Tuesday, September 07, 2004

terminator 2

thanks kindly to a writer friend, sly, for jogging my memory in regards to T2. sly runs an australian-football oriented site which also features his writing & reviews from time to time - http://members.optusnet.com.au/~rant101/

his primary argument is that T2 gets worse with each viewing. it does.

i first saw it on video when i was very young (too young to see it at the cinemas). as a ten-year-old it was an incredible, important, imagistic experience. the violence was spectacular and stylish - an important quality: kids bought up in hollywood homes are often connoisseurs of violence. as an example - arnie's shotgun work seemed supreme. friends of mine literally went wild when he reloaded his 'shottie' while continuing to steer his harley-davidson - the way he flung the whole gun around one finger & got off the next round with scary accuracy. for many of us this had wider lifestyle implications - the most sought-after T2 bedroom-wall movie poster featured arnie, shottie in hand, sitting astride his motorbike wearing black leather & opaque sunglasses. no surprise also that the shotgun became everyone's weapon of choice when first-person-shooter computer games such as 'wolfenstein', 'duke nukem 3d', & 'doom' burst onto the scene in about 1993.

i jest not - kids at school were raving for months about the amazing arsenal arnie commands in T2. that small, seemingly lightweight grenade launcher (at one stage late in the film someone is struggling to open a locked door with a key; arnie steps in with his grenade launcher & says, 'here, let me try mine'), & the mother of all machine guns, the 'mini-gun'. all made wonderfully effective sounds, sounds which you'd hear echoing around every schoolyard in the early nineties: the fatally understated 'fffffffhhhhhpop!' of the grenade launcer, the deafening, high-pitched 'bwwwwwrrrinnnngggg!' of the mini-gun, & everyone's favourite, the 'schhtick-schhtick-BOOM!' of the pump-action shotgun.

while these counted among the more carnal attractions of the picture, the film carried themes which seemed life-or-death important to primary school kids - basically, if sarah & john connor & arnie didn't come thru with the goods, we'd all die, courtesy of nuclear war & the rise of super-intelligent, violent robots. the nuclear war thing was especially terrifying to young kids - strangely enough, the only scene in T2 that me & my friends would think twice about watching (i.e. the only scene during which we'd subtly cover our eyes), was sarah connor's nuclear explosion nightmare. watching someone get their flesh blown off - leaving only a screaming skeleton behind - was just too much. we were much happier watching the very neat killing techniques of arnie & his arch-nemesis, the T1000.

these themes i speak of were given real resonance by a few different things - the urgency & desperation of the sarah connor character (in retrospect, awkwardly & aggressively overplayed by linda hamilton); a wonderful dramatic score, at once heart-poundingly simple & broodingly sad; & best of all, some wonderful lighting. lighting-wise, the film works around two opposites - LA during the daytime (the early scenes are bathed in an over-sunny californian glow, & the strange scenes at the desert weapons compound are similarly 'sunny'), & pristine/foreboding LA during the night-time. the night scenes, lavishly lit in artificial blue (very reminiscent of the blue kubrick uses in 'eyes wide shut'), remain memorable. it's as if the pristine colour-scheme justifies the neatness/efficiency of the battle being raged between two expert killing machines. & then of course when we are transported - during the film's climax - into a nondescript steel plant, the primary light turns from blue to fiery/sparkish-orange, signifying a boiling-point encounter, a less orderly showdown.

i sense the character of john connor (played by eddie furlong) was created in order to get kids closer to the somewhat foreboding arnie character (in that regard he plays a similar role to the excruciating jar jar binks in star wars 1; a 'fun' character designed to get the uninitiated young interested in the stars wars concept). just like jar jar, john connor's a complete disaster. even as a ten-year-old, he came across as a moralising, high-pitched annoyance. eddie furlong's not really to blame - some of the lines he gets are quasi-teenage-cool horrendous: 'time out, time out, stop the bike' etc.

as it turns out, it's another somewhat untested actor, robert patrick, who does his best to give the film a really classy, dramatic edge. aided by some ludicrously good special effects, his T1000 character stalks & sprints through the film with memorable, mostly silent aplomb. & it's worth watching this film a few times for those two reasons - patrick's performance, & the still-impressive special effects. & in order to appreciate just why it might've captivated you as a ten-year-old.


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