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.

Continue reading

Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The 30th Anniversary Retrospective

Thirty years ago one of the greatest sequels of all time was released, when James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, sometimes called T2, appeared in theaters. Coming off the success of the first Terminator film as well as another classic sequel Aliens, Cameron reintroduced audiences to his nightmarish future world where the planet was taken over by Skynet, a supercomputer gone rogue that was attempting to wipe out the remnants of humanity. As with the first film, the beginning of Terminator 2: Judgement Day shows human resistance forces led by John Connor in a pitched battle featuring colossal hunter killer machines against a ragtag group of human fighters. This is certainly one of the highlights of the film that really hasn’t been matched by later Terminator films. 

The film subsequently moves to the present where the terminator sent back in time (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his career) arrives, this time to protect John Connor as a ten year old. The change of Schwarzenegger from villain in the first film to hero was risky, but it pays off as he and John Connor (Edward Furlong) have a great rapport, with the emotionless killer cyborg learning about what it means to be human from the sarcastic, but strong child. His strength, obviously came from his mother Sarah Connor, played brilliantly by Linda Hamilton.

Her character also has a dramatic change from the first film, where she was an innocent bystander who then transformed into a warrior willing to do anything to protect her child, knowing he is the savior of humanity. Her reunion with her son, and with the machine of her nightmares is a highlight, as is their first encounter in a mental health institution with the iconic T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal killer cyborg that ruthlessly hunts down John. The nearly silent and deadly T-1000 is an interesting contrast to Schwarzenegger’s hulking T-800 model. Our heroes’ journey takes them south of the border and finally back to where it all started at Cyberdyne Systems, the place where Skynet itself was created, as they attempt to stop the nuclear war and rise of the machines from ever taking place. The final battle with the T-1000 at a steel mill is another thrilling highlight in a movie filled with show-stopping scenes, as the T-800 makes the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of all humanity, having learned from John about humans in general.

The theme of what it means to be human permeates this film and raises it past the level of just another cool action movie. From Sarah confronting her nightmares of the future and almost losing her humanity in trying to commit murder to change the future, to John seeing his machine protector as a father figure, to the terminator itself telling John at the end that he knows why humans cry, even if he could never do it. T2 has so much to say about the future of humankind and how our fates are not set in stone. This directly affects events in the film when the T-800, John and Sarah attempt to destroy Skynet with the help of its creator Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), who realizes his future creation will result in a nuclear holocaust and threaten humanity with extinction.

Having said all that, the film also has a well deserved reputation as a fantastic and influential action movie, with incredibly exciting stunts and special effects that revolutionized the genre. The “morphing” effect that brought the shape-shifting T-1000 to life forever changed how we saw what was possible in science fiction and films, in general. This directly led to the stunning dinosaur effects in Jurassic Park two years later, as well as other films that demonstrated that new worlds and creatures could be realized. The film also enshrined Terminator as a franchise, which in retrospect had mixed results. The direct follow up, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines took the story to an interesting place and had a great ending, and the next film Terminator: Salvation finally showcased a future war that was hinted at in earlier films. But the most recent films, Terminator: Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate were both reboots that were lacking, to put it mildly.

However, the franchise is still intact with a new anime series in development at Netflix, and a recently released video game Terminator: Resistance that is an excellent foray into the future war and leads right up to the opening sequence in T2, which is revealed to be the final battle between Skynet and John Connor’s forces before the terminators are sent back in time. All of these sequels, as well as the great and still-missed TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and the Universal Studios theme park attraction T2-3D: Battle Across Time used Terminator 2: Judgement Day as the springboard to new plotlines. That is because T2 did such a great job of showcasing its world of killer cyborgs and brave, yet flawed heroes fighting against a seemingly inevitable fate of death and destruction.

