Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D (2017)


James Cameron’ definitive version of the classic 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction vehicle returns to theaters on the 20th anniversary of the film’s doomsday countdown date in a 3D enhanced re-release that reminds us why the film is an essential classic.

Back in 1991, the most anticipated film release of the summer was James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I remember being a precocious, movie-loving 12-year-old who was convinced that T2 was the most futuristic looking movie he’d ever seen, not knowing Jurassic Park was only a year or 2 off on the horizon. T2 is the movie that made the term “CGI” synonymous with the term of “special effects,” it was a tour de force action film with a solid screenplay that balanced elaborate action setpieces and science fiction spectacle with a story about three principals trying to find a place for themselves in a world and a time they don’t belong in.

StudioCanal is re-releasing this stereo 3D remastered version of the film timed with the anniversary of the film’s judgment day in a re-ssue supervised by Cameron, much as he did for Titanic. The question is, does this version of the film hold up in a world of post converted 3D films? The answer is yes; T2: 3D doesn’t go overboard with the 3D, its primarily done to enhance the film’s cinematography in terms of depth of field. Shots like the end of the film where the T-101 is lowered into the steel looking up at Sarah Connor and John Connor really make you feel the distance. This also works to solid effect in the film’s early chase sequence between John Connor on a dirtbike, the T-101 on a Harley and the T-1000 in a trailer rig. The chase feels much more real and urgent by enhancing the film’s already solid cinematography. Cameron also noted he used this opportunity to tighten some VFX shots that couldn’t be digitally erased back in 1991 that his editor Mark Goldblatt told him would hardly be noticeable. That being said, there does seem to be some face replacement tracking shots in the above chase scene that were always very obvious in the 1991 theatrical cut of the film.

If anything, T2:3D is a great opportunity to revisit the film. While not as solid as the original Terminator in terms of tension and storyline, T2 is a great example of world building. Its a hopeful film in universe where nihilism seems the only outcome unless we believe there is no fate but what we make. While the film still ends on a nebulous note as to whether or not their mission worked, that’s the strength of the film. You want to believe the change took place even if you don’t know; much like whether or not the top falls over in Inception, you want to believe it all works out in the end.