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Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 8, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

James Cameron's work fascinates me at times. He comes up with epic, wonderful, entertaining science-fiction (or, action) plots that are bold and fascinating looks at either other worlds (underwater in "The Abyss") or futuristic worlds (his writing, but not directing "Strange Days" and of course, his work directing both "Terminator" films). And yet, he's never quite been able to get dialogue right. There are times when he's better than others ("True Lies"), but there are points in many of the rest of his films where the dialogue is carried along simply because the rest of the film is otherwise so good.

Many wondered whether or not the sequel to the "Terminator" would be quite as good as the first film and with a master filmmaker like Cameron at the helm (as well as many advances in technology), the film was up to the task, equaling the first film, which many thought (and still think) to be a science-fiction classic. While the film is more of an action, "think later, ask questions tomorrow" picture, there is still a lot to like about the movie.

The film stars Edward Furlong as John Connor, who in the future will become the leader in the war against the cyborgs. In the sequel, two of the machines return to the past for two different reasons. The terminator from the original film (Schwartzenegger) has been re-programmed by Connor to protect himself in the past. On the other hand, there's a T-1000(Robert Patrick) who has also been sent to kill Connor. His mother (Linda Hamilton) has been locked up in a mental hospital for her rants about the upcoming disaster, but of course, that won't last for very long.

This time the original Terminator has to follow Connor's orders, and the film does have some fun and interesting moments where the creature tries to learn about humanity. Cameron is such an impressive filmmaker because he constantly pushes the boundaries of filmmaking; whether it's the horrors of the "Abyss" production(detailed wonderfully on the DVD documentary) or taking on the even bigger "Titanic".

"Terminator 2" is simply a fun flick; a little overly violent at times (less could be a little more, but just my humble opinion), but still very entertaining and well-acted by Arnold, Linda Hamilton and the young Furlong. Robert Patrick (who now will apparently be seen on "The X-Files") also makes a perfect villian as the advanced robot. The film's special effects may be a little bit out-of-date at this point, but I think they work for the movie and never seemed flawed or problematic.

Artisan's new DVD release contains the original theatrical version (136 min), a special edition version (153 min) and even further, a third version of the film. The first two can be found in the main menu. The silly part is, the third version is hidden. I don't mind if studios hide a trailer or something like that, but an entire additional version of the movie seems like a little much to keep hidden, I think. Later on in the review, I will reveal how to open up this 3rd edition.


VIDEO: "T2" gets a new anamorphic transfer from Artisan and the results are remarkably good. Adam Greenberg("Rush Hour", "Eraser")'s cold, steely cinematography is wonderful and it gets an excellent presentation here. Sharpness is outstanding, and detail is just as fantastic; night or day, dimly lit or whatever, the picture looks consistently crisp and clear. Black level is strong, as well.

Flaws are very minor and barely noticable; just a tiny bit of grain once or twice. The lack of any pixelation or shimmering makes for an extremely natural viewing experience that will certainly please fans of the film. Colors are very strong as well when they appear; although some of the scenes are certainly not colorful, when bolder colors do appear they look well-saturated and solid, without any problems.

A fantastic new THX trailer appears before the film begins, as well.

SOUND: Artisan has offered "Terminator 2" in new Dolby Digital-EX and DTS-ES soundtracks and both sound excellent. There are few differences between the two soundtracks, with the DTS soundtrack sounding smoother, deeper and slightly more detailed. The sound in general is a great "action-movie" soundtrack, with plenty of surround use and some very solid bass.

Yes, the film was done in 1991, so it may not be quite up to what some films today are at. At the same time, for a film from 1991, the sound during some of the sequences such as the gunfire in chapter 51 become incredible, with punchy gunfire and some surround use. Surrounds are used very effectively throughout the entire film, and never thought that an opportunity was missed.

In the realm of action-movie soundtracks, it may not be the best out there, but there's no denying that it certainly provides the viewer with a very entertaining, enjoyable experience that definitely has power to it, whether you choose Dolby or DTS. Speaking of the two, depending on which option you choose, a trailer for either DTS or Dolby plays before the feature.

MENUS:: As with "The Abyss", the menus that have been created for the ultimate T2 are fairly revolutionairy, with remarkable animation and slightly easier design (although I still think it's slightly hard to see the buttons to go back to the main menu or to the next menu on one or two of the screens)..


Commentary: There are quite a number of people who are featured on this commentary track, but unfortunately, these are made up of various interview segements that were done and edited together for this track. A similar example is what MGM has done for many of the old James Bond films. This time, supervisor (also for the DVD of Cameron's "The Abyss") Van Ling (who was the creative supervisor on T2) is the narrator of the commentary track, introducing people and also, adding information on his own. Some of the people who we hear from on this commentary track are Composer Brad Fidel, actors Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Robert Patrick, director James Cameron, sound designer Gary Rydstrom and many of the special visual/physical effects crew who worked on the film.

It's unfortunate that there could not be a newly recorded commentary track with participants from the film, but the comments that are recorded here for this edited commentary provide pretty much everything we need to know since we hear from so many people who were involved with the picture. The actors provide their perspective on the story and their characters, Fidel has some very insightful comments on the role of the score in the film and Cameron inserts his thoughts now and again, as well.

