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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/8/00
updated: 8/21/00




Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Ultimate Edition - 1991 (2000) - Carolco/Lightstorm Entertainment (Artisan)

review by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
THX-certified

Terminator 2: Judgment Day - The Ultimate Edition Film Ratings (Theatrical/Special Edition): B+/A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/A

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

Side One: The Films
136 mins (theatrical version)/153 mins (special edition), R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, dual-sided, dual-layered (DVD-18), Amaray keep case packaging with custom metal slipcase, Side One is RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:04:28 at the end of chapter 34 in the theatrical version, 1:13:22 at the end of chapter 38 in the special edition), includes audio commentary hosted by Creative Supervisor Van Ling, compiled from 26 interviews with numerous members of the cast & crew (including director James Cameron and stars Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger) - commentary is extended in Special Edition version, cast & crew bios, PC DVD-ROM features ("script to screen" feature which allows you to read the screenplay while viewing storyboards and artwork and watching the film simultaneously, weblinks and access to online events), Easter Egg allows you to watch the special edition with an additional restored scene and the "Future Coda" alternate ending (156 mins - see end of review for access instructions), animated film-themed menus with sound and music, THX Optimode video and audio test signals, 30-page collectible booklet, scene access (theatrical version has 72 chapters, special edition has 80 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 and 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES), subtitles: English

Side Two: Special Edition Content
Side Two is dual-layered (no layer switch), features animated film-themed menus with sound and music, and includes special edition material organized as follows:

Level One includes Information Supplements (3 featurettes - The Making of Terminator 2: Judgment Day - 30 mins, T2: More Than Meets the Eye - 22 mins, The Making of Terminator 2 3D: Breaking the Screen Barrier - 23 mins), Visual Campaigns (9 trailers including the teaser trailer, 2 theatrical trailers, the special edition trailer and 5 Japanese trailers) and Data Hub access to...

Level Two includes Source Code (the complete original screenplay for Terminator 2 contained in 574 still frames browsable with your remote), Interrogation Surveillance Archives (60 short, behind-the-scenes video featurettes detailing various portions of the production - notable segments include the omitted "Future Coda" alternate ending with optional audio commentary, a "polyglot" clip of the Terminator talking in several languages, several multi-audio track segments illustrating the sound design process and a multi-angle presentation of various camera angles from the "Helicopter Acquisition" sequence), Tactical Diagrams (17 original storyboard sequences comprising over 700 hundred individual storyboard panels) and Data Core access to...

Level Three includes Core Data Sampling (which allows you to access all the supplements on the disc grouped by text-based chapters, which together comprise an extensive, interactive, "film school on a disc" style presentation on the making of the film) and Full Implementation (which takes you through the same "film school on a disc" presentation from start to finish)


John Connor: "We're not gonna make it are we? The human race I mean..."

The Terminator: "It's in your nature to destroy yourselves."

As most of you should know, the original Terminator saw an android killer from the future (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back in time to present day L.A.. It's mission was simple - kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). You see, there's this artificial intelligence called SkyNet - yet to be invented - that will (one day) get placed in control of military computers and decide to launch a deadly nuclear attack against the human race. With the future Earth a wasteland, it seems the remaining human resistance to SkyNet will eventually be led by one John Connor, Sarah's son. Still following? When SkyNet sends back its Terminator to kill his mother, the future John sends back a protector (Michael Biehn) to save her... who will eventually become John's father. So as the original film wraps up, the Terminator is destroyed, the protector is killed, and Sarah is pregnant with John.

