Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Artisan Entertainment
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Patrick, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Trailers and Teasers, Screenplay, Storyboards, Interviews and much more

For many months I have been following the development of Artisan Entertainment’s "Ultimate Edition" of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" as part of our extensive Production Diary, and although I knew much about the content of the disc and was familiar with most aspects of the release, it was still a very exciting moment when I finally held the finished version of this highly anticipated DVD in my hands. With its heavy-duty metal sleeve that holds a regular Amaray case and a 32-page booklet, the disc makes a very good impression from the first second you see it. But it’s not the cover we want to judge here, it is the content, and so, in eager anticipation, I sat down with this disc, well aware of the fact that it would most likely keep me occupied for many hours. It turned out to be 15 hours to be exact and if you think I am exaggerating, just wait until you own this disc and make your own way through the wealth of material and the different versions of the movie itself.

As we all know by now, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is the sequel to James Cameron’s highly successful independent movie "Terminator" with which he made a name for himself and for his main star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Heavy on the special effects and action sequences, but also presenting us with well-defined characters, the film soon became one of the most influential and ground-breaking movies of the early 90s. Giving this movie the deluxe treatment we get to witness on this DVD seems more than appropriate.

When the Terminator failed his mission to kill John Connor’s mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) in the original movie, the machines decided to send another Cyborg (Robert Patrick) back in time – this time to kill John (Edward Furlong) directly while he is still a child. Since John would become a major threat to them in the distant future they want to see him eradicated. But John himself, aware of the past knew this would happen and sends a modified Cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back in time to protect himself.
While Sarah is trying to break free from an asylum where she is held after her traumatic experience with the Terminator a few years before, John suddenly finds himself in mortal danger as the T-1000 closes in on his target. Based on liquid metal, this machine is practically indestructible and can take on almost any shape he wishes, and it seems that even the brute force of the Terminator can’t stop this walking death machine.

Soon it becomes obvious that the only way to secure a safe future for mankind, is not only to keep John alive, but also to make sure the scientist at Cyberdyne never get to make the ground-breaking discovery in processor technology that would eventually lead to the building of Skynet and the genocide of mankind when machines begin to think on their own and become self-aware.

Two different cuts of the movie are presented on this <$THX,THX>-certified DVD – actually there are three, but we’ll keep more detailed discussions about that undisclosed until some Easter Egg hunters have discovered it when the disc finally ships. The first cut is the movie’s theatrical version, running 137 minutes, while the second one is the Director’s Cut, clocking in at 152 minutes. Using DVD’s seamless branching capabilities, no disc changing is necessary when switching between these two versions. Simply select the version you wish to see from the disc’s main menu and off you go.
The film is presented in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> transfer that is absolutely clean and without a hint of dust, scratches or any other blemishes. The film’s intricate color scheme is perfectly reproduced with vivid hues that are vibrant and powerful. Never oversaturated, the color saturation of the presentation is perfect, creating an image that is practically leaping off the screen. Not a hint of noise or grain is visible in the presentation, even in the hardest of circumstances.
Blacks are very deep, but never lose definition, and give the picture a lot of depth. Highlights are bold, yet never overexposed, giving the movie a look that is extremely faithful to the film’s original theatrical presentation. I found that especially the warm desert tones and the film’s trademark blues came across superbly on this transfer without distortion, noise or bleeding. Added with the incredible level of detail found on this transfer and the utter lack of blemishes of any sort, you won’t believe your eyes when you get to see "Terminator 2" on this DVD. No compression artifact or other anomaly can be found on this release from Artisan Home Entertainment, making this one of the best looking DVDs in the market.

