December 26, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (4K Ultra/Blu-Ray)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley. Directed by James Cameron. (1991, 137/152 min).

Can you believe Terminator 2: Judgment Day is over a quarter-century old? It seems like just yesterday that I saw this on opening weekend and was blown away by sights no one had ever seen before (though even back then, the revelation that Arnold's character turned out to be the hero was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood).

Those too young to remember might not appreciate what a game changer T2 was at the time. Along with Die Hard, it redefined the modern action film and it was suddenly okay for a studio to spend over $100 million on a single film. It's visual effects were as groundbreaking as those in Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Director James Cameron was able to write his own ticket. As for Arnold Schwarzenegger...while he'd have a few more hits afterwards, this was the pinnacle of his reign as the world's most beloved action hero.

T2 was the movie event of 1991, as unstoppable as its titular character. Everything about it was so damn big, loud and flashy that we totally overlooked its shortcomings (a trademark of most of Cameron's films, really) and declared it the greatest sequel ever made, even surpassing the original Terminator.

What does this button do?
A lot has changed since then. Its cutting-edge visuals and explosive action may seem old-hat compared to the city-wide destruction inflicted by Marvel every year. On the franchise front, recent Terminator sequels have been greeted like unwelcome in-laws. Cameron went exclusively into the Avatar business and the once-indestructible Arnold had the gall to grow old. Since the smoke has died down and cooler heads prevailed, the original film has regained its rightful place as the best film in the entire franchise.

Still, T2 remains one of the best sequels ever made and remains as deservedly iconic as the first film. That'll never change. Cameron may not be the most original or imaginative storyteller to ever sit in a director's chair, but even his most grandiose visions remain well-grounded by impeccable narrative skill and good characters. T2 could've forgone such trifles - the stuff Michael Bay seldom bothers with -  and still made a ton of money. But then, we wouldn't still be talking about it today.

Another thing that'll never change is its availability on home video, having repeatedly been repackaged & rereleased countless times over the years. It was one of the first films ever made available on DVD, as well as one of the earliest Blu-Ray releases. So I'm actually kind-of surprised it's taken this long to be given the 4K Ultra treatment.

"Alright, boys...let's tap this keg."
I'm still not quite convinced 4K is a preferable format - I personally think it makes this particular film look worse. Still, even those who already own T2 but aren't quite ready to make the leap may want to consider double-dipping for this one. While the 4K disc features just the original theatrical cut, the accompanying Blu-Ray has all three existing versions of the film (the original cut is the remastered version for a recent 3D theatrical release, though not presented in 3D here). Best of all is an all-new retrospective documentary, "T2: Reprogramming The Terminator." Running nearly an hour, most of the key people on both sides of the camera fondly recall all aspects of the film's production & impact, including Schwarzenegger, Cameron, Edward Furlong, Joe Morton, Robert Patrick, co-writer William Wisher, composer Brad Fiedel, Carolco founder Mario Kassar and others.

Supposedly, there's yet another version of T2 4K on the horizon that comes with a life-sized Terminator "Endo-arm." As of this writing, no release date has been set for that one. Until then, this might be the definitive edition, which also includes a lot of vintage bonus material from previous releases along with the new stuff.

FEATURETTE: "The Making of T2" - Vintage documentary from 1993.
2 DELETED SCENES (both with optional commentary).
4 TRAILERS (including one for the 2017 3D re-release).
AUDIO COMMENTARIES: One with director/co-writer James Cameron & co-writer William Wisher, the other featuring 23 members of the cast & crew.
3 VERSIONS OF THE FILM (Theatrical, Special Edition & Extended Special Edition)

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