In the sequel to the first Terminator, James Cameron had a hand again in every stage of the production. Together with his long-time friend, William Wisher, Cameron was in charge of the script´s writing. Basically, everything stays the same: The future of humankind has to be saved by fighting in the present the enemies of the future (“Cyborgs”). The difference between the first Terminator - movie and its sequel is to be found in the dimension: Cameron succeeded in magnifying the T1 – story by providing a range of exhilarating new aspects (e.g. the morphing of T-1000). While in part one the opponents of the T-800 was a couple, in T2 a whole family stands up to the hostile, refined T-1000: Sarah Connor, her son John and T-800, the well-known Cyborg from part one (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) who this time adopts the role of father; his mission is to protect John.
While the first Terminator was a low-budget movie, the sequel absorbed an enormous amount of financial means. The production company Carolco spent at least US-$ 100 billion, of which every cent is both visible and audible in the cinema. Thus, the “future war” sequence at the beginning of the movie is very impressive because by means of vividness and spatial vastness it confronts the audience with the future power of machines. The ruthlessness and coldness of the machines is characterized in this sequence by a synthetic sound, which later becomes the leitmotif of the T-1000 (a kind of metallic rattle). This sound is not the imitation of a natural instrument but pure synthetics (as the T-1000 is also a man-made creature), which constantly leads to suffocating feelings in the audience throughout the movie. Furthermore, the sound of the automatic guns stands out, which, when these guns are fired, is reminiscent of the penetrating sound of the M41A pulse rifle from the Aliens movies. In this context, it is interesting to note that such an M41A-rifle is shown in one scene of the “future war” sequence (as a kind of Easter egg, so to speak). After plenty of action, this war sequence concludes with a monolog by Sarah Connor, who briefly introduces the audience to who competes against whom. Then the opening credits follow, to which the well-known and well-tried The Terminator-theme by Brad Fiedel is added. By now, the audience knows what to expect.
From now on, Cameron proceeds in the familiar conservative way – stylistically speaking. At the beginning of the actual T2-story the different characters of the movie are introduced: Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800, who the audience has been waiting for all along, appears first (even though the audience is unaware yet that he is destined to be John´s protector); Robert Patrick as the slippery T-1000 follows; thirdly, John´s foster parents (Todd and Janell) come onto the scene and, finally, Sarah Connor, who is drugged up to her eyeballs, is shown in the security wing of a mental institution, the “Pescadero State Hospital – A Criminally Disordered Retention Facility.” Dr. Silberman (played by Earl Boen) is also on board again.
The toxicological-psychiatric aspects of T2
Regarding toxicology, the T-1000 is the most interesting character of the movie: He consists of a “mimetic polyalloy,” a metal that may cause his appearance to change (morphing). In the movie this material works and looks like mercury. If you take the character apart and have a closer look at him, various pathological symptoms and behavior patterns emerge which are the results a chronic and long-term mercury poisoning:
When a child is exposed intrauterine to mercury during the mother’s pregnancy, the person affected develops the aforementioned symptoms later in life. The state-certified toxicologist, Prof. Max Daunderer, speaks of a “Feer syndrome in adults” (also: Daunderer’s syndrome), named after Prof. Feer who discovered the children’s disease. Furthermore, there is a dental material consisting of a toxic alloy of heavy metals (dental amalgam), which the movie also hints at: In the Mexican desert, the Mexican Salceda says to Sarah Connor (scene 102), “Hey, how about the fillings out of my fucking teeth while you are at it!” Thus, the expression “mimetic polyalloy” used in the movie to designate the material the T-1000 consists of, is given a surreal meaning: Alloy is synonymous with the dental material made of mercury, tin and copper; poly denotes a multitude of pathological symptoms; and mimetic – which means imitative – represents the tendency to identification, even though this is an immediate result of the infantile fixation caused by the Feer syndrome (in adults). With choosing Robert Patrick, Cameron succeeded in finding the best suitable actor for the role of the T-1000. The director says about Patrick, “What I liked about Robert was his striking resemblance to a cat. His senses are strongly developed. You notice that he is very perceptive and analytical of his environment.” The audience notices that the T-1000 challenges his opponent with a “different power.” This psychologically profound aspect is also demonstrated by the soundtrack: on the one hand, there is the rattling T-1000 motif; on the other hand, there is a variety of sounds the T-1000 emits while morphing. These sounds appear like a mix of smacking, creeping, whistling and crawling – all of which describe the cold and subversive characteristics of this creature very well. Let’s now turn to Sarah Connor: From the viewpoint of differential diagnostics, Dr. Silberman speaks of an acute schizo-affective disorder (ICD-10:25.9) accompanied by the common symptoms: depression, anxiety, violent outbursts, paranoia and hallucinations. If you take a closer look, a form of pathological sentimentality is another noticeable symptom. Cameron did painstaking research on the topic of psychiatry. He visited a mental institution in Atascadero, CA and examined its security measures. He made notes on the so-called sally ports, the control center and the common practice in such an institution. Cameron says, “To the audience, these are all negligible aspects but subconsciously they spark a much stronger emotional reaction to the movie.”
