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Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Humanity has always suspected its end would be met by its own hand, be it through pollution or a nuclear winter. There's something almost poetic about the idea. Devastating, but poetic. Until that moment comes though, we'll always be scrambling to improve our lives through technology. Scientists and developers of interactive technology will eventually become obsessed with creating perfect artificial intelligence, racing against time to achieve the Singularity. In a perfect world, scientists would do things soley based on the merit that they should. Those who achieve this Singularity will unfortunately become textbook examples of why scientists shouldn't do things just because they could, at least in the iconic universe James Cameron has brought to life with his Terminator franchise.
In The Terminator, Sarah Connor found out that humanity was going to have to fight for its survival against an army of machines, and that she was going to one day give birth to the leader of the human resistance. A cyborg had been sent back in time to destroy her before the child could be concieved, but a man by the name of Kyle Reese, also sent back through time, was there to ensure the machine wouldn't succeed. This first battle for the future left a lot of unanswered questions after everything was all said and done, and Sarah was eventually thrown into a maximum security psychiatric ward after being on the run long enough to put some pretty heavy pressure about the future into her son's head. No pressure, right?
Terminator 2: Judgment Day fast forwards when John Connor is ten years old. He's quite a handful for his age, which is understandable considering he was raised to believe he was going to be an important military leader, only to be convincingly told later on it was all a lie and that his mother was nuts. Acting out, he's constantly in trouble with the law, spends an endless amount of money via stolen debit cards, and makes life for his foster parents a living hell. With John being seperated from his mother, the machines seize the opportunity to try and destroy him. A T-1000 is sent, a model that's made of liquid metal and virtually indestructable. A T-800 (the same model tried to kill Sarah) is also sent, but this time as a protector. Considering it's not the first time the machines have tried to wipe John out of existance and certainly not the last, Sarah sets a logical string of events in motion. If she can kill the developer of the super CPU, as well as destroy the evidence left behind by the first terminator that was sent to kill her, 'judgment day' might never end up in future history books.
The premise of the film is pretty simplistic, but the ideology feels strong and even real enough that you don't even care. The real strengths of the film lie in its incredible action sequences, as well as its ability to keep the lengthy runtime pretty painless, as opposed to seeming like a terribly fragmented mess. I can't honestly say the script is mind blowing, or that the acting is superb. Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton can be a little over the top, and let's face it, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick aren't really on display for their terrific acting abilities. James Cameron was really the key behind making the entire production a complete success. Despite the flaws the film may have in its writing or acting, Cameron has made this film an entirely seamless experience. Everything that happens in the film, be it an action scene or any given conversation, is all in the film for a specific reason. Nothing is gratuitous. The end result is a film that seems to be almost a little too perfect in its construction, but it matters little, as it's easy to understand why Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the top action power houses of all time. James Cameron has brought a very unique vision to the table with this film (as he does with most any other action film he's done), and even after almost twenty years of being a part of cinematic history, Terminator 2 still has as much of a unique voice today as it did back in 1991. If you're one of the very few people who have never seen this film, then you're missing not just a great film, you're missing one of the best Hollywood has offered in the sci-fi/action genre ever.
A majority of you are undoubtedly going to hinge your decision to add this to your collection based on the video quality. This VC-1 encode (2.35:1 at 1080p) is a pretty nice step up from the previously released Blu-ray from Lionsgate, and even so, it's still going to disappoint a lot of the people that were waiting for the definitive release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
The original Blu-ray release in the United States certainly left a lot to be desired. A combination of massive edge enhancement and compression issues made it an undesirable release all around. The imagery was soft and edgings were not well defined at all. Contrast and color saturation was alright, but certainly not nearly up to the snuff a present Blu-ray encode can provide. Blocky motion artifacts were also prevalent, and edge enhancement was utilized to try and correct the issue of softness all around.
The new encode is a lot nicer in many respects. The image is much sharper, bringing much more clarity to the film all around. Edgings are much more defined than they used to be as a result. Contrast has been improved upon pretty nicely, and the level of color saturation has also been stepped up a bit. Edge enhancement is still around here and there throughout the film, but a huge improvement has been made when compared with the previous Blu-ray offering. Artifact blocks are also not as prevalent as they were before, but they have not been eradicated completely. Most of the time you won't really be able to see them in motion, but doing some random freeze frames throughout the film show that there's still some form of artifacting going on. Thankfully it's not a big distraction by any means. To make this an even more pleasant experience, a bit of dirt has been cleaned up from the film. From what I've told you so far, this seems to be a more than acceptable release for Terminator 2. Not definitive, but certainly acceptable enough.
