Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ten Reasons ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ Just Ticks Me Off

by Rustbelt

Ah, remakes. Who doesn’t love ‘em? Wait. I’m sorry. That’s a typo. Let me start again… Ah, remakes. Who isn’t sick to death of ‘em?

Over the last few years, we’ve had quite a few discussions over the plethora of remakes churned out of Hollywood in the hopes of cashing in on the public’s love of the originals. Many of said chats have been negative. But at least those remakes are sensible enough to admit they’re remakes. What about films sold as legit sequels that are, themselves, just remakes? I give you my latest light-night rant: “10 Reasons Why Terminator 2 Just Ticks Me Off.”

(Warning: 30+-Year-Olds may find their childhoods hurting over the next few paragraphs. You’re been warned.)

Number 10: Inappropriate Catchphrases

In the original Terminator, (‘T1’), Arnie’s scant lines were used by a killer robot trying to pass for a human. These auditory attempts at banter often come off as awkward because robots don’t understand human behavior. For the humans who interact with the T-800, conversation could either be understated (when the Terminator just repeats what the punks say), over-the-top (when it swears through the door at the janitor), or even when the legendary “I’ll be back” comes off as more mechanical than threatening. However, the humans’ reactions make the scenes work. The punks ridicule the machine, before he brutally attacks them; the janitor decides it isn’t worth it to mess with a guy who sounds like he’s p****d off; and the cops are blown away when Arnold drives a car through the door to gain entry. Ah, Ray Bradbury, you were right: “Science fiction is about advances in science and technology and our human reactions to those advances.”

Unfortunately, in T2, everything is forced in order to come off like a typical action movie. That brat John Connor teaches the bad-ass machine to say “no problemo,” “chill out, d***w**,” and… “Hasta la vista, baby?” It’s one thing when John McClain says that, because Die Hard films are set up to feature his light-hearted quipping against a dangerous situation. But as a follow-up to the sci-fi horror of T1, T2’s misunderstanding of tone looks like a case of ADHD.
Did Cameron think this would be a good way of lightening things up? Did he not realize that trying to make the audience laugh during scenes meant to be tense can actually ruin the tone? Or does he understand this concept about as well as George Lucas?

Look, the Germans do not say, “Guess vhat? You’re all going to DIE! Zay nacht-nacht!” before machine-gunning the prisoners in The Great Escape. The Predator didn’t mutter, “Set me free, why don’t you, babe?” before self-destructing. Such catchphrases might have earned a chuckle in the writing room or marketing meetings. But for a movie selling itself as deep and tense, they come off as an unwanted Adam Sandler belch or Looney Tunes quote by a wrestler that wrecks a promising premise.
Number 9: This Time, It’s Impossible to Connect with Sarah

In T1, Sarah Connor is a classic protagonist. She’s a waitress- a typical job for a woman in her 20’s still trying to start a career. We see her at work, at her apartment, and hanging out at night. Then she learns that women with her name are being killed. This is followed by attempts on her life and learning her would-be killer is an uncompromising, indestructible automaton. And how does she react to all of this? She panics! –just like most of us would probably do. Throughout the film, we feel for her, root for her, and cheer for her because we can see ourselves behaving similarly.

This is impossible in T2. In this film, we learn that Sarah has gone vigilante (which most of us would never do), has had training from rogue green berets (again, which most of would never do), and is living the survivalist lifestyle (like the maniacs on the political fringes). She might as well now be an alien.

Clearly, Cameron was playing to the feminazi crowd by replacing T1’s Regular Jill Sarah with T2’s Psycho Sarah. (A.K.A. the “impossibly strong, skinny girl” clich√©, as KRS liked to call it.) He wants us to see the loony bin staff as bad for calling Sarah a menace to society and locking her up while rooting for Sarah because we’re told in advance that she’ll be proven right all along. And we’re supposed to stop thinking at “Look! She kicks butt!” while ignoring how she attacks every innocent person she sees. There’s nothing wrong with strong women in movies. There is a problem when the character we’re told to root for is a genuine psychotic and the people who locked her up were clearly right all along. And while I’m on this subject…

Number 8: The (Lack of) Morality in Cameronverse

James Cameron has a low, Marxist threshold for morality. In his movies, billionaires must always be evil and die because they’re too rich. People with nothing are always heroes because poor equals righteous. And methods be damned because the ends ALWAYS justify the means.