Whatever the future has in store for the Terminator franchise, it can be certain that the influence and impact of Terminator 2: Judgement Day will always be felt, both for its epic scope and excitement, as well for its insights into at what makes us tick. That, along with its equally great predecessor, will keep this film going for another 30 years and beyond and keep it enshrined as not only a brilliant sequel, but a superior film in its own right.

C.S. Link

Latest Terminator Suffers From More Than A Dark Fate. Major Spoilers

Terminator Dark Fate is the latest film in the long-running science fiction/action franchise that sees the return of creator James Cameron as a producer and contributed to the story, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and, of course, star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the famous killer cyborg.  The film has been divisive with fans because of rumors about certain plot points and this as such will affect reception of the film. As an action movie, Terminator Dark Fate is decent with some good action pieces and having Sarah Connor back in action is a treat. Unfortunately, the movie also makes the mistake of killing off a key character in the first few minutes. *What follows below will contain major spoilers, so unless you’ve seen the film, read at your own risk.

*

*

*

In this case, John Connor, the savior of humanity whose existence was at the core of these movies, is gunned down as a child a few years after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day by yet another terminator sent back in time to kill him. Just like that, the events of the first two films are basically rendered pointless!  The film then jumps to 2020 and shows an augmented human called Grace (Mackenzie Davis), who is sent back in time to Mexico City to protect a young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes), who now holds the key to the future of humanity. There is, of course, a terminator also sent back to kill her. This model, called a Rev-9 (played by Gabriel Luna) is basically two terminators in one, with a metal endoskeleton and a liquid metal exterior that can separate into a second cyborg. Basically, when John and Sarah destroyed Skynet in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it created a new timeline where Skynet was never created, but instead has another artificial intelligence called Legion that comes into existence in 2042 that tries to wipe out humanity. When Grace shows up and escapes with Natalia only to be cornered by the Rev-9, Sarah Connor shows up and helps them to flee.

Sarah Connor reveals that she has been receiving text messages with the locations of terminators who were sent through time and she hunts and destroys them. The three women find the source of these texts, who is revealed to be the same T-800 that killed John, and now goes by the name of Carl. He currently sells drapes and has a wife and adopted son. Carl explains that it had no purpose after killing John and found a woman who was in an abusive relationship and it developed a conscience (!). He has been sending Sarah the texts to give her a purpose. Frankly, this part of the movies was ridiculous! I could see the terminator learning about human behavior similar to T2, but the idea of it raising a son and having a relationship with a woman is just not believable. Anyway, Sarah wants to kill Carl, but is stopped by Grace and Dani, and they reluctantly team up with Carl to take down the Rev-9. Without spoiling the rest of it, the ending is basically a rehash of T2, with a set up for the inevitable sequel.

Some reviews have said that this movie is better than previous sequels, but I disagree. Both Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation were better movies because at least they furthered the story in interesting ways. I always wanted the story to continue after the future-set Salvation, where we finally got away from the same trope of terminators being sent back to the past. Time will tell how this latest plot will go forward, if at all, but hopefully it will be something unique. I did like the future war scene at the very beginning that shows terminator endoskeletons rising out of the water and coming onto a beach, but it was all too brief. Another flash forward scene was somewhat interesting which showed how Grace got her augmentations after a battle with tentacled terminator models.

Linda Hamilton’s return as Sarah is great to see as she is now a grizzled warrior mourning her son and determined to get revenge on those who wronged her. Schwarzenegger is fine as “Carl” but the misuse of his character is not a good thing. Seriously, a drapes salesman? But more importantly how was he sent back in time if Skynet was never created? The terminators that Legion creatre in the future are different than the T-800 models. He should not even exist! Also, how does he know about these other terminators and Legion if he is not from that new timeline? It is never made clear.

The main problem with the idea of killing John Connor and just having someone else step in to the role of leader of the resistance is that it makes everything in the original Terminator film and T2 pointless. What if another terminator is sent back and kills Dani? No big deal, someone will just replace her! What happens when Dani and Sarah destroy Legion in the future? Again, so what? Another AI will take over. If they wanted to move on to new characters and settings, I can understand that.

