Terminator 2

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Details At A Glance

Category Science Fiction/Action Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Teaser Trailer
Year Released 1990 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 131:17  Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (62:18)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director James Cameron

Columbia Tristar
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Robert Patrick
Linda Hamilton
Edward Furlong
RRP $34.95 Music Brad Fiedel
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
English (MPEG 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles French
Annoying Product Placement Yes, moderately
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Well, almost three years after the date mentioned in this film, the Skynet funding bill hasn't been passed, and the world as we know it has not been decimated by nuclear fire, at least not quite yet. In case you're wondering why I have chosen to start my review by highlighting this, Terminator 2 is, in simple terms, basically a typical piece of millenium-fear film. While this phenomenon is fairly common in Western Societies, perhaps the fact that nothing happened on the dawn of this year (I work for an infotech training company, so I would know if something really did happen) will be the beginning of the end. Then again, given that one news reader in Victoria was fired for asking what the big deal was about, I guess we can expect more of the same in another thousand years. Which, depending on how you look at it, is a good or bad thing. For one thing, it can indirectly threaten the jobs of people in the infotech industry. On the good side, however, it means there'll be more people making films like Terminator 2. The film basically follows on a decade after the thrill-ride events of the original, during which the leader of the Human Resistance, John Connor (Edward Furlong) was conceived. The original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was sent back in time to kill his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) before he was born. Needless to say, it failed quite miserably, and John was born a little while later. Terminator 2 picks up nearly ten years after John's birth, and the situation is a much different one to that which his mother faced in 1984.

    The fact that this sequel exists at all is a severe contradiction of the plot in the original Terminator. During one scene, the protagonist of the film stated quite explicitly that a) only one Terminator and himself were sent back in time and that b) nothing without living tissue can go through the time displacement equipment. This, I believe, would make it very difficult for the new, improved Terminator known henceforth as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to go back in time to make a second run on his master's enemy. This, in turn, results in the two Terminators confronting each other as they attempt to acquire young John in a shopping mall. Another funny thing is that while this is supposed to be the year 1994, the video game parlour in the film is filled with machines that look as if they were from a whole decade before then. Fans of director James Cameron like to ramble about how accurate he is with details, but the fallacy of this statement is revealed in just one sequence during which Sarah tells Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen) that there are "over 215 bones in the human body", and the forearm is just one. There's actually 206 bones in the human body, and the forearm actually consists of two major bones. It's just as well that Cameron concentrated on dazzling the viewer with the effects of this film, because otherwise he'd being boring them with a lot of bull.

Transfer Quality


    It seems that Columbia's video transfers either have an inverse relation to the quality of the plot in the film, or a proportional one to the amount of hype that was poured upon the original theatrical release. When Terminator 2 was originally released, most of the printed press were more concerned with its hundred million dollar budget than any of the plot details or effects. While the special effects of this film have stood the test of time well (so far), it hasn't been so kind to the story. Thankfully, this is a (mostly) textbook video transfer, the colours are rendered so clearly that it's nearly impossible to tell any difference between this presentation and the original theatrical exhibit. Some mild film-to-video artefacts occurred during the scene in which the Terminator rescues John from being run over by the T-1000 in a truck, with aliasing present in the grille of said truck, but this is hardly noticeable given how quickly the shots pass by during the sequence. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. Given that this disc was pulled at the last minute because of quality problems, I guess it is a credit to Columbia Tristar that they had the disc remade. Now, if only they could do this with other films (The Thing, anyone?)...

    The rendering of the colours seems to be done quite well in this case, and it is even quite clearly superior to a mint-condition VHS cassette. Shadow detail is brilliant and especially faithful to the original theatrical release. Low level noise is almost completely absent, which is especially good for this because of the high proportion of the action which takes place in the dark. It is even better when you consider that the introduction sequence is basically one big scene of darkness. If there is one small problem with the disc in the video arena, it is that the subtitles rarely coincide with what the actors are actually saying. This is somewhat irritating, given that the subtitles default to on, and in French. While it only requires a few pushes of the buttons on your remote to turn them off, navigating the menu is somewhat counter-intuitive and this is definitely more effort than we should have to make. This problem affected both the Grundig GDV 100D, and the Toshiba SD-2109, so I can presume that it is a universal problem. Even though it sounds somewhat ethnocentric, the original soundtrack language (in this case English) should always be left as the default simply by virtue of being the language the film was originally scripted in.

