The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Terminator vs T2



I watched "The Terminator" last night. It has to have been many years since I last saw this, and I'm going to say something which I know will provoke a reaction, but I have always felt this way, and more so after last night. Anyone who thinks "Terminator 2" is better is wrong. This isn't even one being slightly better than the other, this is a HUGE drop in quality. Huge!

"The Terminator" has the superior script, the superior story. Sarah Connor is the superior protagonist. John Connor works better as an idea than as a character. We got to see her grow from this waitress into the mother of humanity's savior.

The imagery, the characters, the way they deliver the exposition, the love story, the score, the performances, the animatronics, the guerrilla filmmaking that was involved. Cameron was very passionate about this film and it shows.

The second movie, good god, the second movie is a train wreck. Oh, and before I proceed further, if you are going to comment with "well, at least it's better than T3 or Salvation" don't comment at all. "It could have been worse" is not any kind of defense. Think about this argument for a moment, it's like saying one should be grateful for the stench of a garbage dump because the stench of a septic tank is even worse.

The second one is a cartoon. It's an R-rated kids' movie. And I think that's part of why so many people of a certain age prefer it. The dreaded nostalgia goggles. For an entire generation, it's one of the very first R-rated movies they saw. And it's an R-rated toy commercial! That's exactly what it is, an R-rated toy commercial.

Now, I've heard it before "John Connor is supposed to be annoying, he's a teenager." Yes, but is this a story that really needs to be seen? Did we need to see Darth Vader as a nine year old kid? John Connor works best as an idea, not an on screen character.

The T-1000, I don't care if it redefined special effects and was a technical achievement, it was no where near as frightening a villain as the cold, merciless, emotionless cyborg from the first movie. Not even close. It felt more like your standard movie psycho, and I know it was mimicking emotions and not actually feeling them, but a more powerful robot and a better special effect don't make for a better storytelling device. Everything about the original was better.

The one liners... oh god, don't get me started on "No problemo, " "Hasta la vista, baby" and all that other crap. Making the Terminator a hero is about as asinine as making the Alien a hero. Or making the Predator a hero.

Finally, and the second movie took all the rules set up in the first movie about time travel and threw them straight out the window. The first movie was a clear example of closed loop time travel, you cannot change history. You can only fulfill it. Reese goes back in time and fathers John Connor with Sarah Connor because he always did and always will. We even see the picture he had of her before he traveled through time get taken at the very end of the movie. The second movie decides all on its own that you can change history, that history is mutable... which is a complete changing of the rules as previously established. First of all, Skynet was already defeated and sent one and only one Terminator through before it's defeat... so where did the second one come from? Not to mention the end of T2 where they managed to prevent Skynet from being created in the first place. Prevented Judgement Day... though according to T3 logic, Judgement Day was only delayed... but you know what, either way it's still changing the rules. It's a colossal cheat.

"The Terminator" is a great movie that never needed a sequel, and we'd have been better off without a sequel. The second is a drop in quality so drastic that I'm going to make this analogy and I am going to mean it. "The Terminator" is "The Empire Strikes Back" and T2 is "The Phantom Menace." The sequel was an R-rated toy commercial, nothing more.

EDIT: As my friend, Rob pointed out elsewhere: Another way Cameron breaks his own rules is that in the first movie, the android can go back in time because it's covered by organic tissue. There's nothing organic about the T-1000.

12 comments:

  1. I like the first Terminator more too. I always like films that the director made on a tight budget, because they had to personally supervise everything that went in and I get nostalgic for pre-CGI special effects. Some of my favorite budget movies are The Terminator, the first Assualt on Precinct 13, and The Duellists. Heck, take a look at the new Casey Jones movie. Another reason why I like student or amateur films.

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  2. While I don't dislike the second as much as you, I do agree the first was better, and agree with all your specific points as well. As for the time loop- I thought the point at the end of T2 was they thought they stopped Judgment Day by destroying the robots, but the T-800's arm was ripped off during the fight, and they forgot to destroy that, so it was what really was responsible for the time loop. Well, I'm not sure if that was the point or if it even made sense (I only saw it once or twice, and it's been a while), but I gather the later movies completely threw any sense with regard to time travel out the window. I never saw the later ones, and I don't think I missed much.

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  3. As much as I enjoyed T2, I'll admit that the "changing the rules" thing always bugged me. If they really destroyed Skynet and changed history in the end....then why the Hell is John Connor still existing? They erased the war in the future, and thus the events that led to his birth, from history! The entire story was pretty much rendered meaningless.

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  4. Both films are good in their own genre like the firs two Aliens films. The first one- Sci Fi horror while the second- an awesome action adventure.

    I'm surprised you didn't compare Ahnold and Robert Patrick since you looove talking about villains in the media.There are some actors no matter how hard they try I just can't see them as villains due to their acting career like Ahnold here and Jeff bridges in Iron Man.
    I liked Robert Patrick's T-1000 the some reason why Siskel, Ebert,and Nostagia Critic liked him. He looks like a friendly guy who you least would expect to be a villain. At least Michael Bay or the screenwriters also did the a poor man's job with the idea in the TF films.

    Speaking of TF films, T2 is what the TF films should've been. A robot with noble intentions prowages battle against a sadistic villain

    I don't think you should put Edward Furlong in the same level of acting as Jake Lloyd since Furlong was a tweleve year old kid who might become the savior of the human race (no pressure or anything) while Lloyd turns out to be a mass murderer. Nick Stahl maybe should be compred to Hayden Christensen or Channing Tatum.

