5 Reasons You Need to See Terminator 2 in 3D on the Big Screen


James Cameron‘s 1991 action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day returns to the big screen this Friday in a newly restored 3D version. Even though T2 has been a pop culture staple for over a quarter century now and most of us are very familiar with it, to say the film “holds up” would be an understatement. Thanks in part to the pristine and detailed 3D conversion, this is one of the most exciting and satisfying nights at the movies you’ll have all year.

Micro-budgeted science fiction thriller The Terminator (1984) was an overnight smash in its day, announcing writer/director Cameron as one of the foremost action filmmakers and Arnold Schwarzenegger as an icon. In the first film, Schwarzenegger played the T-800, an android from a future in which artificial intelligence has rebelled and overthrown humanity, sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of future resistance leader John Connor. Terminator 2 is one of those rare sequels that expands and improves upon a stellar original in every way imaginable. In T2, Schwarzenegger plays a T-800 programmed by the resistance to protect a 10-year-old John Connor (Edward Furlong) from the threat of a more advanced Terminator machine, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick).

The most expensive production in cinematic history up to that point at $102 million, T2 was a phenomenon at the time, grossing over half a billion dollars at the box office and winning four Academy Awards. Critics have praised the filmmaking, and general audiences love it; T2 is currently ranked the 43rd best movie of all time by users of the Internet Movie Database.

For some insights into the groundbreaking production, Parade spoke with renowned special effects artist Dennis Muren. The winner of nine Academy Awards for his work on films like T2, the Star Wars saga and The Lord of the Rings, Muren is the first visual effects artist in history to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We also spoke with screenwriter William Wisher, who co-wrote T2 with Cameron, for his take on why the story and characters hold up so well. For more information about the 3D conversion, we spoke with William Sherak, president of Stereo D, the recognized leader of converting 2D theatrical content into stereoscopic 3D imagery.

Here are five reasons you need to check out Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 3D on the big screen.

Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in T2 (Carolco)

1. You haven’t seen T2 until you’ve seen it in a theater. 

The early 1990s were a golden era for special effects. Computer generated imagery was a new innovation and was used sparingly. T2 is a touchstone of this Renaissance period; most of the action was filmed using practical means like models and miniatures, but Cameron and the creators at Industrial Light and Magic sprinkled in eye-popping and revolutionary CGI imagery, notably the “liquid metal” characteristics of the T-1000. These effects naturally lend themselves to 3D. In addition to a trophy for the visuals, Terminator won Oscars for its makeup, sound editing and sound mixing. The film’s virtues are best appreciated on the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find. At risk of understatement, Terminator 2 is one of the best action movies ever made, a rollercoaster of massively scaled and impeccably staged violence that never lets up for 137 minutes. Even if you’ve seen it a million times on home video, best of luck not gripping your armrest and breaking a sweat when watching the 3D version on the big screen.

2. The 3D conversion is first-rate and downright dazzling. 

From the first frame—a layered shot of a Los Angeles traffic jam—you know you’re in for something special with T2 in 3D. Too many studio releases have been cheaply and quickly converted into 3D with disastrous results, but T2‘s restoration is a marvel of clean lines, focus and depth. Sherak says that Cameron’s filmmaking made the conversion something of a natural process: “The best 3D conversions start with great direction. Jim Cameron is not only a brilliant storyteller, he also naturally frames his shots with depth and perspective. So with T2 he has given us a film that was ready-made for the added immersion that 3D conversion can offer.”

The special effects of the liquid-metal T-1000 naturally lend themselves to 3D.
The special effects of the liquid-metal T-1000 naturally lend themselves to 3D. (Carolco/ StudioCanal)

3. Details! It’s all about the details. 

Attention to detail can mean the difference between a good action film and a great action film, creating a more believable and immersive experience.