As expected, the same is true for the film’s audio presentation. For this DVD, the entire movie has been completely remixed by Gary Rydstrom himself. Using the original sound elements of the movie, Rydstrom created a multi-channel mix that is captivating and engaging. Most notable about the track is that it never feels like a re-mix as found on many other films, where surrounds are often used sparingly only, while the majority of the film is still firmly located in the front center. Not in this case. Rydstrom went to extremes and made sure the remix gives the film a whole new dimension. The surround usage is aggressive throughout, making phenomenal use of the format’s discrete channels, and since the film features a <$DD,Dolby Digital> ES as well as a <$DTS,DTS> ES audio track, it even contains supportive sound information for the center rear channel. Once again, this presentation is among the best I have heard and has reference quality. The frequency response is very wide throughout and without harshness. The bass extension is brutal to say the least, driving the explosions home as you would expect from a movie of this caliber, and the clear high ends give the film the right presence to get right in your face. Spatial integration is very good throughout with an incredible transparency.

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is obviously, how does the DTS track compare to the Dolby Digital version? Let me start by saying that they are both extremely impressive and shatter all inhibitions you may have had about either format. However, upon a direct comparison, the DTS track has a noticeably stronger bass extension and appears to have a finer delineated spatial resolution. It seems easier to exactly pinpoint the location of a sound source on the screen in the DTS version than when listening to the Dolby Digital track. Don’t get me wrong – these are minimal differences that are almost inaudible for the most part. A giant leap in quality from one version to the other is not there, but I found the DTS track to sound slightly more "natural" – for lack of a better description, really.

The DVD also contains an audio <$commentary,commentary track> with 26 cast and crew members. The track is highly informative and entertaining, and Artisan even added a dedicated subtitle track that tells you who is currently speaking. Given the large number of participants on this track this is a very helpful and welcome feature. Participants are also introduced by Van Ling throughout the track, who serves as a moderator for the most part of the commentary. Interestingly, the <$commentary,commentary track> has been arranged and edited so that it perfectly fits both, the theatrical cut of the movie as well as the Director’s Cut. Since it is scene-specific, in the theatrical version the parts of the commentary that cover the additional footage of the longer Director’s Cut are simply omitted.

With that I flipped over the disc to take a look at the second side of this monster of a DVD, only to be greeted by a wealth of bonus material that seemed endless. The disc contains three featurettes, all between 20 and 30 minutes in length. The first one is the official "Making Of" documentary that many of you may have caught on TV when the film was originally released in theaters. It is an insightful look at the film’s production with great, funny behind-the-scenes moments as well as a nice dissection of the film’s special effects.
The second featurette is "T2: More Than Meets The Eye" that first made audiences familiar with James Cameron’s Director’s Cut of the movie. Also featuring interesting behind-the-scenes footage, this documentary illustrates quite nicely the differences between the theatrical cut and the extended version. With explanations why scenes had been changed and removed for the theatrical release and how the structure of the film had the be changed in places to accommodate these cuts, this featurette is great to watch after you saw the Director’s Cut for the first time and want to see an analysis of the changes.
To top this DVD off, there is a great featurette on the making of the "T2: 3D" thrill-ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. James Cameron brought back almost the entire T2 cast to film new 3D footage that could be used for this action filled theme-park attraction, actually expanding on the story itself quite a bit. Combining filmed elements with a live-action stunt show, this featurette nicely illustrates the approach as well as the challenges this production faced – and solved! It is fascinating and you should definitely give it a look.

A separate section contains a plethora of trailers, including a large number of Japanese ones. Further down in the Cyberdyne building – which serves as the menu system on the release – you can find the film’s entire screenplay and storyboards, giving viewers the opportunity to directly compare how the film’s conception evolved into the final product. The screenplay has been laid out very legibly with a large font that makes it easy and rather comfortable to go through the 574 screen pages that make up the entire play by James Cameron and William Wisher.

"Interrogation Surveillance Archive" is a section that contains a number of very interesting video clips that take you behind the scenes, and into the mindset of the filmmakers. In a 1-minute clip for example, writer/director James Cameron and writer William Wisher share their thoughts working together on the script for the movie. In another one they discuss the actual process of their collaboration, while in a third one James Cameron discusses his approach to researching the project, and so on. All these segments are exceedingly interesting and add a lot of insight into the process and the intentions of the making of this movie.