Maybe the studio should have just made a full on reboot with no connection to the other movies. They keep trying to tie these films together and it makes everything awkward and convoluted. Terminator Genisys had this problem, as well. It started with a terminator being sent back to kill Sarah when she was a child, which changed events in the first film and erased the second movie. They should of just had that basic story of Sarah being targeted as a child as the first film in a totally new continuity with no connection at all with any of the other films and It would not have had any baggage to deal with. This is so frustrating since James Cameron developed the story, along with four other writers, and is behind this film. With the other derided Terminator films, it was easy to lay blame on Cameron not being involved. Well, there goes that argument.

As it stands, Terminator: Dark Fate is an okay action film and casual fans will probably enjoy it, but as a continuation of the Terminator franchise, fans will find it somewhat lacking since it makes the franchise’s logic even more confusing.

C.S. Link

Avatar: Looking Back At The Sci-Fi Epic

Avatar Sully and Natiri

After it was announced recently that Avengers: Endgame had finally dethroned Avatar to become the all-time box office champion, everyone was whooping and hollering in joy. Sure, we’re entitled to feel that way and celebrate because Avengers: Endgame is so well regarded. But lost in all the hoopla was how dismissive many people were toward director James Cameron’s film which came out ten years ago. Yes, we all are entitled to our own opinions about everything, but some were too quick to put down Avatar, which is not warranted.

Even when Avatar came out in December 2009, there were those who were very critical towards the sci-fi epic. A common gripe was that its story was weak and derived from the “going native” trope, which is why Avatar was sometimes called Dances With Smurfs. Another critique was its too-on-the-nose environmental message or its simplistic evil capitalists vs. noble savages motif. These are valid points, but Avatar should not be disregarded so casually.

jake rides giant banshee

For its time, Avatar captured the world’s imagination thanks to the rich and immersive effects and world that James Cameron and his team of effects wizards created. Almost everything about the world of Pandora (a habitable moon orbiting a distant gas giant a few lights years from Earth) looked alien. From the six-legged creatures to the ultraviolet forests to the floating mountains. This was a landscape never before seen in live action. It was and still is breathtaking to take in.

While the story may be too familiar, it does resonate and has relevance to our times. It was reported back then that some viewers experienced a type of depression because they realized how unlike Pandora the Earth was with its pollution and disappearing nature. Now, climate change and other environmental concerns have become a more tangible problem and we can appreciate the idea of a pristine, untouched-by-man world. This is also inspiring many to look for other worlds and can be seen as a drive for the new upcoming space race. Avatar showed many the possibilities of what lies beyond our solar system.

Of course, the special effects and 3D technology are still unrivaled to this day. Cameron is known to be a perfectionist and insisted on the best usage of effects technology and 3D. This was why it took so long for the film to be made and this goes for the sequels that are only now being filmed. The result of Cameron’s strict standards was that audiences were floored by the stunning 3D and effects that gave the feeling that we were truly in an alien world. The 3D technology isn’t cheap and the top dollars spent on Avatar shows, and it lead to a new boom in the use of 3D in films. Sadly, much of the 3D in other films couldn’t compare and that is because truly impressive 3D has to be filmed with special cameras and is very expensive. Most films that use 3D these days are actually using a conversion process. Much of the time, it’s done well, but it cannot compare to Avatar.

Many critics state that the film isn’t anything without the effects or the 3D. That is not so. Avatar is actually very entertaining with exciting battle scenes and genuine moments of awe. The story is basic but effective; in the future, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former vet, takes an assignment on an alien moon being mined by a large company. He is to infiltrate the moon’s native sapient species, who are called the Na’vi, and get intel to use against them. He ingratiates himself by having his consciousness fused into a cloned version of the Na’vi. Over time, he comes to empathize with the Na’vi and eventually joins their side to fight off the human invaders. We have seen this story before, most famously in Dances With Wolves, but it is effectively reimagined in a sci-fi trapping that works for this epic. The film is still awe inspiring and packs some emotional weight. Just watching that final battle of humans against the Na’vi is so thrilling and inspiring.

