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Terminator 2: UHD + 2D BLU RAY
The second film in the franchise takes place ten years since a killer cyborg referred to as The Terminator traveled back in time to try and kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to stop her from giving birth to her son John Connor. As we all know, John Connor would grow up to be the man who would lead the resistance against Cybernet and the machines, which is why Sarah was targeted in the first place. In this second film, however, John (played by Edward Furlong) has made it into boyhood and is approaching his teenaged years and while he's an angsty and somewhat troubled youth, he doesn't seem to be in any eminent danger.
All of this changes when a new and improved Terminator referred to as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) is sent back in time for a second attempt at killing John before he can become the hero we all know he will be. This Terminator is considerably more advanced than the original model, able to shift shape and take on different appearances and voices. Thankfully, John and Sarah don't have to go toe-to-toe with this thing on their own, because an original model (Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course!) has also been sent back… this time not to kill John Connor, but to protect him from the T-1000 and hopefully save the planet before the machines take over!
That's a pretty basic plot synopsis but at this point, almost anyone interested in T2 will have seen the movie at least a few times… and those who have know that for the most part it holds up really well. Special effects, particularly digital special effects, have obviously come a long way since this picture was made in 1991 but director James Cameron's groundbreaking picture has aged surprisingly well, particularly when compared to other films that used heavy digital effects work made around the same time. The movie is also really well-paced, beautifully shot and features some excellent sound design to accompany the impressive visuals. It really is a textbook example of a blockbuster action film, filled with plenty of action and excitement, ‘big' set pieces, memorable characters and catchy one-liners. It's not as dark or intense as the movie that came before it, this is much more of an action film and it gets rid of pretty much all the horror elements that made the original The Terminator so cool and creepy as it was, but it's a damn fun popcorn movie.
It's not just the action and the excitement and the explosions and the Guns ‘N Roses music on the soundtrack that makes this work, however. The performances are, of course, a big part of the film's success. Linda Hamilton is great as the tough as nails Sarah Connor. She gets ready for war in this one and she suits the part really well. Edward Furlong plays the snotty, bratty John Connor well here too. His character is kind of annoying, but then, he's supposed to be. Of course, Schwarzenegger steals the show here, looking as bad ass as bad ass can be in his trademark biker jacket and shades, whisking Connor off to safety on the back of his motorcycle and blasting away with his shotgun. Robert Patrick is also really good here as the T-1000, playing the part with a ruthlessness that goes a long way to making it work far better than you might expect.
It's also worth noting that Cameron has made some tweaks to this movie that need to be pointed out. Scenes where, in the past, stunt doubles were noticeable have been digitally altered so that those stunt doubles now appear not as (sometimes fairly obvious) stunt doubles but as the actors they're supposed to be portraying. It's also worth noting that the UHD disc in this set contains only the theatrical cut of the film, which is a shame as on the accompanying Blu-ray disc we get all three versions of the movie cut together using seamless branching.
The UHD Disc:
Terminator 2: Judgement Day arrives on a dual layered UHD from Lionsgate in a HEVC (H.265) encoded 4k 2160p transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen in a presentation that is very much a mixed bag. The high dynamic range transfer boasts excellent color reproduction (though it's definitely different than past presentations: oranges and reds really pop, almost glowing in spots, but blue seems to be more dominant than it has been in the past) but has, unfortunately, been scrubbed pretty much entirely of all of its natural grain. Why this is, well, it could be that it was done as part of the 3D conversion that it recently underwent or maybe it's that James Cameron likes it this way, who knows really, but the fact is that this doesn't look like film, even when it was clearly shot on film. The weird thing is that there's still a lot of detail here and the image isn't waxy the way the worst DNR offenders are (I'm looking at you, Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition and pretty much everything put out by Raro lately!). There's frequently impressive fine detail evident on faces, hair and clothing that wasn't nearly as noticeable on DVD or Blu-ray that is now far more apparent than it ever was. On the flip side, there's are noticeable halos from digital sharpening evident here. Still, there are moments where this transfer looks amazing… but it also looks entirely digitized, which is understandably going to irk those who want their 4k discs to look like film.
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks are provided in English and Spanish as well as in German DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio. Sadly, there's no DTS-X option or anything like that. Still, the English DTS-HD track on this disc is pretty killer. There's a LOT of surround activity here and those action set pieces sound amazing, using all channels in the set up to hurl debris and gun shots back and forth, roll you over with the sound of a motorcycle engine or really ramp up the music used in the film. Even in the quieter scenes there's a fair bit of audible detail in the rear channels, often very subtle. Dialogue stays clean, clear and always easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion. By anyone's standard, even if this doesn't quite take full advantage of what the UHD format can provide, this is an excellent mix. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French and German.
The UHD disc contains no extra features, however, as this is a combo pack release we also get a Blu-ray disc included inside the keepcase. This disc contains the theatrical cut (2:17:07), the special edition cut (2:33:13) and the extended special edition cut 2:33:55) of the movie. These are all presented in HD with lossless DTS-HD Master Audio options.
Additionally, the Blu-ray disc also contains a commentary track from Director James Cameron and Co-Writer William Wisher Commentary. A second commentary track includes input from twenty-three members of the cast and crew. This one dives pretty deep into the making of the film with lots of talk about writing the picture, what went into following up the first film, bringing Schwarzenegger back for the role as well as Hamilton, working with Furlong and Patrick and, of course, the film's famous stunt work and groundbreaking visual effects work. This track is edited together from various sources and includes input from most of the key players in the film. It's also a bit of a hodge-podge, interesting to listen to once but not likely something that you're going to go back to after that first listen.
After that, dig into the featurettes starting with T2: Reprogramming The Terminator, a fifty-four-minute piece made up of cast and crew interviews and a lot of footage shot on the set of the production as it was being shot. This piece is new to this release and it's very well done and very comprehensive. Schwarzenegger's sense of humor is in fine form here and this is worth watching just for his involvement. The Making Of T2 is a half-hour longer archival featurette made in the nineties when the movie was still fresh in peoples' minds. It's very much an EPK style piece, quite promotional in nature, but it's interesting to see it included here. The disc also includes a few trailers for the feature as well as three-minutes of deleted material available with optional cast and crew commentary. This material is ported over from the old special edition DVD release and is presented in standard definition.
Both discs include menus and chapter selection and this release comes bundled with an insert card for a digital download version of the movie as well as a slipcover.
Lionsgate's UHD release of James Cameron's seminal Terminator 2: Judgement Day presents one of the biggest and best action blockbusters of all time on a format that really should have offered fans better results. The transfer is overly processed, the main disc contains no extras nor the two alternate cuts and while the audio is very strong, it fails to take advantage of what the format can do. Still, there are times where the presentation, imperfect as it might be, really does shine and the movie itself remains a truly enjoyable watch. That said, it's hard to wholeheartedly recommend this based on the technical quirks of the transfer. Lionsgate could and should have done more with this one. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.