T2 starts more than a decade later. Basically, no one believed Sarah and her story about Terminators from the future and the end of the world, so she's been locked in the nut house (and they've thrown away the key). Meanwhile, her now 10-year-old son, John (Edward Furlong), has been placed in foster care. But, raised as he was by a mother determined to turn him into a "great military leader", he doesn't quite fit in with the other kids. Good egg or not, John is still the key to humanity's future, so SkyNet sends another Terminator back in time to kill him. And, naturally, John's adult self sends back another protector. One of these time travellers is played by Robert Patrick (soon to be of X-Files fame) and the other is good old Arnold again. The question is, which one is John's protector and which wants him dead? More importantly, which one will reach him first? Throw in tons of action, nifty special effects and a cool subplot about a computer scientist named Dyson (Joe Morton), who is the inventor of SkyNet because he's found the pieces of the Terminator from the first film, and you've got a great, high concept sci-fi story, with plenty of bad-ass cool.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is arguably writer/producer/director James Cameron's best work. T2 manages the neat trick of being a better film that the original Terminator, while perfectly bookending its story. Several years after releasing the film theatrically, Cameron reinstated a number of deleted scenes for a home video special edition - some 16 minutes in all. And both versions of the film are presented here on this new DVD from Artisan.

Before we get into the supplements on this massive, DVD-18 special edition, let's talk about the most important thing - the quality of the video and audio presentation. Both the 136-minute theatrical edition and the 153-minute special edition are presented in superb anamorphic widescreen, the result of a new fully digital, high-definition transfer of the film. Frankly, it's hard to see what improvement this new transfer made over the original DVD image, which has long been considered reference material by home theater buffs. But this new picture features outstanding detail and shadow delineation in its own right, with deep blacks and rich, accurate colors. There's a tiny bit of edge enhancement visible, but the picture doesn't suffer for it. And seamless branching is used perfectly to blend the special edition footage back into the film for the longer cut - my player never skipped a beat. Artisan is apparently concerned that some players might however, so they've included a special note from THX in the package: "Due to the advanced features utilized in the creation of this DVD, some players may experience minor navigational difficulties." That's not exactly the kind you thing you want to read before you've even popped the disc in your player. Let's hope the problems are few and far between.

Now then... the audio quality on this disc, if anything, is even more impressive than the video. Not only do you have terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, but the film's original sound designer, Gary Rydstrom, has remixed the audio to include compatibility with Dolby's new Surround EX scheme. The disc also features a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, and is the first disc to include compatibility with DTS's new ES format (basically, EX and ES are designed to give you a simulated 6th channel of audio, located in the center rear of the soundstage, using compatible equipment and a 6th speaker if you have them - if not, don't fret). Both soundtracks are of top quality, with the DTS delivering a slightly wider and more unified soundstage. Clarity and resolution are expanded, creating a more natural-sounding audio environment. Certain sound cues become more aggressive in the DTS track. The slamming sound of the "truck grate wipe" at the end of the opening credits, for example, is sharper and lingers longer. Both tracks feature exceptional bass. I preferred the DTS, but this is superb Dolby Digital audio as well. A Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also included. One last note - there's no closed captioning. Why I have no idea.

On to the SE material. When you think of the best DVD special editions these days, you're really dealing with two different approaches. There's the thoughtful, intuitive approach - the Criterion method - where what you get illuminates and supports the film perfectly, and you're left feeling satisfied. The best example of that style to me is Fight Club. Then there's the encyclopedia approach, where everything that's available that's even remotely connected to a film's production is included on the disc. This approach usually results in the inclusion of a lot more material - sometimes so much that you're simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all. But occasionally, you're left feeling like something was missed or (impossibly) overlooked. That sort of sums up my feelings about the Terminator 2: Judgment Day - The Ultimate Edition. That's why, even given all this material, the disc gets an "A" rating from me for extras instead of an "A+". Don't get me wrong - this is still a kick-ass, blow-you-away special edition, and I love it. This sort of brute force approach to SE's is perfectly matched to the tone of Cameron's film. But there are redundancies in the supplemental material. And the most important voices in the making of this film - James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger - are under-represented.

