A Brief Look Back At Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time

The previous post about Terminator 2: Judgment Day brought to mind the extinct theme park attraction Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time or T2 3D at Universal Studios.

The attraction was a live-stage show combined with a 3D film that embedded audiences into the action-packed world of the Terminator franchise. T2 3D premiered at Universal Studios Florda on April 27 1996 and closed on October 8, 2017. It also ran in Universal Studios Hollywood from May 6, 1999 to December 31, 2012. The only remaining theme park where it still operates is at Universal Studios Japan, where it opened on March 31, 2001, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how much longer the attraction will run there.

Being that the film was directed by James Cameron himself, T2 3D would be the final time that he directed a Terminator film, even though it was a short film that ran about 12 minutes. It was also the final time that the actors from Terminator 2: Judgment Day reunited to reprise their roles: Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. Needless to say, it was the last time Cameron directed these actors.

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time amped the scale and quality of live-stage shows and 3D films for its time and was considered very revolutionary in how it seemlessly combined both aspects to create an immersive experience for visitors that began during the pre-show portion of the attraction.

After entering the attraction’s building, visitors where exposed to company propaganda from Cyberdyne Systems in the form of an annoying PR spokeswoman who appeared live and videos that touted the coming cybernetic and robotic products from the company.

The videos get hacked by Sarah and her teenage son, John Connor, who warn the visitors about the dangers of Cyberdyne complete with footage from the Terminator films. Their video hack ends and the PR spokeswomen dismissed their warnings before ushering the visitors into the main theater for a demonstation of the company’s latest product: the T-70 infantry unit aka prototype terminators.

Several T-70s (actually audio-animatronics) were lined up on walls alongside the seats and demonstrated their firepower. After that, live actors representing the Connors arrive and shut down the demonstration. But before long, a 3D metallic image of the T-1000 forms from a displayed logo of Cyberdyne Systems on a screen in front of the audience and it emerged from the screen as a live actor. The T-1000 kills the spokeswomen to the delight of the audience then starts chasing the Connors. However, a vortex formed in the movie screen and from it a live-action T-800 riding a motorcycle came to the rescue. A brief firefight ensued as clever maneuvering by the live actors hid their faces while overhead monitors displayed the film actors. This was very well choreographed considereing that the live actors ran through the aisles in front of the audience.

At this point, the T-800 takes John with him through the vortex to avoid the T-1000, but the latter terminator follows them. Then the screens expand to show visitors James Cameron’s vision of a future landscape ravaged by the war between man and machine. Viewing the hellish nighttime landscape with all the destroyed infrastructure and explosions was a genuine highlight. Cameron’s vision was unfiltered and immersive, but of course, the film’s focus was on the characters, now played onscreen by the film actors. The 3D effects themselves were very impressive, though there were some cheesy in-your-face shots.

After the T-1000, another T-800 and several Hunter/Killer drones were defeated, John and the heroic T-800 entered the Skynet complex, the heart of the machine overlords. Inside, they soon confront the T-1,000,000, a giant, spider-like, chrome monstrosity with multiple tentacles. During the battle (once again shown with a mix of film actors on monitors and live actors on sets), the T-800 sends John Connor back to the past while he remains behind and destroyed the T-1,000,000 and Skynet’s core in a deafening explosion that literally rocked the audience’s seats and sprayed them with blinding smoke and water droplets that represented the destroyed T-1,000,000.

Back in the present, John reunited with his mother on a dark stage as her voiceover acknowledged the heroic actions and sacrifice of their cyborg savior.

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time was very revolutionary for its time and still held up at the time of its closing. As mentioned before, the attraction fully immersed audiences into its plot and action to make it more than just a 3D film. The use of a superior sound system, practical effects, stunts, live acting and a superb short film made T2 3D a must-see attraction in the parks. In many ways, the attraction was better than the sequel films that followed Terminator 2: Judgment Day and can be considered an actual sequel in its own right.

The attraction had its share of fans who lamented the closing of the attraction, though many admit its replacement The Bourne Stuntacular, based on the Jason Bourne films, was a worthy replacement. Universal Studios Hollywood’s replacement for T2 3D was the Despicable Me Minions Mayhem simulator ride, which certainly appeals to a different type of audience.

It is hard to know if T2 3D would still be in the theme parks if the Terminator franchise was more successful. This cloud have led to major updates or rides based on the Terminator films if the films were more relevant. The best T2 3D received were some minor updates in the last decade with its pre-show videos.

Even though Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time is gone in the United States it still had an impressive run and who knows if the franchise gets revived we could see a new atraction somewhere doen the road. Remember as was said in the films, “the future is not set.”

José Soto

5 comments on “A Brief Look Back At Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time

  1. Having never visited the States (or Japan) I haven’t been able to experience T2 3D although I was always aware of it. The T-1,000,000 sounds awesome and could have been utilised in one of the Terminator sequels (or in an alternate reality, a T3 written and directed by James Cameron).

    Guess I’ll just have to be content with a copy of the Terminator: Resistance video game on my PS4, great retrospective and it certainly painted a vivid picture of what the attraction was like.

    • Thank you, glad I was able to explain how the attraction was like. I think it would still be around if the later films were better received. But if the franchise makes a comeback then bringing it back or creating a new attraction would be a no brainer. Ot happened with King Kong do why not the Terminator?

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