His lawyer, I’m guessing, would like you not to counter this with how Cameron is, himself, a billionaire. (Calling Operation Wall Street!) In public appearances, Cameron is a big, ocean-loving environmentalist who promotes peace and vegan lifestyles. Ah, how precious. On the side, he also supports eco-terrorism and his estate leaves a carbon footprint the size of Antarctica. And as he’s done to so many people, he’ll rip you a new one if you mention these contradictions to his face. Ends justify the means! Silence, pleb!

In T2, these attitudes are on full display. The characters are, of course, trying to save the human race from a future takeover by evil robots. That’s it. Stop right there. Don’t ask for any more justifications because that’s all you need. Because in James Cameron’s little mind, good intentions are all that’s necessary. His characters are allowed to rob, burgle, hijack, wound, maim, destroy property, assault, lie, threaten at the point of a gun, etc. as long as it’s in the name of accomplishing the goal. In T2, the ‘good guys’ do pretty much all of this and it’s okay because Cameron said so.

Strangely, there is one thing they’re not allowed to do…

Number 7: Sarah Connor is a Terrorist

In keeping with T2’s, ahem, ‘morality,’ you might have noticed the heavy-handed “do not kill” theme. Apparently, that’s the one crime good guys cannot commit because not doing so is what defines them as good guys. Committing every crime on the rap sheet of the Gambino Crime Family is fine as long as it’s in service of the goal of saving humanity from the machines’ prophesized takeover- even if it means burning down the village to do it.

Speaking of which, Sarah Connor is a mass-murderer and a terrorist. Yeah, I said it. Sarah should be locked up in the dungeons of Alcatraz with the key thrown away. The asylum doctors say that she tried to bomb a computer factory that she thought might eventually help create Skynet. You know, I can’t prove this, but I’d bet in the original script that Sarah blew up the factory and killed everyone inside of it.

Note: Of course, in the final film, they say no one was inside when the bomb was set to go off. This is absurd. No building like that will ever be devoid of people. The majority of employees might leave at night, but there will always be security, cleaning, maintenance, and delivery staff on hand to prepare for the next work day. Any successful structural bombing would automatically result in human casualties.

Furthermore, I’d bet that in the original draft that Sarah and the reformed Terminator killed several more people along the rest of the way. This is what terrorists do. And the public hates them for it, regardless of their stated reasons.

At that point in the pre-production process, I’d be willing to bet that someone speaking on the side of sanity told Cameron that if the ‘heroes’ had a higher body count than Jonestown, no one in the audience would care if they won or lost. And it seems Cameron took this advice to an extreme, pushing the ‘no killing’ theme to be dominant and get viewers to overlook all the other characters’ crimes- because they’re only trying to stop Skynet and Cameron said “that’s that. Stop asking questions. No one can be a terrorist as long as their intentions are good and match my views.”
Number 6: Sarah is the Cause of all of John Connor’s Problems

Okay. Last gripe about Sarah. I promise. Um, despite being the strong, knows-better-than-you-do superwoman that Cameron pushes her as, did anyone else notice that Sarah is, herself, the greatest threat to her stated goal of protecting John so that he can lead the human resistance in the future? Consider…

-She isolates him from society as he grows up, which would leave him socially maladjusted and indifferent to humanity. This upbringing is more likely to leave him despising society and not caring at all when Skynet attacks. So, instead of leading the uprising, odds are he’ll build his own fort in the mountains and look out for old number one √† la Robert Neville in I Am Legend. (Robert Matheson’s novel, I mean. Not Will Smith’s awful movie.)

-She shields him from others and centers his life on hers. When she chastises John for rushing to the mental hospital and saving her from the T-1000, her stupidity is on full display. You’ve made him completely dependent on you, Sarah! You’re the center of his universe! That’s why he came. He’s behaving in a perfectly logical manner according to the way you raised him!