    Like I said above, I prefer Ahnold as the hero like all his films. Michael Biehn was always sounding like he was out of breath.

    The main character in T2 was Sarah Conner who like Ellen Ripley took a level in badass, not John.


    I love T2 and I like the first one (why is this the only Terminator Film without aubtitle?). The third and fourth ones are guilty pleasures in my opinion.

    One thing confuses me is how a soldier from John's future turns up to be his father. I just find it weird. Can you imagine after T2, the conversation that John and his mother have about Kyle. (Shudders)

    What do you think of the short-lived series that came out a few years back?

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    1. Oh, and to quote my friend, Rob:

      Another way Cameron breaks his own rules is that in the first movie, the android can go back in time because it's covered by organic tissue. There's nothing organic about the T-1000.

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  5. "One thing confuses me is how a soldier from John's future turns up to be his father. I just find it weird. Can you imagine after T2, the conversation that John and his mother have about Kyle. (Shudders)"

    It's not weird, it's closed loop time travel. Same reason Xanatos was able to send those medieval coins to himself from the past to set up his present fortune. You will because you did.

    I don't because T2 does not exist, because if it does, it contradicted itself with the mechanics of it's time travel. They changed the rules, and that's a huge no no in good story telling.

    But they, they were no longer telling a speculative fiction story, they were making an R-rated toy commercial.

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    1. How is Terminator 2 a toy ad? I think you're confusing Transformers with this film.

      There's a lot going on in this film.

      John tames a killer cyborg into just harming people instead of killing him. He didn't lines to Ahnold like are you a guardian angel or yipeee a hundred times

      The said killer cyborg becomes a father-like figure to him. This part's pretty much spelled out with Sarah's inner monlogue.

      You got another cyborg killer who looks like a nice cop but who's actually the killer this time.

      You got the frail Sarah Conner who's become hardened and almost cold with her experience from the last film whose willing to go to desperate measures to prtect her son while John tries to bring her back to humanity.

      There's also the manfacturer who tries to
      redeem himself from causing the titular Judgement Day.

      Also, see Siskel and Ebert's review of the film, what's the thing they keep praising? The characters and the people who play them.

      You might respond back by saying that it's a dumb special effects flick with Ahnold displaying his usual fare of action bits and Linda Hamilton playing Ms. Awesome.

      As for the rules, the rules are what the story teller wants them to be. Not every show or movie will cater to the rules of time travel that Gargoyles implies.
      It's like saying each cop show or movie should follow the process of a CSI show and nothing different or each show done by JJ Abrams should make us think outside the box about what we watched. If it doesn't do that, you hate it.

      Time travel is a very confusing idea in fiction and when we get to the point in reality. Trust me. a good season of LOST has taught me that time travel can be a b**** and whatever happens, happened.

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    2. "How is Terminator 2 a toy ad? I think you're confusing Transformers with this film."

      Oh, now you're making this personal, I see.

      "John tames a killer cyborg into just harming people instead of killing him. He didn't lines to Ahnold like are you a guardian angel or yipeee a hundred times"

      Those lines did suck. So did "no problemo" and "hasta la vista, baby." Just as much as anything George Lucas wrote.

      "You might respond back by saying that it's a dumb special effects flick with Ahnold displaying his usual fare of action bits and Linda Hamilton playing Ms. Awesome."

      You would be right

      "As for the rules, the rules are what the story teller wants them to be. Not every show or movie will cater to the rules of time travel that Gargoyles implies.
      It's like saying each cop show or movie should follow the process of a CSI show and nothing different or each show done by JJ Abrams should make us think outside the box about what we watched. If it doesn't do that, you hate it."

      That's not what I said at all. Those were the rules as established in the first movie. But those rules were changed later on when they became inconvenient... and that is what a hack does. You can't change the rules in a story when it becomes convenient... crap like that is what leads to Superman getting a new power when the plot calls for it.

      It has nothing to do with "Gargoyles did it, so everyone else should do it to." But it's easy to dodge that when you resort to putting words in my mouth.

      As for Siskel and Ebert. Siskel liked "Carnosaur," and Ebert liked "Transformers." What's your point?

      Oh, and sign a name if you're going to post again.

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  6. I'm fine with T2 because it justified the existence of Sarah Connor Chronicles.

    Now that I think about it, I still need to watch the second season. I started watching that show pretty goshdarn late.

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  7. I remember a couple of years ago I was some Terminator web site and they had a timeline and they explained the time travel plot holes by saying they were divergent timestreams like Back to the Future II. Future John Connor knows his future's screwed but he wants to prevent it for people of another timestream or something. I don't know.... If it takes longer to say than to think it, it's still probably a big plot hole.

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  8. I don't have a problem with T2 but I can see where you're coming from. Though an argument could be made that there could be a closed time loop in T2 it's just the characters think they can change the future. There are some problems with that I'm sure, but I haven't seen either films in years to point them out.

    Something interesting someone pointed out to me was the tradition gender role reversal that happened between the first and second movies. Arnie was the traditional big tough strong man and Linda Hamilton was the traditional scared mother figure in the first film. Then in the second Hamilton is in the traditional male father role and Arnie is in the mother role.

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  9. It's actually not farfetched to call T2 an R-Rated toy commercial. I don't recall any merchandise being associated with the first movie, but look what I found for the second one:

    http://www.figurerealm.com/checklist.php?action=checklist&seriesid=246&universeid=&figures=

    -Rob

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