Jun 28, 2011

Terminator 2: twenty years old this week

"Genuine revolutions come in two installments, with first the boy wonders — the Dantons, the Trotskys, the Spielbergs — to be followed, a few years later, by a much steelier strategist: a Napoleon, a Lenin, the man who would be king of the world. For all his tech-head savvy and SFX wonkery, don't overlook the stroke of genuine genius that was the casting of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2. Almost any other director would have come up with a Terminator that was bigger than Arnold—heftier, more hi-tech—but Cameron tacked the other way, devising a slim, sinuous shape-shifter, a "porsche" to Arnie's Panzer. What makes T2 such eerie viewing now is seeing how accurately it foreshadows the very real threat America would face on 9/11, a cellular, hydra-headed demon who absorbs every punch, its molecules scattering before regrouping again, deploying the sheer might of its attackers against them. Don't forget that when Cameron was five, he saw the United States invade Vietnam, and was 21 by the time they extricated themselves. This meant that during his teenage years – his formative years as a filmmaker, when his head bloomed space battles and blue people – Cameron witnessed the long, slow defeat of the giant who lived next door. It made a big impression, instilling in him a curious political mixture, the leanings of a liberal trapped inside the titanium exoskeleton of a hawk – or as Colonel Quaritch says in Avatar: "A marine inside a Na'vi body. That's a potent mix." It is this feel for the dynamics of an asymmetric fight, his interest in how small forces defeat larger ones, that lends Cameron's films their punch. How the mighty fall is his big theme, from The Terminator right through to Titanic, and it is a million miles distant from the top-heavy bravado of a Michael Bay film, or the infinite regress of the Wachowskis'Matrix trilogy, whose godlike opponents were so equally matched that there was no reason, beside audience boredom, for the movies ever to end."
excerpted from my book Blockbuster How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer

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