Disc Two

Note: Now, here's where some confusion might enter in. Artisan planned to have "T2: Ultimate Edition" as a dual-sided, dual-layered DVD. There were some problems with production of this kind of DVD, and the studio went for the rest of the edition to have 2 dual-layered DVDs instead. Both versions have the same everything, it's just that one has two discs while the other fits everything on both sides of one. The nice thing about the two disc version though, is that its not as easy to get fingerprints on compared to the 1 disc version, which has information on both sides.

Visual Campaigns: The first section on the second side houses the trailers for the film; we get the teaser & theatrical trailers(1 teaser, 2 trailers) as well as the special edition trailer. Going one screen further brings up the Japanese trailers. Included are Japanese teaser A and B and trailers A,B and C.

Information Center: This section offers a number of featurettes, which will be discussed below.

The Making Of T2: Judgement Day: This is a very enjoyable 30 minute documentary from the film's original release that is nice because although it is certainly promotional, it is also extremely informative, as well. The presentation offers quite a few glimpses at the production at work, as well as some interviews with many of the cast and crew, including Arnold, Linda Hamilton, director Cameron and also, members of the effects crew. It's not quite as fascinating to watch as the documentary that was included with the "Abyss" DVD that showed Cameron dealing remarkably well with all of the problems that plagued the production of that film, but there is an feeling during this documentary that it is somewhat of an intimate look at a very big picture. There's a sequence with Arnold getting his make-up put on where he's goofing around that's hilarious.

T2: More Than Meets The Eye: This was apparently a Showtime documentary that probably aired shortly after the film's release. The 22 minute documentary first takes a look at the story in general, then gets down to the subject at hand - discussing what was added into the special edition and why they were originally taken out in the first place. I enjoyed this documentary because it takes a fuller look at the process of editing a picture and cutting scenes for the importance of pace, even if these sequences contain visual effects. Cameron is a filmmaker whose perspective on offering ideas about the process is one that I enjoy greatly; not only does he provide director's cuts when available, his laserdisc (and now DVD) editions open the doors to his work even further.

The Making Of T2-3D: This is a 23 minute documentary that takes a look at how the 3D theme park attraction at Universal studios was created. This documentary visually shows how the live performance aspect had to be brought together with the vision of the filmmakers. This seems like an IMAX 3-D ish presentation that, although I've never seen this ride myself, looks very neat. I've been a fan of the IMAX format(although I've never been a fan of its high prices), and the idea of interacting a live show with and the film is an impressive idea that, from the looks of it in this documentary, works very well.

I talked about Cameron's desire to break boundaries with the previous documentary, and it's illustrated again here, where Cameron talks about his dealings with Universal and saying along the lines of "if we're going to do this, let's do it right." When the documentary shifts to the giant future set, you can really see what a massive production this must have been. As with the other two documentaries, these aren't just light "promotional" documentaries. Although these maybe aren't the best documentaries I've ever seen included on a DVD (I still think the documentary that followed Cameron through the "Abyss" on the DVD for that film is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen on disc), but they are still very well-produced and informative. All of them are definitely worth taking a look at.

Data Hub: Selecting this section takes us through an animated sequence to a "lower floor" where a whole new set of options open up.

Tactical Diagrams: This section provides storyboards for 17 sequences from the film.

Source Code: Here, you'll be able to find the screenplay from the film.

Interrigation Archives In this section you'll find a number of short featurettes on various aspects of the production of "T2". Two of the featurettes involve Cameron and co-screenwriter Bill Wisher working together on the screenplay for the movie. The third featurette focuses on the research the Cameron did, while the final two focus on the design concepts for the film, and the process of building the visual effects.

Data Core: The final and most massive supplemental feature of the "T2" set is this mixture of text screens and video that go over nearly every aspect from the film's birth to its release. There is a wealth of information to be sure, but it's something that needs a lot of work and time to sit through, since there are many text screens that require a bit of button pressing to advance. But there's everything you could ever want to know about the film here; to give you an idea of the sheer size of this section, there are 50 chapters of information to look through.

Also: A very nice 32 page booklet that not only offers production notes, but details about what the DVD has and also, the differences between the versions. The booklet comes separate, but fits nicely in the inside insert. Already in the inside insert is a message that "due to the advanced features utilized in the creation of this DVD, some players may experience minor navigational difficulties. This should not affect your enjoyment of the feature program in any way." Personally, I had no problems with my player and either the menus or playing the film itself.

3rd Version: When you're in the main menu for the film on the first side, make sure you're on the "special edition" area. Select "play special edition", but don't hit play yet. Enter on your remote: 82997. At the end of the sequence, the option for the 3rd edition of the film should appear.

Final Thoughts: Artisan has done an excellent job here, with great audio and video quality along with a ton of extras. Although the extras are certainly very good, Fox's "Fight Club" still stands as the edition to beat. Still, for fans of "Terminator 2", this is a dream set, offering a great presentation. Definitely recommended.

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