Terminator 2: Judgment Day Depth and Complexity


Cited as one of the sources in the Terminator Vault book

"T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters."

General consensus on RottenTomatoes.com

Not only does it stay true to the spirit of the original,  it expands upon its themes, turns characters on their heads and puts them in startlingly inventive perils.

Film Review Magazine 2002

T2 had more depth, It had more humanity to it, it had more complex elements

Brad Fiedel

I think T2 was better than the first. There's an art to sequels. You have to make audiences comfortable while playing against that. It's hard to do

James Cameron, Film 2010

I think Terminator 2 in a lot of ways is a better film than the first one

James Cameron, Directors Panel 2010




The T2 story has always been a part of the story from day one

James Cameron: "The whole liquid metal guy was actually part of the original story. The whole first film was really the first act and a half of my original conception of the story. And the second film, although greatly elaborated, was the second half of the original story. Quite frankly starting with a shoe string budget and state of the art effects of the time, I couldn't figure out how to do it. So eventually we said we're just gonna have to streamline this and simplify it, and I wrote a more tore, linear, simple version of it. I thought of it as kind of a down and dirty cheap-o version of the story. And so then when it came time to do Terminator 2 (...) I said we gotta do 'this' story, and they said you do whatever story you want. It was nice, they didn't have a story, they didn't care, they said 'look, you came up with this stuff, you just figure it out'" - Hollywood's Master Storytellers interview 2002

Cameron's initial outline [for the first movie] had called for two terminators sent sequentially to our present from the future. The hero, Kyle Reese, was able to dispatch the first-  essentially the T-800 model - at about the midpoint of the story. Then the future enemy reluctantly sent the second killer. This was the Terminator even the bad guys feared to deploy, because of its power and potential effect on history's timeline. It was a tenacious liquid metal robot (...)"Eventually I realized I had too much story and nobody would fund it anyway" says Cameron. So he cut down the narrative down to just the T-800 idea - The Futurist: James Cameron's Biography

Cameron says he first conceived the idea of a liquid character who would disassemble and reassemble when confronted by a powerful force back in '82 when he wrote The Terminator. "But there was no way of realizing those images back then, so I had to put the storyline in a drawer until the techniques matured" (On Production magazine 1992)

James Cameron: "The story I came up with years ago involved a change of the character of The Terminator to where he is now essentially the hero of the film" (Empire Magazine 1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Jim had some real good ideas about what the second one should be even before the first terminator was completed (T2 Official magazine)

Just about every creative force behind the original came back for T2, a very rare formula for sequels. The director (James Cameron), writers (James Cameron and William Wisher - while Wisher is credited for additional dialogue, Gale Anne Hurd edited the script and did not write a single line despite the credit), composer (Brad Fiedel), editor (Mark Goldblatt), cinematographer (Adam Greenberg), Makeup and robotic effects (Stan Winston), miniature effects (Fantasy II), and most of the cast (Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Earl Boen, Michael Biehn, William Wisher) all came back for the then final chapter of the saga.


James Cameron doesn't allow himself to be seduced by visual effects no matter how sexy. For Cameron, story and characters are enhanced by effects wizardry, not manipulated or controlled by it. effects remain merely a means to an end signposts to a destination his heart has already discovered. Terminator 2 was a creative triumph. It served as the vehicle for an incredible FX breakthrough and became one of the highest grossing films ever, cementing Cameron's reputation as a master storyteller and visionary effects filmmaker (Cinescape Magazine 1996).

For Cameron, Terminator 2 was only a matter of time: It was inevitable that the terminator sequel will get made and I wanted to be at the helm, I wanted to make sure it didnít kind of drift off the concept of what it should be about.

Fantastic Films Magazine 1985: With Terminator 2 already in pre-production stages, there seems to have been more truth to his words than he realized when Schwarzenegger intoned to the uncooperative desk cop "Ill Be Back

"We've got a story worked out but it hasn't gone beyond the talk stage" - James Cameron on Terminator 2 in English Magazine 1985

William Wisher: Jim pulled out this old yellow sheet of paper from a notebook and handed it to me without saying anything. there was one sentence scribbled on the dog eared page. It read: Young John Connor and the terminator that comes back to befriend him. (The Making of T2, 1991)

Although then in 1984 he paid a lot of attention to the acting he pays much more attention to the acting now. The way he goes about directing actors, how much time he spends with rehearsals, how much time he spends with perfectioning the moves and gestures. He wants to do basically everything because he has such a clear vision of what he wants to see (...)He worked harder on the different emotions, talked us through it more, insisted on rehearsing. (The Making of T2)

James Cameron: (Same) themes twist and turn through the two Terminator films. The can be seen in the love between Sarah and Reese which is a candle burning in the darkness of a doomed world, and then in her love for the product of that union, John, the reluctant savior of humanity who teaches the value of life to an unfeeling machine. The redemption of the Terminator himself, at the end of the second film, closes the cycle as the machine becomes human, learning the pain and joy, and thus the meaning, of life....even as he must lose his.

Syd Field (screenwriting guru): The story concept was unique and original, and I found that I liked the characters. They were engaging and sympathetic, even though they were becoming 'machines', dedicated to altering the future. But what I found most interesting was the Terminator. (...). If you think about it, it is the Terminator character who embodies the classic values of  Aristotelian tragedy and undertakes the hero's journey. Jim Cameron is one of those natural filmmakers, like Hitchock, Wells, Lewton or Stanley Kubrick, to name a few, who are masters of generating terror and suspense in their movies

James Cameron: The marketing campaign - we took a strong position on that film from the beginning. We came up with some of the iconography, the T2 idea, just putting kid of a symbol out there on a landscape and creating kind of a sense of a myth even before the movie




The movie is designed in such way that the audience doesn't know which of the time travelers is the good guy. The way the movie is shot and the story and angles constructed is to make them think that T-800 is the antagonist and T-1000 a human character. T-1000 is never shown to kill the cop or copy his clothes and seems very genuine when talking to John Connor's foster parents, while the T-800 is shown to go through the bar like a tank, crushing hands, breaking arms and seriously injuring people.