This psychiatric-toxicological aspect runs through the movie like a thread: At the beginning, there are dangerous skeletons made of heavy metal (“future war” sequence); at the end of the movie, Sarah Connor talks sentimentally about a machine that has learned to appreciate life. In between, there are continual toxicological implications: Sarah Connor threatens Dr. Silberman to kill him with the injection of a poisonous cleaner (lethal injection). Or another wonderful detail: The poison fangs of dead rattlesnakes are shown before Sarah enters the camp of Salceda in the Mexican desert (scene A100). After escaping from the Pescadero State Hospital, the T-1000 loses a hand (formed like a crowbar) in a gunfight; this metal piece then lies in the street and looks like a piece of a pulled tooth including the root (also: false teeth made of toxic metal). Scene 80G, quote from the script: “John watches, in awe, as the ´crowbar hand´, stuck into the trunk right in front of him, reverts to the neutral polyalloy ... a kind of thick mercury.”
One thing is for sure, however: whether this was all part of the script and thus intended or entirely coincidental, is only upon the director to say. It’s a fact, though, that his first movie was financed by a consortium of dentists, meaning he had the right contacts to learn about the topic of toxicology. Another work – an interdisciplinary study about the moviemaker James Cameron – will be devoted to this topic into greater detail and take a concluding look at it. Terminator 2 does have a toxicological level which is superimposed (or nearly concealed) by psychiatric elements in a very clever way.
Action in Every Paragraph
After the audience has been introduced to all the important characters, the cat-and-mouse game begins. Both Cyborgs act systematically, trying to find the young John Connor. When they succeed in locating him, an extended action sequence follows, which starts in the galleria of a shopping mall. While John Connor is playing a game of “Afterburner” with his classmate, the T-1000 approaches in the guise of a police officer (“Austin”). When the boy becomes aware of this, he tries to flee. A fierce gun battle ensues in a side passage of the shopping and entertainment center. The boy escapes with both Cyborgs in hot pursuit. The subsequent wild chase through the flood-relief channels of Los Angeles is an action highlight of the movie. During this “channel chase” nearly all cameras are in motion, which made the shooting time consuming and difficult.
A river bordering the channel had to be dammed up by sandbags so that its water did not impede the filming. Another laborious task was keeping the channel free from algae and trash. After all three protagonists have arrived at the channel, the scene is dominated nearly exclusively by machines. The T-1000 in a tow truck, the T-800 on a motorbike (while both are chasing the young John Connor on his moped). A cinematic special effects resulted from the structure of the channel: An overpass was too low for the truck. Hence, the director spontaneously decided to have the truck´s superstructure torn off while driving through this overpass. As visual effect, it looks as if the T-1000 loses his head, which is of course not the case. Cameron arouses uneasiness and tension by showing the tow truck from the front most of the time, but the moped from the perspective of the chaser. Due to the narrow channels and the high speed, the truck appears massive. Like a cannonball, it races relentlessly after the boy through the channel.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his role as the good guy, succeeds of course in saving the boy while the tow truck is smashed to pieces at a reinforced concrete pillar and finally explodes Hollywood-style.
