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4K flaws aside, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" still thrills

Updated: Jun 21, 2023


Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes a protector to the young John Conner (Eddie Furlong).

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy, 1991, R for sci-fi violence and language; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “T2: Reprogramming the Terminator” with new interviews with writer/director James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger

HERE WE go again!

James Cameron’s sci-fi classic “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” has got to be the biggest blunder in home video history. During its early years on DVD, it held the record for the most double-dipping of any release within the format. In 2009, with its Blu-ray premiere, it was plagued with digital scrubbing (Digital Noise Reduction), removing all signs of its original 35mm film grain, which caused the actors’ faces to be waxy and without detail.

And, with its new 4K Ultra HD release (Theatrical Cut) from Lionsgate and Studio Canal – DNR has seemingly reared its ugly head again. A firestorm of online chatter popped when the 4K arrived in Europe, earlier in the fall before its U.S. release, revealing its shortcomings. Some called “T2” cursed, and wonder if it would ever get a definitive home release with a perfect picture and sound. Surprisingly, Cameron supervised its 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative, which became the base for its 3D release in theaters last summer.

On the plus side, the 4K resolution preserves a level of clarity missing on previous editions, including the new Blu-ray. In some scenes, the DNR was kept to a minimum, giving acceptable facial detail to Linda Hamilton, as freedom fighter Sarah Connor. The color grading is much more refined, as Director of Photography Adam Greenberg (who is 80 now) joined the remastering team – working tirelessly to get the colors just right, and it shows. The natural facial toning and the expansive HDR black levels are deeper and bolder, and the highlights are brighter and more striking.

(1) A terminator during the opening battle sequence. (2) Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid $15 million to return as the T-800 Terminator.


But, with the absence of the natural film grain, “T2” gives off a non-organic cinematic feel. It’s evident with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (paid $15 million to return as the T-800 Terminator) polished face, giving the impression Cameron captured “T2” on modern day digital cameras.

Was this a revisionist slip-up, or a calculated decision from Cameron?

The Blu-ray features three different versions: The Theatrical Cut, sourced from the new 4K master; the Special Edition; and Extended Edition, which is seamlessly inserted, but sourced from old 2K masters with visible film grain. The quality bounces back and forth in sharpness, contrast levels, and color toning. Not an ideal solution.

The Blu-ray also includes new interviews, in which Cameron admits he didn’t have the rights to do a “T2” sequel, since Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures had snapped them up. Kassar called Cameron in 1989, to see if he wanted to return, “making a very credible offer, which got my attention,” said the director. Cameron was paid $6 million for writing and directing, which made “T2” the first movie made for over $100 million. The 4K and Blu-ray both feature the active 6-channel DTS-HD soundtrack that won Oscars for Best Sound and Sound Effects as the explosions, bullets, and crashes bounce throughout the room.

Cameron recalls how the seed of “T2” had already been embedded into the original “Terminator” (1984) storyline: “You’ve got a future war, and you’ve got this mythic character, John Connor, who saves the human race and leads the resistance.” Cameron purposely avoided the epic heroic story of John Connor on the battlefield. “Let’s see the guy at the age of 10,” says Cameron, “with his mother telling him he’s going to be this war Messiah of the future.”

(1) Linda Hamilton who plays Sarah Conner finds herself in a state mental hospital. (2) T-800 Terminator is trying to protect John Conner for the more advance T-1000 Terminator, whose on a mission to kill Connor. (3) Freedom fighter Sarah Connor. (4) Joe Morton plays Cyberdyne Systems engineer Miles Dyson.


Three commentaries, which have previously appeared on multiple releases, are also included on this Blu-ray. The track with Cameron and co-writer William Wisher (dating back to the early ‘90s laserdisc) is the best. They discuss the scriptwriting, story development, and how casting director Mali Finn discovered Eddie Furlong (John Connor) at the tender age of 13, standing outside the Pasadena YMCA. It’s much better than the messy one featuring 23 members of the cast and crew edited together from various behind-the-scenes interviews.

“T2” is still a great throwback watch, even though Cameron has dialed the controls in a seemingly wrong direction. I guess we're guaranteed at least one more 4K to fix this blunder.

- Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch, producer

Robert Patrick plays the T-1000 Terminator.





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