Film Review Magazine 2002: Re-imagining the Terminator as a father figure and protector to errant teen John Connor was one of the three inspirational decisions that marks this out as one of the finest sci-fi sequels ever made.

T2 conquered one of the biggest challenges in storytelling ever - to completely spin the audience's emotions on the character and turn the most ruthless killer into a sympathetic father figure.

James Cameron ( ugo.com 2009): The thing we did with the second film is that we reinvented the first film completely; spun it on its ass and made the Terminator the good guy, and came up with a whole new concept for a villain, it felt fresh

James Cameron (Globalnet): On T2, I wondered if I could get the audience to an emotional place where they would cry for the Terminator. That was my goal: Could I take world's coldest motherfucker and turn you around in a two-hour time period to where you actually felt sorry for him? Forget about all the hoo-ha with the liquid metal guy: that was fun, but getting the audience to cry for the Terminator was the big cinematic challenge. That's the reason I made the movie

James Cameron (SydField.com interview): I absolutely refused to do another film where Arnold Schwarzenegger kicks in the door and shoots everybody in sight and then walks away. I thought there must be a way to deflect this image of the bad guy as hero, and use what's great about the character. I didn't know exactly what to do, but I thought the only way to deal with it would be to address the moral issues head-on. The key was the kid. Because it's never really explained why John Connor has such a strong moral fiber. For me, John was pushed by the situation when he sees The Terminator almost shoot the guy in the parking lot. I think everybody invents their own moral code for themselves, and it usually happens in your teens based on what you've been taught, what you've seen in the world, what you've read, and your own inherent makeup.
So, I started asking myself what is it that makes us human? Part of what makes us human is our moral code. But what is it that distinguishes us from a hypothetical machine that looks and acts like a human being, but is not? John Connor intuitively knows what's right but can't articulate it. John says, 'You can't go around killing people,' and The Terminator says, 'Why not?' And the kid can't answer the question. He gets into a kind of ethical, philosophical question that could go on and on. But all he says is, 'You just can't.'

I thought the best way to deal with this was not be coy about it and hope it slides by, but to tackle it head-on and make this a story about why you can't kill people.

Essentially, you've got a character associated with being the quintessential killing machine; that is his purpose in life. Devoid of any emotion, remorse, or any kind of human social code, he suddenly finds himself in the strangest dilemma of his career. He can't kill anybody, and he doesn't know why. He's got to figure it out. He's got to, because he's half human. And he figures it out at the end. The Tin Man gets his heart.

I thought it would be a real coup if we could get people to cry for a machine. If we could get people to cry for Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a robot, that would be terrific. That was the fun of the whole thing. It wasn't all the chases and special effects and all that stuff

(John) knows, from his future experience, that killing is bad for you. Because the Terminator was sent from the future by the leader John, to protect the child John, so the boy's character has to be woven with a strong moral fiber. The fact that the Terminator was ordered not to kill people becomes a major point of the story.

Spike TV: Cameron's scripting of Arnold as good guy Terminator was such a great touch and his relationship with a young John Conner gave the movie a depth that few action/science fiction films can compete with.


Just when the audiences have thought that they've seen it all, here comes the original idea never seen before. While sci-fi failed to invent a new synthetic villain that wouldn't be just a rehash of the first Terminator character, James Cameron brought us a shape changing, liquid killer. But even such idea was based on reality and real physics as much as possible. James Cameron is known for his extremely realistic portrayal of the sci-fi characters and elements. Just like he does with all of his creations, James Cameron carefully thought up the technical data and details for the Terminators to inject as much plausible reality into them as possible. He was recently described as someone who doesn't create science-fiction, but science facts.

James Cameron: The more fantastic the subject the more realistic the situation needs to be for it to work (The Making of T2, 1991)

So how do I inject the fantastic element into a contemporary story? I didn't want to make a fantasy, like a magic mirror communication with another dimension. I wanted it to be gritty realistic, kind of hardware based, true science fiction, as opposed to fantasy science fiction.

But there had to be limits about his shape-changing. Could it turn into a Coca-Cola machine? No, because it can't change its mass. It certainly can't change its weight; weight and mass are two physical constants. But it can become things. It could not turn into a small dog because it was too big, there was too much mass, too much material. It could mimic weapons, but it couldn't mimic a weapon that would actually fire. A gun has moving parts, and there's gunpowder inside a brass shell, so it can't make itself into that

I started thinking about the film in two stages. In the first stage the future sends back a mechanical guy, essentially what The Terminator became, and the good guys send back their warrior. In the end, the mechanical guy is destroyed. But up there in the future, somewhere, they say, well, wait a minute, that didn't work; what else do we have? And the answer is something terrible, something even they're afraid of. Something they've created that they keep locked up, hidden away in a box, something they're terrified to unleash because even they don't know what the consequences will be - they being the machines, now in charge of the future.

And that thing in the box becomes a total wild card; it could go anywhere, do anything; it's a polymorphic metal robot that is nothing more than a kind of blob. I saw it as this mercury blob that could form into anything. It's powers were almost unlimited, and even in the future, they couldn't control it.