Afterward John´s mother is rescued, and the three of them meet again at the home of the inventor of artificial intelligence – Miles Dyson. After Dyson has learned that his technological creations are responsible for the third world war and the death of billions of people, he there and then decides to stop his work and pay a visit to his employer – the company “Cyberdyne Systems.” John, Sarah, the Cyborg T-800 and his inventor fit the company with explosives in order to destroy it – successfully. Afterward they are joined by the T-1000, which opens the next big wild chase. More trucks explode or are smashed. After the release of the movie Cameron was asked why he continuously smashes trucks in his movies. Cameron responded that he had worked as a truck driver before embarking on a career in the movies, and that while being on the road he had often imagined to blow up this “damn truck.” Hence, closer to the end of the movie a liquid nitrogen tanker (just like the truck from the first Terminator, whose flammable load explodes) is ruptured; its load spills everywhere (what a striking contrast: the heat of the steel mill and the ice-cold nitrogen), freezing the T-1000. This is of little use; only a little later he reassembles to his original form and chases after our fighters. After a longer fight between the Cyborgs, the cold, blue-eyed T-1000 falls into a vat filled with molten steel, which means the end of him. The T-1000 himself is “terminated,” and the story ends positively.
While the first Terminator-movie was compact and heterogeneous, the sequel appears – on a purely emotional level – a bit loose. The casting also displays one weakness: The young Edward Furlong gives the impression of a typical second-born (rebellious and recalcitrant, rather emotional than rigidly hostile), but the character of John Connor is a first-born. This, however, does not have any adverse effect on the entertainment aspect. Overall, the movie won four Oscars, for example, for sound/ sound editing and special effects. The soundtrack is of quality worth referring to and, even on its own, it has a great entertainment value. Besides the brilliant T-1000 motifs, the synth-sound (copied many times) composed by Brad Fiedel fits perfectly. Some of the highlights of the music are the action cues “I´ll be back", “Sarah on the Run" und “Helicopter Chase." By employing synthetics and a particular style, which lend the score an original “semi-organic” touch, Fiedel created a compatible music that fits the T-1000 like a glove. “I´ll be back,” in particular, is able to subtly build up tension with a sure hand. At the beginning, it is still slow and exploring, but soon it grows in motifs and tempo. With a crescendo of contrabass figures and shrill, screechy sounds, which are reminiscent of bursting valves, dramatic tension is built in order to accompany the T-1000 when he penetrates a helicopter that is hovering in the air. “Sarah on the Run” comes along more perfidiously, with reverb and original chirp sounds, which also emphasize the sterile atmosphere of the hospital. “Desert Suite” and “Our Gang goes to Cyberdyne” include quieter moments that are guaranteed to be played over and over again. Fiedel´s score has been copied many times, for example, in the movie Critical Mass, but these copies never live up to its original; here, not only Fiedel´s music was imitated but also whole scenes from T2 were lifted (and I don’t talk about them being adapted, but the original T2-footage was used).
Overall, James Cameron delivered another intelligent movie, which is thoroughly entertaining, and has found its supporters worldwide. The weaknesses regarding the casting and some emotional dissonance are negligible. Terminator 2: Judgment Day tells the story of the total failure of scientific systems. Computer technology and medicine can play nasty tricks on us and obstruct our view onto the essential parts of life. Illusion dominates, truth is ignored and remains misunderstood (in the movie: Sarah Connor tells the truth and the practitioners with their fixation on a mono-causal mindset are unable to understand and act appropriately on this).
- This special is dedicated to all the people that suffer from the effects of toxic dental materials used on them by their dentist. -
Für die Übersetzung bedankt sich der Autor bei Frau Isabel Seidel, M.A.
Oliver M. Strate, 26.12.2007
Details zum Soundtrack
II. Die Musik
III. Die Alben