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This movie won Oscars for Best Makeup; Visual Effects Editing; Sound; Sound Effects Editing.

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 05, 1991

Brutally beautiful, darkly comic sci-fi, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is guaranteed to destroy the feeble competition and conquer the world this summer. Visceral to the point of overkill (and beyond), a berserk blizzard of kinetic images, it doesn't even give you time to be scared.

And even though "T2" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's not just another chrome-plated casual carnage flick. "T2" has a humane message; in fact, it's even Politically Correct, in a perverse way. Here's a techno-movie that is virulently anti-technology; that deploys mega-violence to make a statement about the value of human life; that is macho in the extreme, but has a female sensibility at heart.

And it has Arnold. Just try and stop it.

As we survey the scorched metal graveyard that is Los Angeles circa 2029, a solemn voice-over brings us up to date since the first "Terminator": Intelligent computers began the nuclear war that wiped out 3 billion lives on Aug. 29, 1997. Those few unlucky humans who survived were left to face a far fiercer enemy than men -- the malevolent machines we created.

But it doesn't have to end that way: The human resistance is led by John Connor, who reprogrammed the original Terminator -- a titanic Teutonic cyborg with a metal robot skeleton beneath its flesh-and-blood exterior -- and sent it back in time to protect himself as a young boy.

And John's mother Sarah (wiry hellcat Linda Hamilton, who outdoes Sigourney "Aliens" Weaver in Ultimate Overprotective Mom mode), is determined to change the future by "terminating" a scientist who bases his ultra-advanced weapons technology on a microchip left behind during the first "Terminator's" earthly visit, thus unwittingly designing the doom of mankind.

So this time, when Schwarzenegger materializes in a parking lot in a blaze of blue lightning, he's a good guy, sort of, sent to protect young John Connor, a 12-year-old mall rat. After John (chipper, androgynous Edward Furlong) learns this frightening father-figure has to obey his orders ("Cool! My own Terminator!"), he gradually humanizes the implacable Terminator, teaching him about mores and emotions ("I will not kill anybody," he promises John after one such lesson -- instead, he just maims them for life). He also gives the Terminator a crash course in teen slang, which provides Schwarzenegger with the raft of drop-dead deadpan one-liners kids will be repeating all summer.

But the robots have also sent a Terminator back in time -- the T-1000, more advanced, more deadly even than Arnold (he's just a T-800) -- on a mission to terminate kid Connor. Blond, bland, all-American-looking Robert Patrick plays the T-1000, who moves about in an L.A. cop's uniform. Relentless and almost invincible, the T-1000 is made of "liquid metal," so he's self-healing and capable of quicksilver metamorphoses into anything he's made contact with.

The collision of these two dueling near-indestructible man-machines at large in Los Angeles leads to fight scenes like you've never seen.

Director and co-screenwriter James Cameron has the framing eye of a great comic-book artist, and a bracingly sick sense of humor -- he wittily borrows from the surrealistic hallucinations of "Nightmare on Elm Street," the paranoia of "Silence of the Lambs" -- and even indulges in a clever reversal of the melting Wicked Witch scene from "The Wizard of Oz."

Budgeted in excess of $90 million ("T1" cost a mere $6 million), "T2" is the most expensive movie ever made, and Cameron puts it all on screen -- the makeup, special effects and especially the harrowing chase scenes (a 14-wheeler truck chases a dirt bike through the L.A. flood-control channels; a helicopter buzzes a SWAT van on the L.A. freeway) redefine "spectacular." And, of course, there are dozens of satisfying explosions, including a horrifyingly vivid envisioning of a nuclear holocaust.

After the techno-frenzy of Schwarzenegger's "Total Recall," audiences wondered how anyone could top that film's special effects and epic body count. Now you've gotta be afraid of the movie that tries to outdo "Terminator 2."

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