-Finally, after escaping the T-1000 by leaving his tiny search area (oh, don’t worry, we’ll get to that!), and taking refuge in Mexico, she drags the whole group right back into the danger zone of Los Angeles. If Sarah and Co. stay in Mexico, they’ll be safe. Movie over. But, no. The action film plot must be served! She heads to L.A., John follows her (again, behaving logically), and T-1000 gets an undeserved bonus chance to kill them. You go, girl.
Number 5: BTW, I Hate John Connor

And no, I’m NOT letting John Connor off the hook. It seems a certain Internet critic claims that T2 is better than T1 because the concept of a robot killing a child is more frightening than killing a grown woman before she can give birth to said child. That might sound okay on paper. But he’s wrong. Just like in The Boys from Brazil, this is the fallacy of saying the concept should be interesting enough. Well, it isn’t. And Cameron not only uses it as a crutch, but as a safeguard as he plunges the characters back into the Cameron School of Morality.

Remember when I said that T1 Sarah was actually relatable? It seems Cameron wants us to have similar feelings for John in T2. Only, there’s multiple problems. As I said, in T1 Sarah is Jill Q. Public. We identify with her. In T2, we see John skipping school, stealing from a bank, being a brat to his stepmother, (who, of course, is a typical West Virginia hick living in LA., so his treatment of her is all good and fine), and behaving like trash to everyone he meets. Uh, why am I rooting for this kid again? Well, according to Uncle James, “it’s because he’s the future leader of the resistance. Shut up.” But if I’m looking at this from a blank slate, he’s a criminal and if I spotted him committing these crimes, I’d want him thrown in the slammer.

It also doesn’t help that John emasculates the Terminator by teaching him the aforementioned asinine catchphrases and encouraging him to cry. Plus, he pouts and whines through the whole film like a grunge-era Bella Swan. Our future hero, ladies and gentlemen! Maybe I should just root for the T-1000.

Number 4: T-1000: Least Effective Killer Robot Ever

I just can’t catch a break here. I keep thinking about how in T1 Arnie’s T-800 had to search for information, ultimately using a phone book to look for ‘Sarah Connor.’ (This is due to, according to Kyle Reese, Skynet’s loss of 20th century records during the war.) This leads to the Terminator killing all the women he can find named ‘Sarah Connor’ (just whacking them all and hoping that eventually the actual target will be among the dead), while tracking down their addresses and collecting personal information. This makes the T-800 look smart, resilient, resourceful, and, above all, a nearly omnipotent predator who will find its prey, come Hell or high water.

In T2, the T-1000 simply commandeers a cop car, looks up John’s file on the vehicle’s Commodore 64, and ta-daaa!!! Talk about a copout (pun absolutely intended). Isn’t it fortunate that John already has a rap sheet? –complete with personal information? –and that T-1000 seemingly knew this and already knew were to look despite the loss of 20th century data and files in the future and…wait, that doesn’t make sense.

I can only imagine what might have happened if John didn’t have a record. Speaking of which, if Sarah and her friends knew of all possible ways to stay off the grid, why didn’t they just erase his file in the event of this very situation? Or, in the event of Sarah’s incarceration, couldn’t she- miss Ultra Resourceful- have found someone as willing and crazy as her to see to the job? Or why didn’t she teach John how to do this himself along with all the other self-resiliency classes? Maybe she forgot that lesson - or John inherited his mom’s judgment.

Anyway, what could T-1000’s backup plan have been? Standing on the side of a highway, holding a picture, and asking drivers if they’ve “seen this boy?” Of course, we’d have to question how he’d get the picture.
Number 3: And Just When You Thought T-1000 Couldn’t Be More Ineffective…

Not entirely Off Topic…but did you ever see that Star Trek: TNG episode where Picard is engaged in the deadliest battle of wits: a treaty dispute? Okay, I’ll explain. The Federation is handing some planet over to an alien race, but they first need to remove their own citizens who were never informed, apparently had no say in this, and are ready to fight for what’s rightfully theirs. The aliens want the planet and intend to immediately massacre said citizens, all the while beating the Enterprise crew over the head into diplomatically-enforced impotence with respective treaty.

