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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Terminator 2: Judgment Day Ultimate Edition (1991)

"The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
- Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 29, 2000

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
Other Stars: Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton
Director: James Cameron

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language
Run Time: 02h:33m:01s (SE)
Release Date: August 29, 2000
UPC: 012236109679
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+AA+ A+

DVD Review

Time travel inevitably ties one up in paradoxes that cannot be resolved. The hit 1984 film The Terminator, also featuring Schwarzenegger, Hamilton and Cameron, had its share of such paradoxes. Its inevitable sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day takes those paradoxes and adds a few of its own. Ultimately, the layering of paradoxes is so unwieldy that the thoughtful viewer will end up spending screen time thinking about them instead of watching the movie. It's this latter trait that keeps this incredible disc from a straight A grade.

Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, the target of the unstoppable Terminator in the original film. Now 13 years later, in 1997, Sarah is in a mental institution because of her ravings about future wars and terminators and the end of mankind, all of which she knows to be true but which she cannot prove. Her son, John (a lively Edward Furlong), who is destined to become the leader of the human freedom fighters in the post-apocalypse world, is a juvenile delinquent in an unhappy foster home.

Arnold is also back as another Terminator, a cyborg killing machine from the future. A second Terminator, a model T-1000 (Robert Patrick) also enters the picture. Made from a liquid metal polyalloy, the T-1000 can take on the form of any human being it touches, lending an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style paranoia to the proceedings. Sarah, aided by her son, escapes from the mental hospital and attempts to change the future and prevent the invention, by Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), of Skynet, the computer that will bring down humankind. The film proceeds quickly into action and seldom stops to catch its breath from there. It's no wonder Universal Studios made an amusement park thrill ride out of this film.

We get three different cuts of the film on this disc through the wonders of seamless branching. First is the theatrical version, which was previously released on DVD as the first RSDL disc. Next is a special edition which was previously released on laserdisc, running about 14 minutes longer and incorporating a number of scenes which are interesting and add to the story, but which would have slowed down the pacing in theatres.

Finally, hidden as an Easter Egg is a slightly different third version, which takes the Special Edition version and tacks on the alternate ending, set 30 years in the future. To access the Easter Egg, go to the Main Menu and choose Special Edition, but don't hit Enter yet. Type in (slowly) the numbers 8-2-9-9-7 (the date that Skynet was to become self-aware) and then hit Enter. On Sony machines, you may need to hit Enter after each digit. At each digit, the words of the phrase "The future is not set" will light up on the screen. Wait a second or two, and then "Play Theatrical Edition" will change to "Play Special Extended Edition." Select that and play. Or, you can just go to Title 3, which is the special extended edition.

Schwarzenegger is in fine form here, with plenty of one-liners in best Arnold tradition. Hamilton is suitably creepy, more than a little nuts, and a far cry from the mousy waitress of the first film. Robert Patrick is quite menacing indeed as the T-1000, and the special effects for his various liquid forms and morphs are first-rate even today. The action sequences are handled with panache and style.

This is a well-made film that has some unfortunate holes in the plot. Besides the time paradoxes, from the first time I saw the film I've been irritated by the moment when John Connor picks up a detached piece of the T-1000 from the trunk of their fleeing car and throws it onto the ground. When the piece rejoins the T-1000, and a knowing look comes over its face, we're set up for a mimicking of John that never pays off. Alas, the commentary dodges around this sloppy bit of filmmaking. The T-1000, although it can perfectly mimic voices, for some reason feels the need to require Sarah Connor herself to cry out to lure John. Why can't the T-1000 just do it himself? The added footage in the Special Edition also creates a continuity error; the address of the Cyberdyne facility is first said to be 2144 Kramer Street; in a restored scene it is referred to as 2111 Kramer Street.