That scared me. Just sitting there writing the story scared me. (Syd Field interview)

Stan Winston: People think of what great special effects, but in fact, that T-1000 has become a memorable character in motion picture history (and an icon replicated and referenced in many movies, TV shows, cartoons and commercials)

DVD Review Magazine 2001: It's still one of the most exciting and eye popping action movies ever, and the morphing T-1000 is still unmatched as the most imaginative bad guy ever. But the blistering set pieces are backed up with a very human story

James Cameron: From a writing standpoint, the things that interested me the most were the characters. Sarah Connor was really interesting, especially in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In the time difference between Terminator (made in 1984), and T2, I had to backfill those intervening nine years. I had to find efficient ways of dramatically evoking what had happened to her. The tricky part was having it all make sense to a member of the audience who didn't remember or hadn't seen the first Terminator. Basically, I had a character popping onto the screen in a certain way, and therefore had to create a backstory for that character. I told myself I had to write the script just like there had never been a first film. The sequel had to be a story about someone who encountered something nobody else believes, like the opening scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where Kevin McCarthy swears he's seen something shocking, and nobody believes him; then he starts telling the story.

The first time we meet Sarah in Terminator 2, she's locked up in a mental institution, and that raises the real question - is she really crazy? The advantage of doing a sequel is that you can play games you can't play in the original. For example, I know the audience knows that The Terminator is real. So they're not going to think she's crazy. But the question still remains: Is she crazy? Has the past ordeal made her lose touch with reality?

What I found so interesting is that a lot of people made the mistake of thinking I was presenting Sarah Connor as a role model for women. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I wanted people to invest in her emotionally, to feel sorry for her, because she had been through such hell. Sarah's not really a hero. She's an ordinary person who's been put under extreme pressure, and that makes her warped and twisted, but at the same time strengthened, in a sad kind of way. (SydField.com interview)

Total Film Magazine 2000: For T2: Judgment Day, Cameron used the same formula : heroine remade by a doomed hero whose death frees her to follow her own destiny. In the first film, reese Reese models Sarah into a warrior and paradoxically fathers the man who'd sent him on his mission. In Titanic, Jack gives Rose the strength to break free of her class depression. In T2, Sarah regains her soul by learning humanity from, of all things, a a killing machine

Film Review Magazine 2002: Wearing his screenwriter hat, Cameron reasoned that living with the knowledge of Earth's future nuclear annihilation would have had a devastating effect on Sarah Connor's mind. In other words, she turned from a scared, vulnerable waitress into a tough, aggressive killer with a muscular physique to match. It's a startling physical transformation that adds a whole other level of psychological credibility to Sarah's character and makes this a convincing continuation of the terminator saga

And then there's the issue of Sarah loosing her morals while T-800 is learning them.


James Cameron: We wanted (T-800) to change, and we wanted Sarah to change; she starts out one way, becomes fixated on that, ends up becoming more of a machine that he does. We wanted the two of them to change characters as the film went on: she becomes the Terminator while he becomes a human being. And it's partly through the Terminator's transformation that she understands what humanity really is.

Mali Finn, Emmy winning T2 casting director: Jim Cameron movie (T2) does have all of those special effects but still is a character driven piece and has wonderful characters. We've got to have good actors as they're playing against all the special effects. Thatís what distinguishes his action movies from other peopleís action movies

Syd Field: Not only were the special effects extraordinary, but the thoughts and ideas behind the film were marvelous

Mario Kassar: He's a great storyteller who can always take a plot to much higher levels.

As the movie progresses, Sarah becomes the Terminator. The sunglasses and use of red dot for targeting accent the transition visually.



The following highlights have been pointed out by James Cameron, T2's creative consultant Van Ling, William Wisher, Joseph Nemec III , Adam Greenberg and other filmmakers involved in making the movie. None of it is author's interpretation. ALL of the following are taken from various magazine & video interviews, as well as commentaries and articles. The creative core behind The Terminator, James Cameron, Brad Fiedel, Adam Greenberg and Mark Goldblatt reteamed for T2

1.  The very beginning of the film already carries a visual message. The opening shots are those of a mundane, everyday busy life,  standing in traffic, going by their business. Children are shown as carefree, enjoying the day on the playground. All this is directly contrasted with the same shots from the future, showing how really miniscule our everyday problems are - traffics, rushing to work etc - in the face of major world issues that are happening, or could happen

The playground motif itself is reinstated three times in the opening credits and then returned to later in the film. They symbolize carefree life and joy. At first, its used to contrast the "heaven" and "hell" so to speak. It is then used in the apocalyptic imagery. The playground is like a recurring dream motif that we keep seeing in different dreams. It returns later on in both of Sarah's dream sequences

Note: There is a subtle and faint sound of children playing when the camera pans across the melted swings a s a ghostly reminder of the life that has been and all the souls lost in an instant

James Cameron: The playground motif was something that I really wanted to work with, both in the main title and then it reoccurs

2. T2 utilizes every special effect technique known to present the best and most realistic imagery possible. It uses CGI, stop motion, front projection, models, miniatures, animatronics,puppets, makeup, stunts, optical compositing, rotoscoping and more

3. John Connor is shown as a haggard, tired and scarred man. A major preoccupation of the Terminator saga is the interplay between human and machine. But particularly in T2 this theme is paramount. In the shots of John Connor in the future war, John is mimicking the characteristic T-800 scanning function in which the eyes shift side-to-side slightly in advance of the head's rotation. Already that early in the movie the great theme is introduced, which will be expanded on so much culminating in the thumbs up: machines becoming more human and humans more machine.

James Cameron: You really see his role as kind of guerilla leader. I started to get fascinated with this idea of seeing people in different stages of their life and giving them a kind of a historical weight which is really how I think you tell an epic story. I wound up using the same idea later with Titanic

The image of stoic Connor creates an incredible contrast to the original Coda ending in which we see Connor who didn't get through the war and didn't have to carry the burden - Connor who becomes a senator and starts a family. Such closure creates a great poetic bookend to the story, beginning and ending with the same setting and character, yet in such different context.