Let's go through all of this logically, starting with Side One, and you'll hopefully see what I mean. Included on Side One are the two versions of the film, a commentary and a handful of cast & crew biographies. This is a case where I have mixed feelings about adding deleted footage back into a film. Sometimes, that cut footage makes all the difference, as in The Abyss. But in the special edition of T2, there are really only three added scenes that I think enhance the original cut of the film. The first is early in the SE, when Sarah, in a drug-induced haze, imagines that Kyle Reese, her protector from the original film and John's father, appears and consoles her. It really humanizes her character - she's otherwise pretty hard-ass and unlikable through most of this film. The scene goes on far too long however, as she ends up chasing him through the mental hospital's hallways until she goes through a door to find the playground we see later in the film - all unnecessary. The second interesting addition involves John and Sarah modifying the Terminator's CPU at the gas station, so he can learn to be more human-like. The idea of this seemingly invincible cyborg being reduced to helplessness without the CPU, gives the character a fascinating added dimension. And finally, I really like the added scenes of Miles Dyson, the eventual inventor of SkyNet, which make his character much more human and - ultimately - that much more tragic. The rest of the special edition scenes basically just pad the film's length, but the good ones add enough to make me like it more overall. You should know that this disc features a hidden Easter Egg that allows you to watch the special edition cut with 3 minutes of additional footage (this third cut is almost 156 minutes long) - basically one new scene and an alternate ending - which are also viewable separately on Side Two (more on that in a minute). See the end of this review for access instructions.

Now let's talk about that commentary. Basically, what you get here is a full-length track hosted by the film's creative supervisor - and this disc's producer - Van Ling. He provides his own insights and gives plenty of factual information about the making of the film, and every couple of minutes introduces another cast or crew member (culled from 26 recorded interviews) who then gives their two cents on some aspect of the production (subtitle text lets you know who is talking at any given moment). All of the major cast and crew members are present, including Cameron and Schwarzenegger. But the track has a very piecemeal feel to it. And most of what you get are very edited-together sounding clips of sound designers, special effects supervisors and production designers. That would be fine, if it were on a second track with just the production guys. But after listening to this, and going through all the other materials on the disc, I couldn't help feeling that what I really wanted was a commentary with just Jim and Arnold, and maybe Cameron's co-writer, William Wisher. I suspect there isn't one here because Cameron opted not to do one. But there really are no two people who ARE T2 more than Cameron and Schwarzenegger, and I really wanted to hear them talk about this film in their own voices, uninterrupted. How cool would it have been if these two guys had gotten together over cigars and brandy and reminisced about this film, especially in light of the announcement that Terminator 3 is in the works? Schwarzenegger recently did a commentary with director John Milius for the Conan the Barbarian: CE - which film would you rather hear him talking about in his thick Austrian accent? I think it's a missed opportunity and it's hard to think of this as the "ultimate" edition of this film without them. The two do appear plenty in the documentaries though - more on that in a minute.

Also included on Side One is some interesting DVD-ROM content. If you have a PC and a DVD-ROM drive, you can use InterActual's custom PC Friendly interface to view the film, while following along in the screenplay and perusing storyboards and production artwork. That's MY kind of DVD-ROM extra. And, naturally, you also get the typical studio advertising and weblinks, including one to an online site with interactive games and live events (which wasn't up yet at the time of this review).

But Side Two is really where the meat of the special edition material is, so let's talk about that next. The material is arranged in levels - literally - which allow you to control how much detail you wish to uncover in terms of the film's production. The first level includes an Information Supplements section with three, 20 to 30-minute featurettes - The Making of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, T2: More Than Meets the Eye and The Making of Terminator 2 3D: Breaking the Screen Barrier. The first two have appeared previously on laserdisc, while the latter is new to this DVD. The Making of Terminator 2 is your typical behind-the-scenes bit, with interviews and lots of technical coverage on the effects and so forth. It's very good, but shows its age in terms of video and sound quality. T2: More Than Meets the Eye was produced for cable, and is basically an A-Z run-through of the differences between the theatrical version and the SE. I enjoyed this most, because it's here that Cameron and Schwarzenegger have the greatest presence, talking about why scenes were deleted. But the problem with both of these documentaries, is that much of the quotes and interview segments are duplicated in the commentary. I mean word for word, the same quotes. So if you watch the featurettes, you've already heard pretty much everything Jim and Arnold say in the commentary. This redundancy hamstrings the supplemental content just a bit. The last documentary, The Making of Terminator 2 3D, is also very interesting and, being the newest, is of the highest quality. It explores the making of Universal Studio's T2: 3D live experience. The first level also includes a Visual Campaign section, which features some 9 trailers for the film (including 5 Japanese language trailers).

