Released on July 3rd, 1991, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, had an estimated budget of 94 to 100 million USD. The film is a checkpoint in movie history as many considered it to be the beginning of special and visual effects. Have you ever watched a film and wondered, ‘How did they do that?’ Well, that is exactly the case with Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Following his low budget 1984 film The Terminator, Cameron had to wait until the Cannes Film Festival in 1990 in order to start hoping for the sequel. It was there that he handed the script to executive producer Mario Kassar.
When Kassar read the script, he didn’t even blink and promised Cameron a budget 100 times bigger than the one given for the first Terminator movie. His only condition was that the film had to be in the cinemas 14 months later.
Cameron and his team started shooting the ambitious script on October 8th 1990. Everything on the project was focused around the correct use of props, visual and special effects. From building miniature landscapes, to the disintegrating skeleton of Sarah Connor, everything was built to surpass the quality of CGI. The team used everything they could basically use. They even used Linda Hamilton’s twin sister in two scenes.
In one scene, they are rebooting the Terminator in an old factory. The camera moves around Linda Hamilton, through the mirror, while the actors sit in front of it. It turns out that instead of a mirror, they made a hole on the wall. On the other side of the wall stands Linda’s sister. Instead of Schwarzenegger they built a life size doll of him. The other scene where they use her is in the final battle, where we see two Sarah Connors.
One of the studios in charge of the mammoth task to bring T2 to the cinemas is Stan Wiston’s Studio. They had to construct a number of cable-controlled puppets for the needs of the film. Also, they had to blow up a whole building near silicon valley for one of the scenes. A number of dolls were also modelled for the scenes where T-1000’s head splits open, or his body is deformed from shotgun shots and grenades.
There are no tricks really in the way that Cameron’s team achieved the action in the film. This is what makes T2 a pioneer of visual effects and such an important movie. Similar scenes to the T2 are common today, but its action is still thrilling.
The film sends somewhat mixed messages though, with its horrific images of nuclear extinction and the T-800’s morality by the end. It manages to mix with indulgent violence and a reverence for firearms. “I think of T2 as a violent movie about world peace,” Cameron paradoxically stated. “It’s an action movie about the value of human life.”
Assistant VFX supervisor Mark Dippé said about the film: “We were pushing the limits of everything – the amount of disc space we had, the amount of memory we had in the computers, the amount of CPUs we had. Each shot, even though it only lasted about five seconds on the screen, typically would take about eight weeks to complete.”
T2 has a huge legacy in the history of cinema. It is fair. We can draw a straight line from T2, to Jurassic Park, to Avatar. If we see the film in this aspect, we better understand its importance.