In the end, Picard finds a loophole. Because they’re at an impasse (well, not really; the idiot negotiators never considered that these citizens would defend their property and defy their EU-style government), he nominates a neutral party to intercede. (Uh, wouldn’t that be the first thing you do in a diplomatic impasse?) However, he selects the Grizzelas, who are currently hibernating. (As in grizzly bears! Get it? Clever! Funny! Not.) Completely outmaneuvered, (though actually not acting rationally and demanding a third party who might actually be awake and available), the aliens give the Enterprise time to enact galactic eminent domain and forcefully move the citizens from their rightful homes and into solar section 8 housing, probably on Planet TheBronx.
Now, what I want you to take away from this is how dependent Picard is on the TNG writing staff. If the citizens aren’t written as (eventually) submissive and the aliens as lacking in logic, he has no leg to stand on (as is the case for most of Next Generation). Also, it’s clear he didn’t read the treaty beforehand- en route to a dispute about said treaty. Or bring a negotiator who knows the treaty. Or a negotiator who helped write the treaty. How in the Hell is this guy an accomplished, revered, and celebrated flagship captain again? OK, OK, back to the subject at hand…

In T2, T-1000 shows just as much creativity as Captain Unenlightened. Consider that, after losing his prey following the incident at the mental ward, he basically vanishes from the film for a while. He just seems to drive around disguised as a motorcycle cop and listening to the police bandwidth. Uh, was that his plan? Was he just going to drive around in circles around Los Angeles, wait for the moronic heroes to commit a crime, hear about it over the radio, and then pounce? And yes, just L.A. Remember! He’s tuned into the LAPD bandwidth and is only hearing about events within that jurisdiction. Theoretically, he could just end up in a literal loop, driving in circles around the City of Angels until Judgment Day (ha! ha!) while the heroes live it up in Tijuana. So, just how is he going to accomplish his mission and, for that matter, get back into this movie?
OK. That makes sense. Hand of Cameron. Got it.
Number 2: More Missed Chances and Plot Holes than a Side Street in East St. Louis

Now, we come to the scene where Sarah invades Miles Dyson’s house, blowing it to bits and nearly killing everyone because she thinks that killing computer genius Dyson will prevent Skynet from existing. She only stops because John arrives (?) and reminds her that killing is the only crime that can revoke her good guy status in the Cameronverse. And, yeah, they blow up Cyberdyne to stop Skynet and end up in a high-budget CGI remake of the chase scene from T1, in which, just like before, they wind up at a factory for the climactic showdown.

Although, the idea of Sarah killing someone to change the direction of the future sounds promising. I mean, she’s so driven. It’s like she can’t be compromised or bargained with. And with the gun pointed at Dyson’s head, it’s like she can’t feel pain, or pity, or remorse. It’s almost as if she absolutely won’t stop, ever, until Dyson’s dead. Sounding familiar?! It’s as though her obsession has gone full circle and she’s becoming what she hates and…
All right, enough with decent storytelling. Now, despite the protests of a certain, allegedly self-omniscient director, I have just a few questions about all of this. Without further ado…

-How did Sarah, while shooting spray through darkened windows and walls, destroy everything in Dyson’s house but not wound anyone?

-How is it that no neighbors heard a fully automatic weapon being fired and immediately called 911? (I mean, I know this is L.A., but that would be louder than most weapons normally used there.)

-So, assuming the attack isn’t reported and given the above, where could an excluded home, far from any neighbors who could potentially hear the gunfire, be found in L.A. proper? (This is important! See below.)

-When the T-1000 arrives later on, it can be inferred that he heard of the situation over the LAPD police band. But if that’s the case, it means that the shooting was reported. So, why are there not dozens of cops and detectives putting up yellow tape and investigating the scene?

-OK. I’m guessing this wasn’t reported. I guess the house must be isolated in the hills and far away from any neighbors. But since no such isolated home likely exists anywhere within the jurisdictional boundaries of Los Angeles, where in the name of Cecil B. DeMille is this house?! How would the T-1000 be aware of this when the helmet and motorcycle he stole is tuned into the LAPD?

(And, no! Saying he knows to change from one police band to another is a fallacy. Remember, Skynet lost all files on human life and functions during the war. With that setup, T-1000 wouldn’t know what to do- i.e. switch frequencies.)

-But- solely for the sake of argument- if T-1000 is, in fact, outside LAPD jurisdiction and has switched to an outside frequency, why, when examining the house, does he get a report of a terrorist attack- at Cyberdyne- within said aforementioned LAPD jurisdiction?

