Tag Archives: James Cameron

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) Review

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 “Model 101”
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Robert Patrick as T-1000
Edward Furlong as John Connor
Joe Morton as Miles Bennett Dyson
Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman
Director: James Cameron

In this sequel set eleven years after “The Terminator,” young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization’s victory over a future robot uprising, is the target of the shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a Terminator sent from the future to kill him. Another Terminator, the revamped T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), has been sent back to protect the boy. As John and his mother (Linda Hamilton) go on the run with the T-800, the boy forms an unexpected bond with the robot.

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Just before Terminator Dark Fate rolled around, I decided to re-watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The Terminator back in 1984 was such a hit, and became an instant classic upon its release. 7 years later however, James Cameron made a sequel which not only was at the level of the original (and for some surpassed it), it also became one of the best iconic action movies of all time. Nearly 3 decades later it still holds up rather well.

If you don’t know anything about this movie, I’d recommend stopping reading this review right now and watching this movie (of course watching The Terminator beforehand if you haven’t seen it already). I remember when I saw this movie on DVD around the age of 13 not knowing much of the plot, and it was definitely better for it. The Terminator from 1984 was more of a thriller, Terminator 2: Judgement is more of an action movie. Despite this, it’s not just an action movie with explosions, there’s also lot of time spent with the characters. I’ve seen the movie multiple times and I’ve seen both versions, the theatrical cut and the extended cut. The extended cut adds more character development and story, and so I’d recommend that version. Also the ending of the extended cut works if you count Judgement Day as the official end of the Terminator series. On top of the entertainment and thrills, Terminator 2 also has an emotional payoff at the end. So all around, Judgement Day handles its plot very well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his role as the Terminator, this time as not the antagonist he initially became known for in the first movie. As I said, I went into the movie not knowing for sure that he’d be protecting John Connor, so that was quite a surprise. He definitely was convincing as a terminator fighting this time on the side of the main characters. Edward Furlong is the young John Connor and his acting is a little mixed. The worst is early on when he’s just being a kid on his own, and occasionally in some of the scenes where he’s showing emotion he’s underacting, overacting or is coming across a little forced. As the plot continues on he gets better. He’s great when paired with Schwarzenegger, those scenes where the two of them interact are amongst the highlights of the whole movie, especially with the Terminator learning more about being human. Linda Hamilton also returned from the first movie as Sarah Connor, she was good in that movie but she’s great here. She’s a lot more hardened and experienced and she gets to do a lot to do here. Can’t wait to see her again in Dark Fate. Robert Patrick this time plays the Terminator antagonist as the T-1000. After the success of Arnold’s Terminator, it would be easy to just assume the next model would be just an even larger Terminator. This time they decided to go with a smaller liquid metal Terminator and he worked very well. He can definitely blend into a crowd and certainly acts more human than the T-800. Yet you can still feel through and through that he’s a machine and he’s very threatening. He’s a strong challenge for the Terminator, John, and Sarah Connor.

James Cameron directs this, and once again his work here is absolutely stellar. Direction-wise, Terminator 2 certainly moved from a thriller with the slasher feel (with the terminator as the killer), to a much more action movie feel. The visual effects are very effective and have certainly advanced from the first movie from 1984. The effects with the T-1000’s liquid metal may be a little dated now, but you can definitely tell that for 1991 this was something special. Despite the use of CGI, there’s still quite a lot in the action scenes that’s practical, and all the action scenes are fantastic. They go much larger with the action and it is great, from the chase scenes to gunfights to Terminator on Terminator action, all of it was filmed very well and still holds up well today. The soundtrack was also solid, though I certainly remember the synth score from the first Terminator a little more. The main theme for Terminator 2 however has cemented itself as the absolute main theme of the series.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is fantastic and still holds up after all these years. The cast are mostly great, James Cameron directed it excellently, and it definitely deserves its recognition as one of the greats. Whether you like this movie or the first more, I think it’s generally accepted that both of these movies are excellent and essential viewing.

The Terminator (1984) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence, offensive language and sex scenes.
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 “Model 101”
Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Paul Winfield as Ed Traxler
Lance Henriksen as Hal Vukovich
Director: James Cameron

Disguised as a human, a cyborg assassin known as a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Sent to protect Sarah is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who divulges the coming of Skynet, an artificial intelligence system that will spark a nuclear holocaust. Sarah is targeted because Skynet knows that her unborn son will lead the fight against them. With the virtually unstoppable Terminator in hot pursuit, she and Kyle attempt to escape.

