After the success of “The Terminator” in 1984, it strikes me as somewhat odd that there wasn’t a sequel rushed directly into production as soon as the original was deemed a hit. Nowadays, it seems like once a movie surpasses what it cost to make the movie then a sequel is virtually inevitable. This also seemed to be the mindset around certain movies back in the 1980’s, especially the slasher type of films; but for whatever reason seven long years passed between the release of “The Terminator” before director and writer James Cameron re-teamed with his stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”.

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” picks up approximately ten or so years after the events of the first film. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has been locked away in a mental institution after her crazed warnings of an impending holocaust at the hands of machines, and her 10-year old son John (Edward Furlong) is living with foster parents. After the initial failure of the first Terminator to complete its mission of eliminating Sarah, the evil Skynet has sent back an even more advanced model, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), to hunt down and kill her son John before he can grow up to become the leader of the human resistance. However, John’s future self is not without his own resources as he has sent back a weapon of his own to protect his younger self, a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) identical to the one that attempted to kill his mother ten years before.

A general rule about movies is that nine times out of ten the sequel may be on par with the original film, but rarely will it ever surpass what had come before; however, I feel very confident in saying that “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is easily one prime example of an exception to that rule. “The Terminator” was an excellent sci-fi movie that mixed futuristic elements with those of the modern day, but some may have wondered what more story could there possibly be since Sarah defeated the first Terminator, which should have saved her son and the future as well. Based on what I saw in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, or “T2” for short, what happened in the original was merely the beginning of a much bigger problem for mankind.

Writer/director James Cameron has once more crafted an extremely taut, perfectly paced, sci-fi thriller that is leaps and bounds above what was done in the first movie. The story for “T2” is much bigger, the drama is more intense, the action is pulse-pounding, and the visual effects are still incredible even to this day. James Cameron must have known that he was merely laying the initial groundwork in “The Terminator” for a vast mythology surrounding mankind’s future against the evil machines, because that last scene in the original movie hinted that something bigger may be on the horizon. Even though so many of us had seen the first movie and caught on to the hint that there may be more to tell, who knew it would be this massive blockbuster of a film that remains just as popular all these years later. Where the first film briefly touched upon Skynet and gave us brief glimpses at the war that awaits us in the future, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” takes all of that and builds upon it greatly. “T2” explores how events in the original movie actually set into motion the events of the future, shows us a very emotionally raw heroine in Sarah Connor, a different side to the Terminator from the first film, and to top it off gave us even more glimpses into the future battles that will ravage mankind. The only thing I can say about the story for “T2” is that it is simply awesome, and is quite possibly one of the greatest follow-up story’s I have ever seen come out of Hollywood.

The cast of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is comprised of a few familiar faces and some new ones as well. Linda Hamilton reprises her role of Sarah Connor with a much more emotionally charged performance than what was required of her in the original movie. Sarah is a completely different person than she was when we last saw her, now she is this highly trained warrior that is emotionally scarred and torn by what she feels to be her duty to train her son to become the leader of man, and yet to still protect him and care for him as her child. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, just as he promised in the first movie, as a reprogrammed Terminator, and proves yet again that this was the one role that he was born to play. Even though the character is just a machine, there are very neat moments within the movie where without saying much of anything, Arnold allows the Terminator to convey that there is some kind of connection that exists, a bond if you will, between the Terminator and John. James Cameron’s script really aided Arnold in what he was able to do with the Terminator this time around by exploring the fact that the machines can learn from and mimic humans, which allowed Arnold to show some, albeit limited, emotions while still remaining in character.

Joining the returning cast members we have newcomer Edward Furlong (“American History X”) as John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. Considering the fact that “T2” was his first acting gig, Edward did an amazing job of bringing John to life in a very realistic way as a troubled kid whose destiny is too big for him to possibly fathom. The way Edward handled John’s interactions with the Terminator was very interesting, because early on John sees the machine as a means to an end, nothing more than an overgrown action figure of sorts; however, over the course of the movie he begins to form a bond with the Terminator that becomes almost like a father-son relationship, that was at times quite poignant. The other new addition to the series was actor Robert Patrick (“We Are Marshall”) as the new, deadlier, and much more sophisticated T-1000 Terminator model. Robert was given a very physically challenging role that required a lot of physical activity, but from an acting standpoint the role didn’t really challenge him all that much. That being said, as unchallenging as it was onscreen in the acting realm, I’m sure the preparation for all of the visual effects associated with his character were most likely quite time consuming and at times daunting.

In the first movie the visual effects were very good, especially given the time at which the film was made, although over time I admit that some of the effects have lost their luster. While that statement is true for 1984’s “The Terminator”, it couldn’t be farther from the truth when referring to the stellar special effects work done for 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. While technology has definitely improved significantly since 1991, the effects within this movie still hold up quite well, and while maybe not as perfect as today’s effects, they are still very impressive in their own right. For example the morphing technology, used to create the numerous effects sequences for the liquid Terminator, was so mind-blowing back in 1991, and yet even today it still looks astonishing.

As I stated earlier, while “The Terminator” was a great movie, what James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger were able to achieve with the sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is simply amazing. Everything about this movie is just bigger and better than what was done in the original film, and this is an example of the kind of sequel that all studios should strive for when making a franchise.

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is rated R for violence and language.