the climax, she's still quite able to remain alive, escape its clutches, and even try her hand at gunning it down? The only, albeit unsatisfying, way to reconcile such issues is to accept that this genre, by definition, doesn't need to account for much realism.
Nor does it appear to pay much heed to the quality of acting. Edward Furlong as the unruly, 14-year old John Connor is agonizingly irritating, overacting to the point where no longer do we care that he will one day rescue the human race from total destruction, but we almost hope that the T-1000 will get him. Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually in an ideal role here, because lucky for him, playing the Terminator doesn't require any actual acting. Instead, it relies merely on having physical strength and a robotic demeanor, both of which come to him naturally. His few attempts at humor and sensitivity are awkward at best; while they may have been included to give him more of a paternal image in terms of his relationship with John, it's all the more disconcerting to imagine that a machine is being made to take the place of a real person--which, on second though, may have been an intended effect, a warning of sorts that society's obsession with technology may be taking over human relationships. Only Robert Patrick's portrayal of the T-1000 is satisfying**; aloof and unapologetically brutal, he passes off perfectly as a soulless machine whose only goal is demolition.
Worst of all, though, is the sheer length of the film. Halfway through, it turns into one big chase scene that gets extremely tiring to watch. The T-1000 is supposed to be indestructible, the ultimate threat to the cozy family unit that Sarah, John, and the Terminator have become. Although we catch on to that pretty much within the first 30 minutes, Cameron seems determined to pound it into our heads. Thus, for more than 2 hours, we are subjected to watch the T-1000 repeatedly get shot, blown up, and disintegrated into puddles of liquid metal, only to fuse back together and resurface without a hint of a scratch on its human-like exterior. While the images are striking indeed, the lackluster performances, ludicrous plot, and unforgivably long runtime eventually overtake the visuals, making Terminator 2: Judgment Day much less enjoyable than it had the potential to be.
*i.e. NOT me
**and he doesn't even have any LINES! That should tell you something about the rest of the performances.