In today’s guest post, Craig Joseph Pisani shares his thoughts on why they don’t make sequels like they used to, presenting 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day as a prime example of this:
In 2018, Hollywood continues the trend of producing pre-sold franchises with the releases of films like Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Deadpool 2, The Incredibles 2, Creed 2 (AKA Rocky 9), andMission Impossible 6. Call me a skeptic but I doubt any of them will match the intensity and emotion of their first installments, and they will almost certainly loaded with high-end special effects to replace any semblance of a well-constructed story. On occasion you’ll find a gem sequel debatable as equal as or greater than the original. Today I’ll look at what places the Academy Award-winning Terminator 2: Judgment Day in that conversation:
1. It brought back what worked.
Released in 1984, The Terminator was written and directed by Oscar winner James Cameron (Titanic) and starring Aussie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger. Needless to say that pair worked together again in 1991 on the sequel along with leading lady Linda Hamilton.
2. It was the same, yet different.
While we had the cast and director we wanted to see again, we didn’t want to watch the exact same movie plot repeated seven years later. The huge twist that makes this film so exciting is that Arnold originally played the villian, the Terminator. Now he’s the good guy, the protector, the savior. What’s also cool about this aspect of the picture is that the other characters initially still think Arnold is the bad guy — being seen by them as such previously.
3. It featured a cool new lead.
Kyle Reese dies in the original but not before impregnating Sarah Connor which wouldn’t make sense if her son sent him back in time to protect her, but nevertheless we have young John Connor in the sequel (played by a well-cast Edward Furlong). He’s very much the anti-Reese, going against the law and showcasing a rebellious attitude that carrys him through his teenage years as a coping mechanism to deal with the fact his mother’s locked up in a mental institution. Although presented as being tough (and a bit of an ass), his moral compassion rings true, best exemplified by him giving the Terminator orders nor to kill anyone. In the process, he wins over the audience, allowing us to like him.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day ups the stakes.
In 1984 we had human versus cyborg with nearly impossible odds for mankind to survive. Fast forward to the sequel and we have humans teaming up with friendly cyborg versus a highly advanced super shape-shifting T-1000 Series Terminator who is practically indestructible. Both the hero and the enemy have gotten greater, allowing for new adventures and cool special effects not seen years earlier — ones that would go on to win Oscars. Yet these effects didn’t distract from the story, but helped make it great.
5. There’s no love story.
We had the love story evolve in the first one. Here the love is not in a romantic capacity but rather the bond between man and machine, a machine that would feel like the missing father figure to a young boy who has suffered his whole life. The emotional final scene rips that away from him and the audience. But would you really want a happy ending with the Terminator flipping burgers at a BBQ on the 4th of July?
6. The box office take.
$38 for the first film as compared to $206,000,000 for T2, the highest dollar amount taken in for any entry in the Terminator franchise to date. It was also shown in more than double the theaters than it’s predecessor.
Craig Joseph Pisani is an avid moviegoer and aspiring screenwriter with Bachelor’s degrees in both Cinema and English
This article originally ran in January. We are reprinting it today as part of our ongoing Summer of Sci-Fi series of posts.