Despite these flaws, the picture was a huge success, and is certainly one of the major watersheds in making sci-fi action films a credible genre. You'll definitely get your entertainment dollar's worth out of it, especially in this incredible DVD edition.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A new anamorphic transfer was prepared for this disc. The old transfer frankly looked pretty good, and I'm not convinced that there is a serious improvement. Although I've always thought of this as a dark film, there are in fact precious few real blacks. Those are, however, rendered nicely in this transfer. Colors appear accurate and stable, and no frame damage, artifacts or aliasing problems of any kind were detectable. The added scenes fit in nicely with the theatrical footage, making the transition between the two entirely invisible. The seamless branching function works quietly and flawlessly on my Sony player. I find it hard to imagine a better picture.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: What really sets this transfer off from the prior Artisan release is the soundtrack. Where the first version was loud and raucous, this DD 5.1 remix is so in-your-face you can hardly stand it. The surrounds are constantly active, directionality is pronounced and the subwoofer gets a heavy workout. There is no hiss, noise or distortion to be heard. Brad Diefel's score, with its metallic clangs and menacing drumbeats, comes through flawlessly. Sounds are rich, full and natural. This is a superb, gut-wrenching remix.

Also included (but not reviewed) are a Dolby Surround track and a DTS 5.1track. We've heard that the DTS track suffers from occasional dropouts; in any event, the 5.1 track should suffice for even the most jaded listener. This is demo quality, all the way.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 80 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Original Trailer(s)
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Production Notes
3 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by 26 members of cast & crew
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: DVD-18
Layers Switch: Unknown

Extra Extras:
  1. Video essay on the making of the film
Extras Review: Where to begin??? Artisan and DVD producer Van Ling raise the bar for the DVD standard to ridiculous heights with this jam-packed disc. It truly deserves the epithet "Ultimate," for I can't imagine what else might be added in the future, other than an isolated music score. The reviewed version was a DVD-18, which contains everything on one disc; Artisan is also releasing a 2-disc version which has the same contents.

Documentaries. There are three documentaries, totaling over an hour of content. The first is a standard studio "Making of" fluff piece that isn't very challenging or interesting. By far the best is a documentary on the excised scenes, including discussions of why they were cut and conversations with the cast and crew about the making of these scenes. The third documentary is about the making of the Universal Studios thrill ride mentioned above, Terminator 2 3-D, in which Cameron, Schwarzenegger and Furlong took part in a filmed section, as well as other live action actors. It would have been nice to see how this ride works, but all we see is production-type footage, with the live actors being rehearsed and small clips from the completed film portion of the ride.

Video Essay. Probably the best special feature is a serious "Making of" video essay, which covers every aspect of the making of the film, in a combination of text and video. Interspersed with the text are sample sections from the film and interviews with cast and crew. This is an enormous piece of work in 50 chapters that will probably teach you more than going to film school.

Storyboards and Screenplay. The full screenplay is included on the disc, as are over 700 of the highly detailed storyboards. The storyboards are chaptered for easy access, but unfortunately the screenplay is not. This makes the screenplay of limited usefulness except to those with DVD/ROM capabilities. In DVD/ROM mode, the movie can be played with parallel access to the screenplay and the storyboards.

Trailers. We get three trailers for the film, plus one for the Special Edition laserdisc issue of 1993. All are in nice condition.

Cast & Crew. Also provided are full biographies and filmographies for Schwarzenegger, Hamilton, Furlong, Patrick, Cameron, co-writer William Wisher and composer Brad Fiedel. Cameron's bio and filmography are selective; his marriage to Hamilton and subsequent messy divorce are not mentioned at all, and the more embarrassing items in his filmography (such as Piranha II-The Spawning) are discreetly omitted. Everyone else seems to get pretty thorough coverage, however.

Miscellaneous. Artisan just keeps pouring it on. There's a lengthy, profusely illustrated booklet which, among other things, gives a listing of exactly where the major deleted scenes can be found. To wrap it all up, the keepcase tucks into a nifty aluminum slipcase embossed with the title of the film. These are prone to easy damage and are a magnet for fingerprints, so be careful.The menu design on the extras side is less than happy; cute code names for various items are used rather than actual titles, so you're not always sure where to find what you're looking for. In addition, unlike the cast & crew section which can be navigated easily with your finger on a single remote button, the other menus require a significant amount of button punching which can be difficult in a darkened room. Artisan should have learned by now to make the navigation flow naturally and not rely on the user to make gyrations to move on to the next logical sequence. But in the big picture of what this disc offers, that's a pretty petty complaint. Very well done, indeed.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

A highly entertaining and stylish action/sci-fi film, in three different cuts, in a new knock-your-socks-off transfer, packed to the gills with extras. If you haven't bought this disc already, I want to know the reason why. Hasta la vista, baby.


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