Yet here's the atom bomb: DNR. Studios just aren't apparently listening, and if they are, they just don't care about what the high def aficionados want in their home video releases. High definition is supposed to be about the most accurately detailed image that can be pulled from the source, as faithfully as possible. We still seem to have geniuses that are using their job title as some sort of guise, because utilizing the heavy DNR we see in this release does not produce a faithful representation of the film. All it does is make it look 'pretty', which is a debatable term in the high def world in and of itself, for the average consumer. I honestly haven't seen this much DNR slathering in quite a while. I've at least seen other studios reduce the amount of DNR they use, so at least some of the detail integrity is left intact. Mostly everything in this latest release is smooth and waxy and there's quite a bit of noticeable smearing. The original Blu-ray release, as inferior as it may be in many regards, at least had some grain structure while preserving a little bit of the finer details, despite not being able to come out to play due to a poor encode. That fine detail is missing here, and this is unquestionably going to make or break sales decisions. You certainly don't spell 'definitive release' with 'controversy', but that's exactly what this release is going to stir up.
So, is this release worth your time and money, or not? I hate not really being able to provide a real opinion or suggestion on such an issue, but this really will have to be decided with the eyes of the beholder. It's a step up from the other Blu-ray release that's been out, and a very large step up from whatever DVD version you might have already. Some will undoubtedly consider the improvement in sharpness, color, contrast and compression, as well as the much lesser extent of edge enhancement to be worth the upgrade. The heavy DNR will also make this release unwatchable for a very large number of people despite the upgrades in other areas of the video. My advice is to rent this before you decide to buy. If you don't own this film yet on DVD or Blu-ray however and simply can't wait to add this title to your collection, now is just as good a time as any to get it. Keep in mind that Cameron is rumored, and I place emphasis on the word 'rumored' as I don't believe anything until I see it, to go back and remaster the film after he's done with Avatar. Once should also remember that the twentieth anniversary of Terminator 2 will be here in just two short years, and if Lionsgate track record with this film is any indication, they'll most likely be crankin' out a new edition then, too.
We have an incredibly solid DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track here, bringing a very surprising amount of gusto and depth to the table. It really says a lot considering this film is almost twenty years old. Although many of you are going to be basing your decision to purchase this release or not based on the video quality, you really should take the audio into consideration. To start things off, the dynamic range is very impressive. Dialogue remains audible and crystal clear at all times. When the action gets heavy, the boastful bass and impressive clarity in very loud sound effects make for a truly filling and realistic experience, enhanced even further with an inspiring directional sound field mix. I couldn't really find a single reason to hate on the audio presentation for the latest Terminator 2 offering from Lionsgate at all. If you're someone that will upgrade a title based on the inclusion of a lossless audio track, or just a far superior audio experience in general, you should seriously consider adding the Skynet Edition to your collection. You'll find yourself blown away at just how good a catalogue title pushing almost two decades can sound.
All three versions of the film are here on this disc. This includes the Theatrical Version, Special Edition, as well as the Extended Special Edition which can only be accessed by inputting the code '82997' into the Select Version menu. The Special Edition of the film contains additional scenes and shots to make Terminator 2 seem a bit of a fuller, albeit a little slower experience. The Extended Special Edition is essentially the same cut as the Special Edition, but has a happier ending tacked onto the end of the film.
-Sensory Controls (Menu)- - I'll cut right to the chase on this menu. Inside are two commentaries, but there's nothing new to be heard. Both tracks, the Production and Writer/Director commentaries, have been available on older releases, DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film alike. The Writer/Director commentary is really the one you'll want to listen to, as Cameron and Wisher are a team that knows how to deliver the goods without making it a boring experience.
-Interactive Modes (Menu)- - The following features are for the Special Edition of the film only. The picture-in-picture features are pretty much old hat, as they're pretty much the featurettes that have been available on previous DVD editions. The picture-in-picture aspect of their inclusion this time around is interesting, but not exactly fresh.
