Cinematic Releases: Terminator 2: Judgment Day - 3D (1991/2017) - Reviewed

There really isn’t anything about James Cameron’s still gargantuan, mammoth beast of a sequel to his 1984 low budget smash hit The Terminator that hasn’t already been said by this point.  In terms of pushing the envelope technically, boasting still astonishing action set pieces and taking the mythology established in The Terminator full circle to it’s logical end, Terminator 2: Judgment Day it goes without saying remains one of the greatest science fiction action thrillers of all time and the pinnacle of early 1990s sate of the art visual effects technology. 

In short, it was a game changer.  Up to this point, the $102 million movie was the most expensive film ever made and went on to rake in over $519 million to this day before winning four Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects.  For all the financial and personal hurdles writer-director James Cameron suffered with his previous film The Abyss, Terminator 2 put Cameron back on top and cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most exciting and innovative big summer movie filmmakers.

Years since the 1991 film, however, the series went downhill with the films that followed as Cameron departed the director’s chair and redirected his attention to other projects.  In the midst of preparing his soon-to-be Avatar sequels (whether anyone still wants them or not), Cameron would in the process of preparing the forthcoming 4K digital remasters of The Abyss and True Lies for blu-ray disc revisit Terminator 2: Judgment Day once again in a newly remastered 3D edition making it’s limited theatrical re-release in cinemas across the nation prior to an upcoming 4K UHD disc release. 

Why one of the greatest science fiction action thrillers of all time initially shot and exhibited in 2D should get a post-production 3D conversion at a time when the television, home video and theatrical film industry (notably IMAX in a recent announcement) seems to be moving away from the format after lukewarm sales represents a curious disconnect James Cameron seems to have with the changes sweeping the film business.  While the rest of the industry is doing away with 3D altogether as audiences are tiring of being had by exorbitant ticket prices, Cameron remains that one guy still pushing for what is quickly becoming a sinking ship.  The sad thing is for all the efforts put into retouching the film via CGI to remove faces of stunt doubles, obscure a naked actor’s nether regions (yes, Robert Patrick’s exposed genitals are obscured in this re-release since everyone was looking for it before) and augment shots with slightly more depth of field than previously, there really isn’t much to this ultimately pointless 3D reissue. 

When compared to some of the other 3D reissues of 2D films that have come before, notably things like The Wizard of Oz which presented startling use of the 3D conversion technology, Terminator 2 still looks flat and like a 2D movie with some occasional depth perception when the 3D glasses aren’t making viewers go cross eyed.  Where Terminator 2 easily would have sold tickets and filled movie theaters had the film simply been re-released as audiences saw it in 1991, Cameron’s decision to revamp the whole thing and charge $15 a head for the 3D glasses may have actually hurt the film’s potential box office earnings. Speaking for myself, the 3D actively worked against my enjoyment of the film.

That said, if you can tolerate it and have the extra money to spare, Terminator 2 3D or not still represents one of the prime examples of big budget science fiction action filmmaking with a stellar cast, still astonishing visual effects and spectacular set pieces and a textbook example of what a summer tentpole movie should be.  One may even argue it is the best thing currently playing in cinemas right now.  It’s a shame that the 3D technology in this case didn’t do Cameron or his film any favors and watching it I was pining for the 35mm release I was lucky enough to catch at the Main Art Theater some years ago.  Now if Cameron will just listen to reason and leave Aliens alone and not give that the 3D treatment also…

- Andrew Kotwicki

Score: Film

Score: 3D