 4. The fiery sequence was shot indoors for a better control of the flames. The walls inside were painted red and yellow to conceal the indoor location. The fire was shot at 300 frames per second, which required a special Photosonic camera as well as special lighting controls since over ten times the amount of light is necessary to achieve normal exposures. Several exposure test of flames have been shot beforehand in order to find the best way in maintaining the details in the flames. Incredible attention to visual detail and art

5.  In the opening titles, there is a shot symbolizing the four horsemen of apocalypse amidst fire. Coupled with apocalyptic-like choir, it completed the imagery of the biblical Judgment Day

James Cameron: Always called these the four horsemen of the apocalypse

The scenery ends with the T-800 Terminator endoskeleton, symbolizing a chrome figure of death

The shot ends with an interesting and stylized transition, ending with a heavy clunk which was also used in promotional videos or T2, such as the teaser trailer and 1991's The Making Of Terminator 2 documentary. The metal bars "sealing" the scene are then cleverly revealed to be a grill of a truck and the shot transitions smoothly into the next scene. Note the color contrast of hot and cold


6.  As in the first movie, the termovision shots were color processed and were all filmed out digitally. Termovision shots were lit differently from the rest of the photography. This often meant lighting shot in a flatter, more brightly lit matter. Incredible attention to detail

7. Even thought the T-800 is suppose to be a good character this time around, it was tricky not to have him kill anyone while still being this ruthless killing machine. It was important for James Cameron for the T-800 not to have blood on his hands because it would violate the moral code. A murderer cannot be a hero, even if he didn't know any better. Cameron has a strong moral compass, and he simply didn't want the T-800 to be the reason for any family's grief. Because of the same morality, John is never shown pointing a gun or using it. The story was carefully constructed to omit any events that would necess it. The tricky part was to still show John as being well trained in weapons and the T-800 to be something that isn't meant to be messed with, to retain that, the T-800 leaves three bikers stabbed, burned and broken, while others retreating in fear

A lot of the extras were real bikers to give the club a more realistic feel

8.  The T-1000's arrival is cleverly shown offscreen. Since only living tissue can go through time, it was planned that the T-1000 would arrive in a flesh cocoon and Officer Austin would find it while looking around. However, since it would be too confusing for the audience at this stage of the story, the arrival was done offscreen not to reveal how he got through time and at the same time not contradicting the time travel rule

9. John's introduction is another example of great writing. His first scene sets up the character very fast also filling out the exposition on what happened between the two movies. John is shown as a natural leader, as he's clearly in charge of his friend. He's also shown to not only ride bikes at the age of 10, but fix them as well. The following ATM hacking scene is not only a setup for the scene later on, in which he uses his portable device to access the vault key (this way this ability is introduced beforehand and doesn't feel like rabbit out of a hat when he does it later), but also to explain the audience that John is extremely skilled and must've been trained for all these years. Being a smart mouthed brat, he appears to be a complete opposite of what the audience would expect at first, continuing the story's artistic consistency in representing the characters in a least expected way. Just like in the first movie when Sarah, the 'mother of the future',  is a clumsy waitress. Gradually within the story, John is introduced as level headed leader with both strong leading skills and moral code

The story and characters are carefully constructed. Tim, John's friend, was created solely to explain the story to the audience and find out the whereabouts of Sarah and John's attitude towards her and her stories. This way the audience gets filled in in many areas without even realizing that they're being fed. Another great story element is John's character.


10. The scene at Voights' house showcases a great but tough one continuing shot. The scene had to be designed with perfect timing - note that John's bike is getting ready to leave just as Todd is exiting the house.

11.  The building that doubled as Pescadero was an abandoned medical facility. All the security doors were added, as well as lockouts, monitor stations and other realistic details based on the research by Cameron. Pescadero was heavily based on a real Atascadero State Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. Silbermann's dialogue with the review board also served as exposition, done in a natural way.


12. Characters in dream sequences serve several purposes and in this case it's to present the inner monologue to the audience and show Sarah's state of mind and hidden vulnerability. The scene personifies Sarah's own guilt over her inability to protect John in her current condition (T2: Illustrated Screenplay). Reese symbolizes the strong side of Sarah, and the dream sequence is also showing that the character, while tough outside, is truly hurting and weakening inside. Note the beautiful, angelic lighting, which sort of symbolically foreshadows a descend of an angel in the form of Reese. Note the evenly distributed haze as well to add to the dreamy feel

Note the backlight on Reese, creating a sort of halo effect, complementing the imagery of an angel character

Sarah's story gets even more heartbreaking from the very first time we hear about her from John. Right away we find out that the poor woman who lost everyone and everything and who lived through so much got to suffer even more, physically and mentally. Not only is she closed in mental hospital, ridiculed and physically abused and treated like an animal, but even her own son despises her and she is all alone in every possible way.

13. The tape that Sarah and Dr. Silberman watch during the hearing scene mirrors the tape of Reese that Sarah was watching in the first movie, freeze framing on Sarah in the exact same position, situation and emotional outburst as Reese's. It symbolizes and shows that Sarah has become what Reese was - a dedicated tough fighter. Note  the subtle comic relief when Sarah is getting sedated and her angry face is freeze framed on the monitor. Also, the scenes with Silberman give more expositions to the story in a natural and organic way

14. Taking lessons from his favorite filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron puts subliminal meaning even to the set and the surroundings. Cyberdyne Systems interiors were designed and envisioned as it had been machined out of a block of aluminum, reflecting the cold technological motif of what Cyberdyne was to become. The sets are very cold with reflective, sleek surfaces and busy space. The sleek, precise and machine looking architectural envelope mirrors the inner guts of a robot and the cold terror and lack of emotion that the fruits of this company will bring upon the world. It was a nightmare to shoot and light because of the reflective surfaces, but it had to be done. Art prevails

Joseph Nemec III: We decided early on that Cyberdyne will be one of the colder sets, because we're dealing with a robot, something that we wanted in some ways bring into the set as well. Sleek surfaces, or reflective type surfaces.

15. Example of a great technique of using editing and camera work to reflect the mood of the scene during Sarah's outbreak: static shots with slow close-ups focusing on the character and the eyes vs. shaky handheld camera when the action starts and the pacing shifts. Also, note the use of silence - a device that James Cameron is known to use in all of his movies often contrasting it with heavy, busy sounds that it either proceed or succeed it.

16. The scene is very interesting for several reasons, from both filmmaking and story point of view. It challenges the suspense of disbelief within the body of the story, answering the challenging  questions the audience might have for the T-1000 character and is also setting up the future scenes. We're also introduced to one of many themes of the movie

Van Ling: One of the central themes of the movie; Technology itself is amoral and it is how it gets used that gives it a morality. Terminator is essentially a gun, who can be either used to destroy or to protect.

We also see the first signs of leadership and tactical decision-making from John Connor. Connor decides that it's better to take a chance on T-800 and take responsibility for it, which is a hard decision since he was brought up to hate and despise it for all his life. Siskel and Ebert pointed out that John is ironically the father figure for both the T-800 and Sarah

In the same scene we yet again see the coldness and T-800 character reinstated as a mean killing machine not meant to be played  with

LIGHTNING: Here's one of many examples of a breath taking lighting from Adam Greenberg, who received nominations for Oscar , American Society of Cinematographers for Outstanding Achievement and British Society of Cinematographers awards for his work on T2.  In this scene cold lighting and low camera angles show the T-800 as a piece of technology, with eyes hidden behind sunglasses to reinforce the sense of inhumanity.

The sunglasses are an important story device in The Terminator and T2. In the first movie they meant to dehumanize T-800 more and more as the movie progresses and as he takes on more damage, becoming less and less human-like in appearance. In T2, the meaning of the sunglasses has an even deeper meaning and message. The sunglasses symbolizes his gradual transformation - he wears the sunglasses in the beginning when he is nothing more than a killer with a blank mind and looses them when he's starting his journey to become more human. T-800 looses glasses to reinforce beginning of humanization of the character from the hospital scene  to the end of the film.

In T2, every character has his own specific aura, type, intensity and style of lighting, underlining their characters or emotions.

James Cameron: "Adam Greenberg had a certain look on Linda, certain look on Arnold that he used. Adam lights outward from the characters"

17. LIGHTING: Even the water on the streets was put there on purpose. Wetting the streets is a time-honored part of lighting night scenes as it  provides interesting reflecting lights.

18. LIGHTING: Adam Greenberg lights the spare white walls by using a combination of heavy outside backlighting or side lighting with a good balance of ambient light to fill in the shadows, while still keeping the moody nighttime feel.

In the scene where Lewis locks the door behind the detectives, Adam Greenberg skipped the light off the floor to light the walls in an interesting way

19.Another example of outstanding camera work evident during the hospital chase:  It's important in an action sequence to shoot and cut the scenes so that the audience always understands what's going on. This means making the layout of the immediate set very clear and maintaining the "axis" or "stage line" of the scene from shot to shot. This means staying consistent with the left-to-right orientation of the scene. For instance, Sarah is running left to right, then her pursuers stay screen-left of her, regardless of camera angle. The rule of the thumb is that you change the axes if you either have the character switch direction within the shot of if you cut away to a neutral shot.  Sticking to those lines will generally make the scenes flow more smoothly and play more clearly.

20. This is a pivotal scene for John and Sarah since it defines their dysfunctional family relationship. Sarah sacrificed herself and her life for the cause and the war but she lost very important values and lost herself as a mother. She isn't a mother for him.

In T2 lighting is always appropriate to the mood. Whenever we see the scenes where Sarah is cold towards John its lit in extremely cold blue. Such was the case when John was first mourning over himself not believing his mother

"Even though it's action, it has a very paintery quality to it" -  James Cameron   "It has a real graphic novel look to it" - William Wisher

21. The bloody X-acto is a direct and subtle referrence to the first film as a part of Narrative Symmetry.

Film is a form of art (or, used to be), and as an artist and former literature student, James Cameron treats his movies and stories as such. Film as an artistic story and  isn't any different than a poem or a song, it has to have a cohesive structure, repeated or echoed themes and "lines", like rhymes. For example, a song cannot just start with one thing and proceed into something completely different, It's confined within its structure, the bridge matches the verse and the lines rhyme. Same can be said about stories - same elements have to match and reoccur according to the context. It has to be maintained even if both movies are extremely different. The Terminator was a love story about a soldier with horrible, tragic life and pushed around, clumsy waitress, which showed evolution of both characters. T2 was about paternal love between mother and son and her struggle with her sanity, morality and feelings, as well as a story of human life with two "robots' going at it. Those are completely different movies yet narratively unified as one cohesive story from beginning to end, with artistic consistency with similar, echoed sequences and events which are equivalent to rhymes in a poem, called story rhyming or Narrative Symmetry. It's when you have the same or related characters doing similar/same moves, yet achieving a  complete turntable on the emotions and/or different outcome. Brilliant but hard to achieve literary device

Narrative Symmetry is defined as "the same idea expressed and interpreted in different ways, using recurring themes; taking the same motif and twisting it into a different way" (George Lucas)

James Cameron: Together, "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", comprise a single, complete narrative. I like to think there is more the same about these two pictures than there is different. And though they were made seven years apart, one can hopefully see the themes and ideas which unify them.

You wanna have touchstones with the first film without going through the same ground kind of laboriously.

Van Ling: The challenge of doing sequels is finding novel ways and contexts in which to reiterate the classic beats and concepts from the original film.

So in this particular case, its the same shot and same image, yet evoking completely different feelings and reaction. This time it's curiosity and tension instead of disgust and terror. Great poetic twist

22. This scene shows even more of John's leadership skills. He is the one taking charge, he is the one thinking clearly and unstained by emotions even despite the recent events, thinking logically and analyzing their situation, position and assets. He is also smart enough to know how to psychologically handle and stop his mother, presenting his skills in handling people and his psychological knowledge.

LIGHTING: Note the specific use of lighting to illuminate the character - in this instance Sarah's intense mental state. Adam Greenberg uses lighting to create the mood of the environment but also to reinforce the performances.

23. This scene covered three narrative issues simultaneously: resonance, setup and motif. It had resonance by having T-800 perform the same action as in the first film but in a different context. The scene also set up the gag of finding the keys in the visor later on. The choice of station wagon reinforces the recurring motif of the trio as a strange kind of family. Good storytellers think about these things and try to incorporate them even in action films about robots from the future.

In one of the car conversations, another theme of the movie is introduced: it's all about the decisions you make - it's less about running away and more about fighting back and taking actions and challenges. Sarah is thinking beyond simply running or treating the impending apocalypse as inevitable. Knowing that a straight assault on the company is a futile effort she is looking for more effective offense.

You can also notice how worn out and used T-800's jacket is, which gives the whole thing a sense of realism

24.  Rather than just covering the plot points, Sarah's narration is more contemplative of the overall themes of the film. It also echoes the way idea in the first movie when Sarah was recording the tapes which is another narrative tie to the first movie, unifying both stories. The scene also shows that desert mercenaries lead a more normal life than Sarah. The beautiful light from the sunset and melancholic yet haunting music reinforces the moment

25. The playground sounds in the Nuclear Nightmare had a theme to it as well. Sound designer Gary Rydestrom: "The swings and the playground equipment gave us an excuse to do some wild stuff with metal creaks. So we would choose interesting metal creaks that had a pattern, sing-song pattern and repeat it over and over again in a very haunting way so it became almost like music"

26. The No Fate theme is getting a primary focus.  James Cameron: "Nothing really happens in a deux ex machina fashion in this film. People are actually responsible for what happens. Every moment is a decision. Nothing just kind of happens by coincidence, Sarah doesn't shoot Dyson because the Terminator and John come charging through the door at the right time and stop her, but because she decides not to. I like that the film is thematically consistent this way.

27. The previously mentioned theme is now getting expanded more. When T-800 becomes more human during Salceda Ranch scenes, (James Cameron: "There is nothing more American than a kid working on a pickup truck with his old man, so everything is this kind of looking at universal relationships through this kind of demented lens")

The scene also gives more exposition in an organic way

while Sarah becomes even less so, reinforced by her sunglasses and paramilitary wardrobe, Sarah embarks on a single minded mission. She has now became the Terminator, right down to the music used to score the shot.

The use of red dot and Sarah's stoic, lit in cold colors, unmoved face mirrors the image of the Terminator from the first movie, while Dyson mirrors her own character from the past - an innocent targeted for termination for something he hasn't done yet. A brilliant twist and character shift.

In the following scenes she redeems herself as a human being and a mother and when she meets John she realizes that her son is truly becoming the tactical and moral leader. This is the emotional climax and resolution for the relationship between mother and son.

James Cameron: "The interesting thing is the first film was about the evil guys in the future deciding that they can change their reality by killing one person in the past, and in this film Sarah realizes that she can change the future that was described to her and has lived in her mind for so long, she can change that by killing one guy in the present and she makes that decision. The problem is, he's a nice guy with a family, he doesn't know what the consequences of his work will be anymore than she could know what the consequences of her existence would be when she was a waitress in the first film"

James Cameron: These movies aren't really about terminators, we don't really care about robots from the future, but how WE become dehumanized everyday, whether it's police, psychiatrist, medical caregiver, soldiers, all the different ways we become dehumanized and discount each other, even to the point of discounting the value of another human life. I think that's what makes these two films really live and breathe. (..) [it's ] a hardcore morality play"

28. Good writing and tactical thinking: to prevent alienating the Dyson family, which surely would have been absolutely convinced that their house invaders are lunatic terrorists, and to avoid Dyson trying to ether contact help or run, a blade and a couple of seconds turned the Dysons into instant believers.

James Cameron: "How do you graphically show somebody that all of this implausible story that you're about to tell them is absolutely true"

29 Note the movement of the camera around Dyson that ends up with a close-up. It's designed to make Dyson look like a suspect during an interrogation. Miles Dyson had the biggest character arc in the film. The character had to move from innocent technophile to a mortified believer who selflessly sacrifices himself for the good. He didn't have to go and didn't have to lose his life. He had a perfect life in Malibu, rich and with loving family and yet for the good of humanity he chooses to give that all up. Just like Sarah.

Note a short, subtle but emotionally rich and telling moment right before his death when Dyson is seen immersed in his own thoughts. Dyson never even had a chance to process everything right up until his last moment.

James Cameron: They're basically trying to eradicate every trace of his life's work and he's an active participant in that, which makes him kind of an interesting tragic character

30. T-1000's glasses also have a subliminal meaning within the story. He was given reflective sunglasses to create a cold, insectoid feel and to reinforce the chrome motif of the liquid metal killer.

31. LIGHTING: Cameron and Greenberg's use of rotating and flickering lights added a dizzy staccato effect to the action. Used both in Cyberdyne and Steel Mill, the staccato lighting subconsciously makes us feel uneasy and more subdued to the feel of danger. Also, note the layer of atmospheric haze that is often added to the set to give it some character and depth. . The level and density of the haze were added by a smoke and of machines in shorts bursts before each take and then fanned around. The haze had to be maintained consistently from setup to setup.

32. LIGHTING: Much of the flashing red and blue interactive lighting was not created on set with actual police lights but with individual red and blue lights aimed at manually rotated Mylar cubes on stands. Red and blue light stand were added to create more chaos and visual panic

33. This scene was a demonstration of a Neo- Luddism at its most extreme. Also, note the irony and message of the imagery - an advanced technology is destroying another advanced piece of technology with a very old and primitive tool known since the Neolithic period ending 4,000 to 2,000 BC, an axe

Note that even in a shot when the T-800 just stands, he still strikes a visually interesting action pose


34. John demonstrated the Gordian Knot principle of the leadership. While Dyson still treats the terminator relics as sacred objects to be handled carefully, John cuts the chase and takes the fastest route to the objective. James Cameron: "This is the Gordian Knot. Alexander the Great slashed the Gordian Knot with his sword, instead of trying to untie it"

35. SOUND: Depth and character was inserted even to the guns. The real minigun fires 7.62mm rounds up to 6000 rounds a minute, but T-800's minigun was modified to work with blanks under 2000 rounds per minute in order to be visible on film and more interesting, also, the sound has been tinkered with as well. Gary Rydstrom: "We recorded a real minigun and I would slow the tape down so you'd hear more articulation (..) I added a lot of thunder cracks to it".  A lot of guns had been given interesting sound  with a great care for sound design. For example, T-800's shotgun sound was a sound of a shotgun specifically recorder being fired in a canyon.

36.To ensure absolute accuracy and reality, Police consulting firm Call the Cops was contacted and real SWAT team was used in the movie. The Police Consulting firm not only served as technical advisors for the police procedures in the scene, but also led the police extras in performing them. They worked with Cameron to realistically block out the action and the director would then choreograph the camera work to follow their movement through the building.

James Cameron: All the SWAT guys were real SWAT guys, and so they move like the real thing.

Sgt. Randy Walker: Mr. Cameron would come up and say how many guys you would use to do this, we told him how we would do it, and he knew what he had to see on film, and he came back to us saying 'this is what I need to see' and we took it from there and tried to place the people where it would be advantageous for the camera while still making it tactically correct

The SWAT team ends Dyson's life, who, unfortunately for him, had been caught in a non-negotiable situation. When SWAT slams the door open, they see a person surrounded by rigged barrels with enough material to instantly blow up the building and a guy standing there with a detonator in his hand. In their mind, they had to strike the terrorist before he could press the button or realize what's going on

37.  Although it is hard to recognize it, Dyson is holding a shattered piece of the prototype processor over the detonator switch. The irony is intentional, that the technology that would destroy mankind is now playing a heavy role in saving it, and with the death of the man brings the destruction of his life's work (T2 Illustrated Screenplay)

38. A terrific example of beautiful, dream-like and creative imagery and lightning. The walls of Cyberdyne during shootout were created by skimming the light off water source which was naturally off camera. Evenly and lightly dispersed haze was also constantly present during the Cyberdyne scenes

James Cameron: "In order to get the light to project on the corridor [Adam Greenberg] is actually skipping it off the floor which is producing all those interesting reflections down the walls"

The light in Cyberdyne scenes is skimmed off the floor, creating amazing texture and liquid reflections on both the floor and walls. Strong ambient light and haze adds to the moody visuals

39. The music itself also reflects the main character of the movie, using mostly sounds of machines and factory sounds

Brad Fiedel: "I think part of the success of the T2 score was that I took into account and created things that bridged music with the sound effects (...) It had a very strong percussion line it had a strong melody line. We went for a very visceral energy".

Fiedel experimented with a lot of different things, adding either a choir or orchestral-like music, or acoustic music, or even experimenting in creating new sounds. For example, for one of the tracks he took a recording of a violin and brought it three octaves down, creating and eerie continuous sound accompanying the T-1000 in certain scenes

James Cameron: "I  think the score is very interesting because it's very machine-like "

40. Incredible attention to detail: IN some of the helicopter chase shots, you can see that the T-1000 has 4 hands, two to control the helicopter's joystick and cyclical, and two to fire and reload his MP5K machine pistol. Naturally, Robert Patrick , or no one in a police suit, was ever in an actual flying helicopter, which was always piloted by Chuck Tamburro (who also played the pilot who jumped out of the helicopter). Patrick had been shot in a helicopter canopy which was hung on a crane, yet Cameron still wanted that technical and logical accuracy

"To address the logical question of how the T-1000 can fly a helicopter (which requires two hands) and shoot/reload its weapon (another two hands) at the same time, there are several cuts in the film showing that T-1000 has sprouted four arms during the chase" (T2 Illustrated Screenplay)

 41. SOUND: Sound designer Gary Rydstrom added a lion's roar into the sound of the truck to add a subliminal danger.

Gary Rydstrom: " We found a certain lion roar and we added that to the sound of the truck itself to make it much scarier. You don't hear that there's a lion roar, you just hear something that maybe a primitive part of your brain tells you it's a scary sound. Also, with the Harley, we actually snuck in some tiger sounds, just to give it some character"

42. Even a shot of a rolling tanker is filled with great lighting and imagery. Note the use of the backlight which created a dream like feel and an interesting rays of light

43. LIGHTING: Note the subliminal lighting on T-800. Since it was a very human moment for T-800, his damaged, mechanical side is in the shadow. Also, the mechanical part is lit with cold blue, and the human side with warm colors. That symbolized the humanity that was prevailing in him at the time, and the moment when he truly became as close to the human character as possible. It was a so called fire and ice motif, expanding on the theme of human and machine interfacing.

James Cameron: "We always come up with motifs that would work well, for Arnold's character and a lot of stuff that we did in the steel mill was a mixed light between orange and blue, which worked very well, especially when the Terminator was sort of half human and half metal, you put the blue side there and the warm side there, you know, I sort of got into that human and machine interface"

44. Narrative unity: both Terminator movies had moments when the audience was sure that the villain is dead, and both had moments when they were hurt, giving the audience a hope that there is a chance they can be destroyed

James Cameron: "The whole idea of the malfunctioning T-1000...I felt like I had to have something that was kind of equivalent of the first film when the Terminator was getting shot up, and losing parts and getting crushed but still a menace"

Also, notice another narrative rhyme with the first film. Both villains came out of the damaged truck, but notice the contrast of fire and ice. While the first Terminator came out of fiery truck, this one comes out of fog of ice

45. James Cameron: "Here's something interesting. We're shooting at 36 fps which is slight slow motion and Robert is walking really, really fast but it comes back to a kind of a normal gate but it has more power. It's like every foot is coming down like a piston, and that's how we got that strange look on him"

46. Also note the contrast of warm and cold colors. According to James Cameron from his interview in 1993, the use of only two colors, blue and orange symbolized the conflict between men and machines, humanity vs machinery, therefore the two colors used are orange (warmth, humanity) and blue (coldness, machinery). Once the T-1000 gets eliminated the blue palette disappears, leaving only an orange colors


There's a lot of brilliant cinematography in the steel mill. For example, the steel grating was an excuse to do a lot of fantastic low angle lighting effects through the floor.

47. Many of the fight scenes were undercrancked at 16fps to 21fps to heighten the sense of impact between the two terminators. Also, note the use of the backlight

48. James Cameron: All of the knowledge about how much punishment a Terminator can take now comes back but it's completely turned around, now it's pathos instead of terror that's created.

49.  Another poetic and emotional twists: Sarah kills the T-800 the same way she did in the first film, by pressing a button, although this time it's grief

James Cameron: "She actually gets what she wished for initially, but now it breaks her heart as well which I think is really interesting. There's so many reversals"

50. Even when the future is saved, Sarah still remains a tragic character with a sad story. She doesn't remarry and remains alone. She still loves Kyle and remains faithful to him, but she will never see him again. The Kyle she knew exists only in her memories now

Novelization: She even hired someone to look for him, the alternate him, anyway, the one who, like the rest of the world, would be born and survive and never know that there had been, on one time line, a nuclear war and desperate battle for survival. (...) She called the investigator off the case and let it go. So she couldn't marry anyone. Or love another man as she did Kyle

51., The playground, a recurring motif, finally returns at the very end, unscathed, full of life and joy - a nightmare perished.

The scene was cut for several reason. The scene was too much of a contrast to the rest of the movie visually and narratively. The aged makeup on Linda Hamilton wasn't satisfactory for James Cameron either. Yet another different reason is given in T2 Extreme DVD commentary. James Cameron states that he didn't want to be so blatantly obvious in showing that it all ended well. He said the audience 'got it' without seeing the scene.

James Cameron: "I felt it was unnecessary because people just naturally felt that the battle had been won"

Terminator 2: Judgment Day brings the story to an end

James Cameron:  I'm not involved in T3. When I was in post on Titanic, I was approached on that. I said, "I'm just not that ... Ahhh, I mean, I told the story." I mean, the reason here to make the film is to cash in on the success of the franchise. I think films should be made from an organic place of 'I have a specific story to tell now I'm gonna figure out who's ready to pay for that.' It was 18 times harder to get the money to make Titanic than it ever would have been to make another Terminator film because that was a proven commodity, but I was much more interested in Titanic and I think that's the way films should be made.

James Cameron: At a certain point, I think I was finishing Titanic at the time and I just felt as a filmmaker maybe Iíve gone beyond it. I really wasnít that interested. I felt like Iíd told the story I wanted to tell.  (Collider 2014)

James Cameron: "Terminator 2 brings the story full circle and ends it" (Starlog #170, 1991). "Terminator 2 is the absolute conclusion as far as I'm concerned. (...) By the end of Judgment Day we've basically rewritten the underlying foundation of reality as we know it." (Starlog Yearbook #9, 1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger: " I know Jim rules out a third film" (Starlog #169, 1991)

Everyone connected with Terminator 2 insists that this will be the last Terminator (Starlog #169, 1991)

William Wisher (the uncredited The Terminator co-writer and the co-writer of Terminator 2: Judgment Day): We've finished the story and as far as I'm concerned it should stay finished. Everything we had to say about the Terminator has been said. One of the things Jim and I talked a lot about was whether there should be another followup. And we made our decision in the way we wrote Terminator 2. There are no backdoors in this film. We wrote this movie so that the fat lady sings. (Fangoria 1991)

Linda Hamilton: "I thought it was perfect with two films. It was a complete circle."(wharf.co.uk)

The conclusion of the Terminator saga - The narrator of the official The Making of Terminator 2 about T2

By Adrian Czarny

Quoted sources: T2 Extreme DVD text commentary by Van Ling, audio commentary by James Cameron and William Wisher, T2 The book of Film: An llustrated Screenplay by Van Ling, JamesCameronOnline interviews and various magazines and behind the scenes footage.