One of the most amazing features on the disc can be found in a section called "Data Core" and you better be prepared to spend a lot of time with it before diving in. You can decide whether you want to go through this section from beginning to end, or you can select certain parts of it directly, depending on your level of interest in the subject matter. "Data Core" covers everything you ever wanted to know about "Terminator 2" and/or the production process of major motion pictures. In 50 separate segments "Data Core" covers everything from a general introduction of the story and the movie, all the way to a presentation of Merchandising articles associated with the movie, its international appeal and more. Step by step you learn how things were done on this project and in many video segments, coupled with a lot of text information, you will get the ultimate behind-the-scenes look, more detailed than any featurette could ever convey. The disc’s producer Van Ling made sure that the presentation of the materials in this section is always transparent, informative and understandable, never overwhelming the viewer with an uncontrolled flood of information. Concise, well arranged and sorted, the materials here are like an archive of everything "Terminator 2."

See for example how the cast went through their weapon’s training, learn about the casting of the movie and how Eddie Furlong almost didn’t make the pick, learn how the props and models for the movie were created and see them being put together. Location scouting, the sets, make-up, cinematography and countless other areas are covered in remarkable detail in this section. Whether you’re interested in the stunts, or a detailed discussion of the weapons used in the movie, want to learn more about the computer generated effects and the people behind them, or listen to composer Brad Fiedel as he explains his approach to the film’s memorable score, this is the most exhaustive collection of information on any movie I have ever seen. As a matter of fact, if you ever wanted a serious lesson in filmmaking without having to visit UCLA or other film schools, "Data Core" is your chance. In-depth, highly detailed and yet always interesting and exciting you don’t get a look behind the scenes like this every day. This is a step-by-step analysis of everything that goes into producing a major blockbuster movie and handling it once it has hit theaters.

Undoubtedly I have forgotten to mention some of the supplements found on this disc, as the content is just so rich. Artisan Home Entertainment and producer Van Ling have put a lot of effort into this release, and it shows quite clearly that they went the extra mile it takes to turn a great release into an outstanding one. I think no one with an appreciation for movies, the art of creating them, and the love for DVD can afford to miss this phenomenal disc. Technically sophisticated and flawless in its presentation, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is quite easily the best DVD in the market!

Direct comparison of Artisan’s original DVD release of the movie and the Ultimate Edition:
After the publication of our full review of the Ultimate Edition of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," many of you have been asking whether I would be so kind as to directly compare the first DVD release of the film with the new one. So here, upon popular request, is a comparison of the two. To start off, let me say that both versions look spectacular and that differences are only marginal and certainly only noticeable in a direct A/B comparison. Without the immediate reference of the other version I promise you they are virtually indistinguishable.

The most notable difference lies in the color reproduction. The new transfer has a noticeably better color saturation and delineation. The contrast has been adjusted and as a result the image has some more depth than in the original DVD release of the film. The original release also contained some occasional <$pixelation,pixelation> and mosquitoing artifacts, which are entirely gone in the new transfer. The new version of the movie is entirely without any signs of compression artifacting. In a number of scenes I also noticed that the new version was also visibly cleaner and without noise. However that comes at a price. Obviously some noise reduction has been applied to the new transfer on the Ultimate Edition, which gives the image a slightly softer look. However, while the original release may seem sharper, the sharpness, which was created by edge-enhancement, also came with some visible ringing artifacts in the original release.

To make a long story short, the differences between the two versions are so subtle that I can’t even offer an image with a direct A/B comparison because you won’t really see the differences. That’s how subtle they are! The new transfer offers the clearly superior version without any artifacting and with a slightly better color reproduction. In terms of the audio, the new soundtrack sounds slightly more expansive and features a noticeably better bass extension.