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With Terminator 6 coming later in 2019, I thought that I should rewatch and review the other Terminator movies leading up to its release (aside from Genysis, which I reviewed already), even though the first two movies are the only ones relevant to the upcoming movie. James Cameron’s The Terminator and its sequel Judgement Day had a massive effect on cinema, especially for the sci-fi genre. While the sequel is generally praised more than the original, the first Terminator still deserves a lot of praise, with both standing the test of time as being fantastic pieces of science fiction cinema.

When it comes to The Terminator, plotwise, it’s perfectly crafted. It feels like everything that needed to be in the movie is here, there’s never a scene that feels unnecessary, and it doesn’t feel like there needs to be anything more added to it, its all fits well. It’s a pretty straightforward story, cyborg goes back in time to kill one of the protagonist and the protagonists need to survive from said cyborg. Even all the time travel elements and all the information about what happened (or in this case, what will happen) are explained sufficiently enough and aren’t too complicated. All the pacing is done very well, it’s under an hour and 50 minutes long and it never feels like its moving slowly. It feels heavily in the 80s and I guess there’s some aspects that you might call a little dated (some of which is to do with the way some scenes are written or directed) but it doesn’t get too distracting.

Sarah Connor in the first Terminator is… well, she’s not the Sarah Connor of Terminator 2. Her character here is not the greatest but Linda Hamilton nonetheless does a really good job playing her. Although her character gets much better in the sequel, it wouldn’t have been as effective if it wasn’t for what they did with her here. She is given a good character arc here, she develops over the course of the movie and it has a very satisfying ending. Michael Biehn is also really great as Kyle Reese, the soldier from the human sent to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator. Hamilton and Biehn also have good chemistry together. It wouldn’t be a Terminator review if we didn’t talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is great in the titular role. Before he played more heroic versions of the Terminator in the sequels, Schwarzenegger here is really convincing as an intimidating, emotionless and literal killing machine. It’s not just that he can talk like a robot or anything, the way he moves, the way he looks at everything, he just doesn’t seem human. The film does a great job at making the Terminator a seemingly unstoppable force, and Schwarzenegger also contributed to that.

James Cameron’s direction is nothing short of excellent. The second movie is more of a big action blockbuster, but with the original movie, Cameron does a fantastic job creating a quieter and more suspenseful movie, with the atmosphere playing a key part in this. The atmosphere is a big part about why The Terminator works so well, it’s not quite a horror movie or anything, but the way certain scenes are filmed are reminiscent of a slasher movie. The third act in particular is all suspense, with the sequence taking place in a factory being a standout. The practical effects are outstanding, especially on the Terminator itself. The only time where it doesn’t quite work is some of scenes with The Terminator when Arnold is clearly replaced by a literal robot made to look exactly like him. Granted for the 80s it is impressive, but you can clearly tell the difference when it goes from one shot of real Arnold, to one shot of fake Arnold and then back again, even if it is a pretty good recreation of Arnold’s face. It is absolutely perfect for the third act as the Terminator at that point received a massive amount of body and facial damage, but before that point it’s a little distracting. Aside from that, the practical effects are flawless. The action scenes aren’t as iconic as those in Terminator 2, but they are still done really well, relying mostly on practical effects and with most of what you’re seeing on screen being really what’s happening. Some of the visual effects aren’t the best like the lightning effects when both The Terminator and Kyle Reese appear but its not too much of a problem, its from the 80s anyway so there’s only so much that visual effects at this point could do. Something that I found effective is that the actually Terminator in robot form, we only see the true appearance towards the end, which seemed to be achieved through a mix of visual effects and practical effects, and its movements are so unnatural that it actually makes it more scary than the robotic forms of the Terminator in later movies. We do get a couple of scenes taking place in Judgement Day are all fantastically done, making it feel really gloomy and nightmarish. The score by Brad Fiedel is quite effective, which was composed and performed on the synthesizer. It gives the movie an eerie and menacing feel to it, yet being somewhat melodic. I guess the only bummer is that the iconic main theme that The Terminator is known for is still pretty early stages here, but the sequel fixed that.

The Terminator is a classic for a reason. With James Cameron’s fantastic direction, good work from its cast and a perfectly crafted plot, it really gets everything right. The two Terminator movies are different enough from each other that there’s no clear film which is better. Whether you prefer this movie or the sequel, there’s not denying the impact that they have made, both well worth the watch if you haven’t seen them already.

Avatar (2009)

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Time: 162 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
Zoe Saldana as Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver as Grace
Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon
Director: James Cameron

In the future, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers Intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back for the fate of Pandora.

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Avatar is one of the most successful movies and is loved by many people. Although I do think it is a good movie with excellent cinematography and CGI, I have issues with the script which is often predictable and could’ve been much better. Despite this, it is still an enjoyable movie.