It has been said that Avatar has not remained in the public eye for very long. That is debatable, the film represents the pushing of boundaries and a good example of this is with the land it inspired in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. In the land themed to Avatar, which opened in 2017, visitors were and still are awestruck by how alien and majestic the land looks with its Pandoran forestry and even more with its headline ride that simulates what it is like to be a Na’vi riding a flying banshee. Interest has been renewed for the property and although cynics like to say that no one cares about the upcoming sequels, it is foolish to bet against James Cameron. Undoubtedly, he will create another winning sci-fi epic, the likes that he is famous for. Avatar 2 or whatever it will be called may not supplant Avengers: Endgame but it will most likely be a big hit and help keep Avatar in the public eye. Maybe by then, the original film will be looked at more fondly.

The Challenge of Alita: Battle Angel

As people flock to theaters to see Captain Marvel and rave or criticize the film, there is another woman-centric sci-fi film that has caught the admiration of many others. But that film is not pulling in the box office dollars of the MCU film. That is not an indication of its quality, however. In fact, many who have seen Alita: Battle Angel have come away convinced it is the better film that deserved a better fate.

Right now, even though the Robert Rodriguez film has been out for over a month, it is too soon to declare Alita: Battle Angel a box office disappointment. To date it has grossed nearly $400 million dollars. Sure that is peanuts to what other films have pulled in, but it is not that bad. The film’s supposed budget was $170 million, so technically it made its money back and has a tiny profit. So, is that enough to get a sequel?

Fans of the cult film (and that is what Alita: Battle Angel is at this point, though it is worthy of that honor) are clamoring for a sequel, especially given how the film sets up future films. The problem is that the amount of money it has earned probably won’t be enough for a sequel to be greenlit. There is also the fact, that as of two days from now, 20th Century Fox, the film studio that released Alita: Battle Angel, will belong to Disney. Who knows if the House of the Mouse will be interested in pursuing a followup film. They have other properties that will generate more money for them.

Then again, we have seen cult favorites build enough of a following to convince studios to take another crack at the property. One recent example is Pacific Rim. That film was released in 2013 and was not a hit film, but it quickly developed a fan base, not unlike Alita. As the film did well in home media, it picked up more fans and demands for a sequel increased. Last year, a sequel was finally released, Pacific Rim: Uprising. Although the film was way inferior to the first Pacific Rim, it did demonstrate that we can always hold out hope for followups to non-hit films. This has happened with John Wick, The Boondock Saints, and others.

Bear in mind that this is not a guarantee. Films like Serenity and Dredd had devoted fans that tried to push awareness of the films so that sequels could be made, but they never came to be. Plus, while it is important to see the James Cameron-produced film in theaters now, it is equally, if not more important to buy the film when it is available in home media. That would demonstrate the lasting appeal of the cyberpunk action film, which is surprisingly faithful in spirit to the manga that inspired it. That would be a critical challenge for Alita: Battle Angel. The fan base has to be persistent and vocal. Then there is the matter of getting James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Rosa Salazar, and others to return to the stunning futuristic world that they created. Another issue is that if a sequel is commissioned will it get the same care and budget of the original? An easier way to convince execs to finance a sequel is if its budget can be controlled. That might mean that Alita’s next adventure might have to take place in the floating city of Zalem, which would look eerily like modern-day society. It might work given the decrepit state of the world below shown in Alita. In that case can it be as faithful to the manga as the original?

This is all speculation at this point. Go see the film if it is still playing. Despite its narrative flaws Alita: Battle Angel is a stunning cinematic experience that better captures a hero’s journey much better than the other superhero film out now in theaters.