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Face-Off: Terminator vs. Terminator 2

09.27.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we were all about the dirty cop theme in a match up between Heat and The Departed. While Departed got its fair share of love, the classic Heat pulled out a victory. With good cause, long live Heat.

The much anticipated Looper is looming, which brings us to our theme for the week...the plot device of time travel in film. As much as I enjoy the majority of time travel films the whole idea of time travel as a whole just gives me a massive migraine. So many logic issues, but I am able to turn that off in the name of cinema and two of the films that personify this theme are James Cameron's action classics The Terminator and its worthy sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Both films have many similar elements but are mostly different in nature and that's what makes them both so great. So which do you fancy more? Lets discuss.
Tone
I think a total of two or three daylight scenes were present in this film, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We're treated to way more glimpses of the hopeless future war in this installment than in the sequel and when Kyle and the cybernetic organism show up in present day it wasn't looking any brighter. I still struggle to this day to find a scene I hold in higher regard than the wonderfully atmospheric tech-noir club scene. Excuse me while I go listen to "Burning in the Third Degree."
Terminator 2 took the balls to the wall action film approach and still managed to cement itself as a classic. The bleak hopeless tone was still there but it was emphasized more in the story and character development than in Cameron's directorial style this time around. There were a few scenes that brought back fond memories of the first, but that different style of filmmaking is what sets Judgment Day apart from its original.
Arnie's Role
Schwarzenegger was tailor made for the role of The Terminator, very little dialogue or acting needed...he just had to look menacing. There's nothing like a coldblooded villain that feels nothing, has no moral compass, he can't be bullied, bargained, or reasoned with....well you know what I'm getting at. So many villains have a third dimension to them, something to explain why they are the way they are...not for this cybernetic organism. Just cold blooded murder.
That T-101 from the first film was begging to make a re-appearance through some of his acts here, but John Connor just had to come along in the future with his damn humanity and military prowess. As great as Arnie was in the first...I dare say he had many more memorable and iconic moments for his turn as the protagonist in the sequel. Nothing like that I know now why you cry line, and that damn thumbs up.
Sarah Connor
It's hard to say what was the better performance by Linda Hamilton in these films, her complete transformation as the battle scarred Sarah in the sequel was indeed awesome. That said, her slow transformation from the naive everyday woman who hated her job to the woman that was destined to be the "mother of the future" was fascinating to watch. Seeing her struggle with accepting what was going on and thereby accepting her destiny was awesome, not everyone can be a role this heavy off...Linda brought her A game here!
Her transformation by the time we got to the events of this film are complete, and she is a hardened soldier who is one of the most determined and resourceful characters I've ever seen. For those who own the special edition DVD, we're even treated to a deleted scene in which we see a glimpse of the frail woman Sarah used to be...which I believe should have been kept in to keep that third dimension in her character. She's a heroine Ellen Ripley would be impressed with, and she still had enough heart to instill the humanity John Connor needed. The determining vote for this category is the scene in which Sarah almost realized the line she crossed by nearly offing Dyson. Excellent acting.
Overall
This film was an experiment for Cameron, and to this day when Cameron experiments it turns to gold...that all started with The Terminator. A fascinating story with excellent action pieces for its time. An excellent cast that had great roles to work with, what blew me away is that they managed to portray Kyle Reese as a formidable foe for Arnie's T-101, for the robots brute force...Reese applied resourcefulness and intelligence, pretty much who Sarah Connor became. I loved the feel of the film, the soundtrack, the glimpses into the future. All the elements were there to turn this film into a masterpiece.
The stakes were higher, the action was plentiful, Sarah picked up the slack due to Michael Biehn's absence, we got some lighthearted comedic moments that served as levity and we were provided with many memorable moments and lines that are still quoted by yours truly at least weekly. I'd like to take a moment to show some love to Robert Patrick in his responsibility in taking Arnie's place as the baddie. Not as menacing, but had amazing presence nonetheless. It served as an action blockbuster and maintained the depth and mythology of the first, that's where a lot of sequels that came after this franchise failed. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the Godfather II of action films. Disagree?
Terminator 2
So there it is all! The Terminator is amazing no doubt, it had so much style...but for me the fond memories and rewatchability lies within Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was heavy, it was fun, it was touching when it needed to be and said touching moments didn't come off as painfully corny. Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, I can say in full confidence that the scene that could act as the tie breaker for this Face Off is Arnie's body-countless massacre of the police unit in a manner only he could commit. But this is one mans opinion, where do you lot stand? Let us know and until next time...hasta la vista, baby!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Terminator film is your favourite?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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