-And just for the nerds…if T-1000 is heading to Miles Dyson’s house because he calculated that Sarah would most likely try to destroy Cyberdyne and Skynet via Dyson and so headed for Dyson’s house to finish her and the others, how did he know how long to wait for Sarah to be back in that part of California before heading there? Shouldn’t he - like the T-800 reaching a similar conclusion about Sarah’s mom in T1 and heading to that location immediately - have gone there right away and just waited for Sarah to arrive? It’s not like not like he got any other clues during said time period. Even Mitchell knew to park outside Cummins’ home and stake him out. (Good God! Did I just use that slovenly pig as a positive example?! I need help.)

Uh…Hand of Cameron? Laws of the Mechanics of the Timing of Action Movies? Wand of Gamelon? Sol pulz? Food for thought.

Number 1: From Where Did the Terminator Universe Truly Spring?

You know what? I’m not really sure any more if James Cameron truly was the force behind the original Terminator film. What if he just gets down-the-road credit? What if there was another force- Light or Dark Side, your choice- behind this tale?
(No, I’m not talking about his feud with super-litigious author Harlan Ellison. It’s Cameron’s fault for drunkenly stating that he “ripped off Ellison” and giving the cantankerous jerk all he needed for a successful lawsuit.)

So, perhaps it’s just the Four Loko talking, but I’m heading down into the black abyss of the human mind inhabited by freaks, fanatics, and illuminati-induced insanity. So, if you’ll indulge me, I intend to seep into my Alex Jones/Oliver Stone/Robert Slatzer shadow self and find the true conspiratorial forces behind the original Terminator movie!

What? You think I’m crazy? Well, in most cases, you’d be right. But hear me out. I know that, according to Cameron, the genysis of this franchise came to him in the form of a dream featuring an evil robot walking out of flames while he had a headache. But what if that’s just cover? What if the differences between the horror/sci-fi Terminator and the action/sci-fi Terminator 2 are too vast for them to be the work of the same director?
T1 Opening Theme
Some Other Opening Theme
A parallel can be found in Cameron’s officially documented career. The original Alien was directed by Ridley Scott and is a horror/sci-fi flick centered around a haunted-house-in-outer-space plot. The tension comes from intelligent characters unsure of what to do as they’re hunted by a monster with no way to escape. In Cameron’s sequel, Aliens, tension is replaced by drawn-out action sequences as characters act stupidly in order to lengthen the plot and keep the movie from ending prematurely.
Another T1 Theme
Another Theme
Oh, Cameron characters. As I’ve said already, T1 has relatable, fleshed-out characters whose actions we can see ourselves taking. I’ve talked enough about Sarah. So, let’s not forget about Kyle Reese. In a basic Cameron film, he’d be a stereotypical soldier. (cough, cough Avatar, cough, cough) But in T1, he jumps when he hears machines working, (a nod to his own time); appears remorseful when he looks at L.A. and comprehends its impending destruction; and genuinely looks like a man who, after a lifetime of war, finds true peace for the first time ever during his one night with Sarah. I ask you, is Cameron really capable of creating a character this complex? I think not.
Some Other T1 Theme
Some Other Theme
I mean, the styles of the two films contrast completely. T1 is dark and brooding, creating a subdued atmosphere of foreboding doom. The minimalist score perfectly complements this by evoking the correct emotions for each scene. T2 takes place in either broad daylight or over-lit nightlight. Having a T-800 as a bodyguard takes away any chance the T-1000 has of being a looming menace. And the music is largely overdone and misplaced. (“Bad to the Bone” certainly did its job of making the T-800 a joke and lessening its bad-assery.)
Yet Another T1 Theme
Yet Another Theme
Yeah, I know. This all sounds far-fetched. But how could two movies- T1 and T2- be so different- a sci-fi horror film and a sci-fi action flick- and be the product of the same guy? Much less the same franchise?
Go ahead. Call me crazy. You might say a director’s style changed as he chose to focus on shoving his politics down the audience’s throat as opposed to decent storytelling. You might say a director chose to rely on CGI, childish plots, and pathetic dialogue as he focused on manipulating audiences as opposed to entertaining them. You might even say he lost his artistic soul and eventually only cared about making more money than J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie (pronounced Car-NAY-gee), and Charles Foster Kane combined. Well, you know what?! I say YOU’RE all crazy! No director would do such things! This IS a conspiracy, I tell you! The public must know! It’s time for-----


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