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The writing for me is the weakest part of the movie; to clarify it’s not the world of Pandora I’m talking about, that was done okay, it’s the story. The story for me was predictable, even when I was 10 years old watching this in cinemas, most of the time I could see where this story was going, this type of story has been done before. This movie is very similar to Dances with Wolves; you may as well call this movie “Dances with Wolves with blue Indians”. Also another flaw in the writing is the characters, none of the characters really stood out to me and often there are certain characters that are only there to move a plot point along like the general who is quite clichéd. Another thing that should be added is that there were a lot of moments in the middle of the film that I felt wouldn’t make much of a difference if they were taken out. It shows Sam Worthington’s character learning how to become one of the Na’vi but at times it seems just like a montage. Overall the story is functional but still could’ve improved immensely. If you put this story in a place without big special effects, I think people would more likely notice the glaring issues with the script.

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The acting was decent enough from most people. Sam Worthington gives a pretty good performance and does what he can with the script, despite his character not being very interesting. Zoe Saldana gives the best performance in the movie and plays probably the character that’s closest to standing out the most. Stephen Lang plays the general as I mentioned above and like I said, his role just seems to just be the clichéd bad guy. No character information is given to him so as a result, his performance didn’t leave an impression on me. Other actors like Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver also do the best of what they have.

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The special effects elevated this movie and are probably the only reason I’ll overlook the writing’s flaws, at least a little. This movie really makes you feel like you are in the world of Pandora. The battle scenes are also well filmed and unlike some battle scenes in other Hollywood movies today, you can actually see them from a good distance. The CG and the motion captures of the Na’vi are done excellently.

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Avatar isn’t a great movie in my eyes, only when considering the special effects. I heard that there will be sequels to this movie and I have to say I don’t understand why. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, do so. Technically this film is well made with a great look; just don’t expect a great movie.

Aliens (1986)

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Aliens

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
Carrie Hann as Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jordan
Michael Biehn as Corporal Dwayne Hicks
Lance Henriksen as Bishop
Jenette Goldstein as Private Vasquez
Paul Reiser as Carter Burke
Bill Paxton as Private Hudson
Director: James Cameron

The only survivor of the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakens half a century later (after the events of Alien) after her escape vessel is recovered and taken back to Earth she soon learns that the human colony of LV-426 which is on the planet the alien she found, lost contact with Earth. Ripley is called back to the planet as an adviser with space marines to investigate.

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The idea of having a sequel to a film which was a horror movie, which is now an action movie, seemed like a recipe for disaster. However, this movie is greatly directed by James Cameron and even manages to still contain some of the fear elements from Alien. It is always hugely entertaining and has led to many other sci-fi movies. Aliens is a thrill ride that never lets up at gaining your attention, scaring you or entertaining you.

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One thing noticeable is the pacing which isn’t as slow as its predecessor; it is slightly faster which is good for the type of movie it was going for. The ways the Xenomorphs (the aliens) work are shown so we get an idea about how powerful they are. However, Cameron doesn’t show all of it or explain it; he gives enough information necessary for the audience to understand. The film also manages to balance the action scenes with the suspense scenes. The film’s action scenes build up over time and are always satisfying. The final act is particularly enjoyable and entertaining and is Ellen Ripley being a pure badass.

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Ellen Ripley is more developed here than in Alien and therefore Sigourney Weaver’s performance here makes her character so great; her performance even being rewarded with an Oscar nomination, despite this mostly being a sci-fi movie. She is stronger in this movie and you can clearly see her develop as the plot goes on – like Sarah Conner in Terminator 2. The side characters have more personality than in the characters in Alien; however as there are more of them, this means that a lot of them die, which results in some being more developed than others. There are some stand out characters that are focussed on more such as Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henrikson, Jeanette Goldstein, Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton – and all of these actors were really good in their roles and carry the movie along with Sigourney Weaver.

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Aliens takes advantage of its higher budget and makes use of really good effects, especially for the aliens, though they aren’t CGI, which is great. As with Alien, this movie has really good cinematography and lighting, which were some of the things that made Alien so effective as a horror movie. As this now takes place on a colony, where as Alien took place on a ship, Aliens has a larger place to work with and therefore have a lot of impressive sets that were used. The sound design and editing are also good, like in Alien. The soundtrack composed by James Horner is also good, adding to the atmosphere the tension and the feeling of the unknown.

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Aliens proves that there are times where a horror movie can become an action movie – you just need the right people who can make it so. This is one of the rarest cases where a horror movie to action movie translation actually works, and in this case brilliant. You won’t get as many scares as you may have from the previous movie but this is still a great experience. This is my favourite movie in the Alien franchise. Aliens is a great action sci-fi movie that gives the audience exactly what they want, when they want it.
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