Accessing the Data Hub on the first level takes you to the second level of extras. Here, you're given a Source Code section which allows you to read the film's original screenplay without a DVD-ROM drive, using 574 still frames that you step through using your player's remote. A similar Tactical Diagrams section gives you access to more than 700 storyboard panels from the film, broken into 17 major sequences. Finally, there's an Interrogation Surveillance Archive, which includes 60 short, behind-the-scenes video segments. You get interviews with the cast & crew, numerous looks at various aspects of the production, and the deleted scene and alternate ending we mentioned earlier (note that the Easter Egg allows you to see them as part of the SE, giving you a virtual third cut of the film that's about 3 minutes longer). The deleted scene features the T-1000 searching young John Connor's room for clues as to his whereabouts. Then there's the truly awful alternate ending, called the "Future Coda", complete with that classic, we've-run-out-of-production-money, Battlestar Galactica feel. I'll let you see it for yourself. It's fascinating, but remains wisely unused. This Archive also features a few video clips that use multiple audio tracks and multiple video angles, which you can change on-the-fly, to illustrate some part of the production process. Very cool.

Accessing the Data Core section takes you down to the third and last level. It's here that you can view everything on the disc, either grouped by chapters or from beginning to end - the "film school on a disc" concept. Basically, you step through pages of text on the film, as you would browse the pages of a book on the making of T2. But instead of pictures and charts, you'll be offered the script, video clips, storyboards and documentaries. It's a very cool concept, but I suspect that only serious, hard-core fans will be able to endure the 6 hours needed to go through the complete "film school" experience.

One thing I really do like about the layout of this disc, is that it's very easy to access everything. This is a similar version of the layout used on The Abyss, but it's MUCH improved and it really does work well here. All of the features on this impressive DVD are accessible via very spiffy-looking, computer animated menu screens, which take you deep into the very heart of SkyNet. And you even get a film-customized THX trailer - how neat is that?

Two words best sum up this special edition: impressive and overwhelming. Having two versions of this film, with stunning video and audio quality and all this supplemental material, on one single DVD-18 disc is simply amazing. It's really something to look at a disc like this, compared to the very first DVD special editions the format gave us. My how far we've come. Still, without a Cameron and Schwarzenegger commentary, it just doesn't feel quite complete to me. And given the vast amount of extra material, it's probably inevitable that there is redundancy. But you know what? So be it. This Terminator 2: Judgment Day - The Ultimate Edition is still so tricked-out and steroid-injected that fans are gonna go nuts. And given that Terminator 2 is itself a pretty tricked-out and steroid-injected piece of filmmaking, that's as it should be. Buy it, sink your teeth into it and enjoy.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


Easter Egg access instructions

Yep... there's a virtual third cut of T2 available on this DVD, thanks to the wonders of seamless branching. It gives you about 3 minutes of additional footage beyond the special edition cut - one additional scene of the T-1000 searching John's bedroom and the "Future Coda" alternate ending. Here's what you do. Play the disc one Side One. When you get to the main menu, select "Special Edition" - that will take you into the Special Edition sub menu. You'll notice the terminator on the left, with his left eye glowing red. Highlight the words "Play Special Edition," but don't start the film yet. Then, using the number pad on your DVD player's remote, enter the numbers 82997 (also known as Judgement Day in the film). This procedure may differ from player to player. For example, on my Sony 7700, I have to enter the numbers one at a time like this: 8, Enter, 2, Enter, 9, Enter, 9, Enter, 7, Enter. Each time another number is input, you'll see a new word appear on the small display on the right side of the picture. When you're done, they'll spell out "The Future Is Not Set". Once that happens, BOTH of the terminator's eyes will glow red, and you'll see a new selection appear above - "Play Extended Special Edition." Select that and you'll get to see the third, hidden cut. One last note - I suspect that many of you will have trouble getting this feature to work, due to the way different players handle remote input. So if you're really having a lot of trouble, here's a cheat to see the third cut without the code: start any version of the film, and while it's playing, use your remote's search function to switch to "Title 3" on the disc - that's the third cut (Title 1 is the theatrical version and Title 2 is the special edition). So there you go.




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