Aside from the added third dimension, the effects have not been enhanced or changed at all for this re-release. The liquid-metal body of the T-1000, and the way it reflects everything around it, still inspires awe. Muren explains why these effects are stunning 26 years later when a lot of CGI from earlier in 2017 already looks dated: “A lot of it is attention to detail and studying the world around you, and replicating it. I was tuned in totally to that on Terminator 2. The stuff that we needed to make [the T-1000] look like it wasn’t some Mylar balloon in the shape of a man floating around, which it could have looked like, but which looked like it was heavy and had weight and had a performance to it. Giving the detail to it, really studying nature and then using your imagination and being flexible is really important in making this stuff look real.”

Cameron fills the screen with intricacies and observations that enrich the movie. One key moment Muren points out is a famous shot of the T-1000 sliding through cell bars in a psychiatric hospital. The shot is show-stopping on its own, then as a kicker the T-1000 struggles to bring his handgun through the bars along with him, because it’s made of metal. “That last bit was unnecessary. He could have just turned his hand sideways and gone through, but it makes everything seem more real,” Muren says. “It’s the little details like this that separate a Cameron picture from most action movies. They add up quick.”

4. The story and characters are great, and the movie has heart.  

What good are eye-popping visuals without a story and people you care about? As we’ve previously asserted in our ranking of the Alien films, James Cameron is one of the most underrated screenwriters of all time, a master of getting us emotionally invested in spectacle. Terminator 2 holds up as a genuinely provocative piece of sci-fi, its grim and nuanced ideas about artificial intelligence arguably more relevant today than they were in 1991. Though the film has big ideas, at its heart it’s a tight, streamlined story. Wisher says his experience of co-writing this script with Cameron was a gratifying collaboration, and that in hindsight one of the reasons T2 clicked with audiences is the “fractured family” dynamic of the T-800 with Sarah and John Connor. Furlong’s performance as young John Connor is sharp, believable and sympathetic. To watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 is to see one of the all-time screen legends at the peak of his powers. Schwarzenegger’s physical prowess is incomparable; he’s also quite tender here as a machine programmed to kill who is learning the value of human life, and his deadpan comic timing is dazzling. A perk of seeing Terminator in a theater with an audience is that you’ll be reminded how funny the film is.

My favorite performance might be that of Hamilton, who is every bit the action hero that Schwarzenegger is. Says Wisher: “Linda embraced it 120%. She was in magnificent physical condition and she was really committed to playing Sarah Connor as this formidable but emotionally broken person. I think she’s one of the coolest characters, female or male in the action genre ever.” Let’s face it, women in action films are too often hyper-sexualized fantasies or implausible bimbos. Sarah Connor isn’t a cartoonish female Rambo, nor is she an object in a catsuit. She’s a down-on-her-luck waitress who is forced into action and must become extraordinary to protect her son. Nobody writes and executes this kind of a character quite like Cameron. Which brings us to…

Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY
Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (Carolco/ StudioCanal)

5. James Cameron made this movie. 

James Cameron has only directed eight full-length narrative features in total since his first (1981’s Piranha Part Two: The Spawning) over 35 years ago. He takes his time. We’ve come to expect a Cameron picture to be an unmissable cinematic event. The Oscar-winning director is always pushing the film medium forward with his eye on the future, and he’s simply in a class of his own when it comes to wowing and audience. “He’s amazing,” says Muren. “He’s just different from the rest of us. He sees very deeply into things and can multitask like nobody I’ve ever met before. Every time he thinks of something, he also tries to figure out how he can top it, to find a way to go above and beyond that. He gives the same consideration to the effects, the actors, the sets, photography. Everything. The guy is great.” Sherak says Cameron’s famous work ethic is inspiring to be around: “As a collaborator who strives for nothing less than perfection, he elevates the output of everyone lucky enough to work with him—including Stereo D! At our company, the opportunity to be part of a Jim Cameron film is on everyone’s bucket list, and it was an amazing experience. Best of all, we think audiences will be blown away seeing the film in 3D.

With Terminator 2 in 3D, Cameron has touched up one of the jewels in his crown and given it new brilliance. This is a fabulous night at the movies.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 3D opens nationwide August 25. Watch the trailer below.

Are you excited to see T2 in 3D? What’s your favorite action film of all time! Sound off in the comments and let us know!



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