Special effects keep 'Terminator 2' alive


IT'S easy to see where all the money went in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Arnold Schwarzenegger stars. By his own admission, the film cost $80 million, and most of that, apparently, went into the special effects.

The money was well spent. These are very special special effects, but that's about all the film is, special effects.

A sequel to the original "The Terminator" released in 1984, the new film is 2 hours and 14 minutes of car, truck, bike and anything else that crashes on the move. Machines leap tall buildings and burst into flame. Cars batter each other until the VTC spectator feels as though he is at an amusement park, and when the machines are not exploding, the guns are.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" may include the largest and most varied arsenal ever employed in one film, and that includes "The Longest Day." Don't ask what they are, just listen to them roar, and that they do, all through the film.

The movie does have a plot. It needs more, but we'll have to make do. Schwarzenegger also has his few laugh lines which he handles quite well, but for the most part, "Terminator 2" is mostly collision and gunfire, the louder and bigger, the better.

If you saw the first film, you may remember that Schwarzenegger was an evil alien, visiting our globe to murder the woman who would give birth to the boy who would grow to be the man who would lead earthlings in their battle against alien hordes, somewhere down the line.

On his trail was another alien cyborg, but this was a good one, here to save the mother and the boy.

In the sequel, Schwarzenegger has been recycled, or re-programmed. This time, he is the good cyborg, and Robert Patrick is the bad cyborg, here to kill the kid and, if necessary, his mother.

You should know this going in. If you don't, you may waste valuable time wondering why Schwarzenegger has the jokes (which he handles quite well) and Patrick, the killing chores.

When the original film appeared, critics saw similarities to a holy birth, with Linda Hamilton passing as a kind of holy Madonna.

No such chance in the second film. Hamilton, as the boy's mother (he's now about age 12) swears like Eddie Murphy and is as tough at Charles Bronson -- maybe tougher. It's fun, in a way, watching her handle a rifle with a slide bolt. It makes a lot of noise, and Hamilton knows how to handle the weapon, but all this is so much more of the same, so much more firepower.

Speed, crash and bullet fans will probably like the film, and those who can enjoy a movie for its special effects, will certainly take to this one. However, those who think that one gunfight is pretty much like another, that one motorcycle flying through the air is pretty much like all cycles doing the same, may find the film a bit repetitious.

Some of the special effects are close to those used in "The Abyss," which should come as no surprise because both films were directed by James Cameron, who also did the first "Terminator." You might, in fact, call "Terminator 2" the "Son of Abyss," particularly when the evil cyborg changes watery shape.

Most of this is ingenious, really. Some of it borders on brilliant, but again, it may be too much of the same thing.

The kid as played by Edward Furlong is an incorrigible street brat -- hardly the sort of kid who will grow up and save the world. If he does, it will probably be for Nintendo arcades.

Schwarzenegger, as the good cyborg, joins forces with the boy to neutralize the engineer who is working on a project that will somehow precipitate that war in the future, if the engineer is not stopped.

It's an old ploy. Once more, they are hoping to change the course of history. Most often, this device doesn't work, not on the screen. If you change the course of history, the world will experience a different kind of chaos. That's a time-honored movie cliche. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" chooses to go against that philosophy, noisily and with some monotony.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" opens here today.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day"

** Good and bad alien cyborgs visit Earth where the good one hopes to protect the boy who will some day lead mankind in a war against the machines.

CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong

DIRECTOR: James Cameron

RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 15 minutes

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