Visual Implants - This allows a pretty decent 'making of' featurette to play throughout the course of the film. There's plenty of insight and information, and definitely worth watching if you've never taken the time to view the material here on the prior DVD or Blu-ray releases.
Trivia Data Overlay - This provides a text commentary of trivial facts about the film.
Production Data Overlay - Textual information about shot methodologies that are available while watching the film.
Linked Data Modules - You'll be able to branch outside of the film at specific points to view behind-the-scenes slideshows that are accompanied with audio.
Source Code - The original screenplay is shown in sync with the film.
Schematics - This allows storyboard sequences to play throughout the film.
Query Mode - This is a quiz that you're able to take while watching the film.
*****I had troubles accessing the 1.1 profile Picture-in-Picture features. I would drop down the Interactive Modes menu, highlight one of the P-i-P tracks and wait for the track to begin working during the film. It wouldn't work. It's been reported by others that they've been experiencing the same issue. This is NOT a batch of defective discs, it's a MAJOR flaw of the design. You have to click the Interactive Modes menu, move down the menu after it expands to select Visual Implants, and then go back UP to select Activate Interactive Mode. A good design would have let you select what you wanted, and have it activate that way. As I have mentioned earlier in my review, remember that these only work for the Special Edition of the film.
The features available in the Interactive Modes menu are pretty information, but actually a bit boring. They're not boring just because they're rehashes of the same old featurettes we've seen for some time now, but the text based tracks are, what I would assume, a pretty unimaginative way to get information across.
-Ancillary Data (Menu)- - This menu consists of what's considered to be the norm for bonus features on any given release.
Trailers - There are a total five trailers here: Teaser, Theatrical Trailers 1 and 2, T2SE Trailer, and the T2 THX Trailer.
Terminated Data - Selecting this menu option will allow you to view the following two scenes (which I will list individually as they are available further down the menu to view on their own) together in one sitting:
"T-1000's Search" - This scene shows the T-1000 going through the home of John's foster parents in greater detail. It's an interesting watch, but it would have slowed the pace of the film down a bit. This scene can be viewed with or without commentary by Robert Patrick and James Cameron.
"Future Coda" - This is the happy ending from the Extended Special Edition, which shows Sarah and John Connor living a happy and judgment day free life thirty years in the future. This is also a pretty interesting scene to see on its own, as its inclusion at the end of the Extended Special Edition really doesn't go with the flow of the film at all. This scene can be viewed with or without commentary by Stan Winston, Linda Hamilton and James Cameron.
Dyson Protocol List - This is a menu link to the Blu-ray disc credits.
There is also a BD 2.0 Skynet Access menu that's available, but cannot be accessed at the time of review due to a date restriction.
All in all the extras are essentials for any Terminator 2 package, but instead of offering anything new for this release, Lionsgate focused on figuring out a new way to present most of them instead with a shiny new menu. There are really only so many times you can repackage the same stuff over and over again though, and although all the information on this disc is fantastic, it's growing increasingly stale with every money grabbing release we get. I also feel that the wealth of extras should have gone to a second disc to ensure that Terminator 2 had as much disc room as possible to breathe. After all, there are a ton of extras, numerous audio tracks, and even a D-Box motion track. One has to wonder if Lionsgate really put a serious effort into this release.
The Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Skynet Edition doesn't need to work to pull in a crowd based on the merit of the film. That's been well established since 1991. All it really needed to deliver on was an improved audio and visual experience. I'm convinced we have the definitive audio track for Terminator 2, but the video although an improvement, still leaves a great deal to be desired. A no-brainer for an upgrade compared to a DVD, and much better in many regards when compared to the prior Blu-ray release by Lionsgate, but there's absolutely no reason why there still has to be an epic divide amongst the consumer base over a video issue. I can highly recommend the film itself, the extras despite their ever growing factor of staleness, and the audio track. The video quality has me reducing the rating to recommended overall though, but I highly suggest that everyone who's curious in this release rent it first. It won't be as big of an issue for those who haven't upgraded since the DVD, or don't even own the film yet. For those that are debating dipping for Terminator 2 yet again however, you owe it to yourself to do some research with your eyes before you make a decision. If you can wait a couple of years for Lionsgate to once again exploit this film, you may want to hold off until then.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!