After coming out of the theater witnessing Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we were all naturally excited if not overwhelmed with our own thoughts on the visual feast. Certainly, James Cameron -- along with his willing cast and crew -- had added and expanded on the whole Terminator mythology in ways I don't think any of us had quite expected, but I also remember feeling a bit confused. I couldn't say why exactly, but it was there. When I was asked what I thought of the film, I said that I didn't think it was as perfect as everyone else in the group did ... but I did say it was a perfect follow-up to exactly how things left with the first Terminator flick.
Yeah, yeah, yeah: I've said many times that I'm hard on films, folks. So sue me.
Thinking back on the experience, it may've been a bit of exhaustion that kept me from loving what we had just seen as much as my friends. Terminator 2 -- once it truly gets going -- maintains an incredible, frenetic pace from start-to-finish, rarely letting up on the action and ideas, so much so that I was likely all tuckered out. (I had the same experience watching Robin Williams perform stand-up: I would always reach a point wherein I just couldn't laugh any more, and the material grew tiresome to me as a viewer. I'm not saying it wasn't genius; I'm just saying it was too much too fast for my old brain to process.) T2 was an evolution -- it's arguably one of the greatest sequels in all of filmdom, and that's for a variety of reasons -- and maybe I was getting by on overload at that point.
But as I said the other day in the post wherein I was reflecting on Terminator 3, there's absolutely no denying the power of the first two Terminator features. They're the perfect companion pieces, and you can't watch either of them without thinking of the other. That's a rare feat for Cameron to have accomplished -- deepening and lengthening the themes of the inaugural adventure by reshaping the whole damn universe in the follow-up -- and I've always said that's what endears me to the franchise more than the flash, the effects, the performances, etc. It's almost like they're cerebrally organic experiences, always giving the audience something to think about in subsequent viewings, and that doesn't happen very often in Hollywood.
I'm not saying that every single female character he's ever crafted for film is a perfect specimen because that's probably not the case. There are background characters and supporting players who do end up being little more than screen fodder -- incidentals that really only serve a single purpose and then are gone in an instant -- and that's the forgivable part of being a storyteller. Sometimes, they're pawns, both men and women. It's just how things work. But in creating lead characters that have the intestinal constitution to do some unthinkable things when the chips are down, Cameron has really pushed the industry in directions it likely may not have gone ... and that's definitely something that should be commended.