    This disc is in the RSDL format, with the layer change at 62:18. I'm afraid that I must disagree with Michael about the quality of the placement. This change, while placed in one of the better spots where it could go, is moderately interruptive to the flow of the film. Additional footage that was shot for this film was placed in the point where the layer change occurs for the Special Edition that was broadcast on Australian TV a couple of years ago, but which still has yet to make it to video. All in all, I'll call this an average layer change.


    Three audio tracks are included with this film, which can be changed on the fly (unlike the subtitles being on). In order, they are French Dolby Digital 2.0, with surround-encoding, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English MPEG 2.0, also with surround-encoding. Conflicting reports suggest that English is the default language, but on my trusty Grundig, it decided to go with French instead. The Toshiba SD-2109 also exhibits this problem, so the defaults can be labelled as a result of the mastering of the disc rather than a player-specific issue. This, however, is a minor quibble compared to the subtitles, because the audio track can be changed with the push of a button. The dialogue was always very clear and easy to make out, although this has more to do with James Cameron's methods than the DVD itself. Audio sync is not a problem on the Grundig at all, and it doesn't seem to present a problem with the Toshiba. Either way, this DVD version does what many thought to be impossible with the film's audio - improve it.

    Brad Fiedel's score music is almost as powerful as the action sequences of the film, although it is nowhere near as constant as I would like, especially given how well integrated his score music was in the original. Countering this is the fact that Fiedel is one of the few composers who've worked in Hollywood that I would mention in the same breath as the great Basil Poledouris, or the even greater John Williams. As with the action scenes, the music gives the subwoofer a bit of a workout, with bass-heavy percussive effects used to deliver the punch of the music. Although it has no direct association with the action onscreen or the characters of the story, it supports the film remarkably well. The music has a particularly enveloping presence during tense action scenes. The rest of the music consisted of pre-recorded music, and thankfully there were only two distinct songs of this variety used. The first of these was so memorable that I still don't remember whose work it is. The other is the song You Could Be Mine, by Guns 'N' Roses, who stand as a great example of what happens to competent musicians when their egos run away with them.

    The surround channels get a fair amount of use in this film, with the subtle placement of sounds within a speaker-created field being a major enhancement to the film's overall feel. The back speakers support the off-screen sounds well, and the centre speaker supports the dialogue quite well, too. If there is a real star of this audio mix, it is the subwoofer, which makes every gunshot literally sound like an atom bomb with a heavy reverb. Only one thing keeps this film from being a reference quality audio transfer. The sound of the T800 Endoskeleton's foot coming down at the end of Linda Hamilton's introductory narration is rather muted compared to what it should have been with a Dolby Digital remix (in the cinema, it was almost heart attack-causing material). Apart from this section of the film, and one other than currently escapes me, the bottom end of this sound mix was stunning in its relentless power.


    The extras are simply pathetic. A film that has left this much of an indelible mark on the industry's history, even in spite of James Cameron's mammoth ego, deserves a hell of a lot more than just a trailer.


    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, and is typical Columbia Tristar menu fare. It is somewhat counter-intuitive to navigate, given that you have to actually select an option to leave it and resume the film. It's not really anything to worry about, but it takes a little getting used to.

Teaser Trailer

    This is listed in the menu and on the box as the original theatrical trailer. Although it does use footage that was originally intended for the film (there was going to be a scene in which the Resistance takes over a Terminator processing plant according to some reports), its actual relation to anything in the film is minimal. It is presented in Windowboxed format with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. Given the content of this trailer, I wouldn't be very worried about the quality of the actual sound.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;     Given how heavily dependent this film is on its audio content, I would prefer to have the Region 4 version of this DVD. Normally, the superior sound mix would not be enough to sway me (or anyone) in either direction, but once you've seen this film, you soon realize how important good sound can be. However, some more features would have been well-received. Would commentary have been too much to ask for?


    Terminator 2 is one of the few instances where James Cameron's epic-sized ego did not ruin the whole picture for me. However, it has not stood up as well to repeated viewings as one other title he has made that I sorely wish Columbia would bring out in this region.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent and meets the film's demands quite well.

    The extras are woefully inadequate for a film that basically heralded the arrival of digital special effects.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
February 2, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built-In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D front speakers, Sharp CP-303A back speakers, Sony SS-CN120 centre speaker, Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer