Terminator II : Judgment Day is one of my favorite science fiction movies, so when I heard that a sequel to it was being made, I read about it on the web before it came out. Something about the descriptions of it dissuaded me from watching it in theatres. Then I moved to Canada, where I don’t have a DVD or a VCR – or a TV, for that matter – and I thought, shoot, now I’ll never see the movie. That’s when I realized I might still be able to see a few scenes on YouTube.
I found about half of it on YouTube, thoroughly RiffTraxed, and I soon realized that it deserved every bit of the ribbing. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Terminator 1991 vs. Terminator 2003
The Terminator in the second movie was interesting because he behaved like a robot. All discussion of Schwarzenegger’s acting style aside, when I watch science fiction, I like to see aliens being alien and robots being robotic. T-1991 only picked up slang phrases because John (as a teenager) taught them to him. Where did T-2003 get them? Surely adult John didn’t program him with them before sending him back in time? “OK, you have to stop the T-X and make sure I stay alive to save humanity. Oh, and if anyone bothers you, stick your beefy paw in their face and deadpan, ‘Talk to the hand’.”
I also liked that the T-1991 obeyed John. That made sense and was fun to watch – John taking the responsibility for making the decisions, even at a young age, and steering the Terminator straight by making him solemnly promise not to kill anyone (though the T-1991 only attacks people in the biker bar when they attack him first, and is careful not to actually kill anyone). In Rise of the Machines, however, the Terminator runs the show. He’s not programmed to obey John and he decides where they’ll go. That wasn’t so much fun to watch.
I got the impression that Schwarzenegger’s heart really wasn’t in it by that point, though. When I watched Judgment Day, I didn’t just like Schwarzenegger’s character, I wished I had a Terminator of my own. In contrast, Schwarzenegger’s character in Rise of the Machines looked so tired and out of it that I wanted to wrap him in a blankie, give him a cup of nice hot cocoa and put him in an old terminators’ home to rest.
2. T-1000 vs. T-X.
One of the reviews for Rise of the Machines on Rottentomatoes.com said that what was scary about the T-1000 wasn’t that it could change its shape. What was scary was that it took the appearance of a police officer – someone people would trust and respect. In contrast, the T-X takes the appearance of some random woman. Nothing particularly frightening about that, and the scene where she inflates her chest undercuts the scare potential. I’m obviously not the target audience for that scene, but a character who’s either going to look hot or silly isn’t going to look unnerving and dangerous at the same time.
The other thing I liked about the T-1000 was that its physical capabilities were simple. It could change its body and body parts into different shapes. That was it, and that was extremely cool. In contrast, the T-X seems to have lots of weapons in her Swiss Army Arm – a flamethrower, a grenade launcher, a Terminator reprogrammer and so on. Less would have been more, especially since her clever attempt at making the Terminator go bad didn’t work (is there any antagonist in fiction who has tried to turn the hero against his friends and succeeded?).
3. John Connor 1991 vs. John Connor 2003.
Although young-JC came off as a juvenile delinquent at first, he soon shaped up, showing that he was loyal and idealistic and had a moral compass. In contrast, what I saw of older-JC made him seem weary and cynical. That’s not necessarily bad – Morgan Freeman was great as the weary and cynical cop in Se7en, but even the weary and cynical type has to do something. Older-JC seemed to be stuck in a dog’s cage at first and after he was freed, he talked about a kissing session in someone’s basement. He did eventually stall the T-X, but that was too little and too late.
4. Sarah Connor 1991 vs. Sarah Connor 2003.
In 1991, she was a tough, kickass heroine. In 2003, she was dead. Enough said. There was a female lead in the 2003 movie, but all I remember of her is that she screamed a lot when she wasn’t discussing the kissing session in the basement. Oh, and she has a fiancee. The moment I heard that, I knew the guy was dead, dead meat – he had to be so she would be freed up to marry older-JC.
Judgment Day was good because it took the situation set up by the first movie and put a great twist on it – this time, two Terminators are sent back, and we don’t realize at first that one of them is there to protect John from the other. Rise of the Machines takes that scenario and puts a twist on it – this time, the bad Terminator has boobs. She even acquires a vehicle in the same way the T-1000 does – complimenting the owner before killing her. I suppose the bleak end of Rise is another twist, but by that time I’d lost all interest in it. Hasta la vista, movie.