Features and Columns · Movies

42 Things We Learned From the ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ Commentary

We explore the wisdom of James Cameron as it can be gleaned from the Terminator 2 DVD commentary.
Terminator 2: Sarah Connor
20th Century Fox
By  · Published on September 7th, 2012

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Kate Erbland revisits James Cameron’s commentary track for Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Well, it’s the beginning of September, and the Summer days of giant robots and even bigger explosions is now behind us. We here at Film School Rejects don’t want the Summer movie season to be over just yet, so we’re going back to one of the biggest Summer movies of our collective childhood for this week’s Commentary Commentary. The master of giant budget films, James Cameron, is just the person to take us back, too.

This week, we’re going into Cameron’s mind to see what he has to say about Terminator 2: Judgment Day, not the director’s biggest movie but definitely the blockbuster that put him on the Summer map. Even better, it features Arnold Schwarzenegger in his least expendable role yet. Let’s not forget the quips, either. So say, “Hasta la vista, baby,” to the intro and let’s get into the good stuff. Here they are, all 42 things we learned listening to James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher talk about Terminator 2.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

commentators: James Cameron (writer, director), William Wisher Jr. (co-writer)

Best in Commentary

“The subtext of both Terminator films is the idea of nuclear destruction, and what are we gonna do about that. Is technology going to overwhelm us, or are we going to take control of it? Obviously, the core concept is fate versus free will and are we able to be the architects of our own destiny.” -James Cameron

“It’s the nuclear, nightmarish family from hell.” -William Wisher Jr. regarding the three, main characters

“I think I approached this when we began, at some point, it occurred to me that what we were doing here was It’s a Wonderful Life with guns.” -William Wisher Jr.

“The first film was about the evil guys in the future deciding that they could change their reality by killing one person in the past, and in this film, Sarah realizes she could change the future that she has lived in her mind for so long by killing one guy in the present.” -James Cameron

Final Thoughts

Terminator 2: Judgment Day isn’t the first James Cameron commentary we’ve covered in this column, but it’s definitely our second indication that any commentary track where the mega-budget director appears is sure to be a memorable one. The commentary here, along with co-writer William Wisher Jr, is packed with information and insight into how this milestone in Summer entertainment came to be. It’s the kind of film that could surely fill a dozen, separate commentary tracks with different information, but Cameron and Wisher Jr. do a great job loading this one down just fine.

There’s little fat on this track and dead air doesn’t even exist here. Cameron and Wisher Jr. keep at it, moving from subject to subject and providing nonstop details about everything involved in the film. Even over the end credits, they continue the discussion without even appearing to take a breath of air. The commentary track for Terminator 2 has to be considered one of the best just in terms of sheer velocity with which the information comes. Leave it to Cameron to make something as epic as Terminator 2 even more epic by gabbing about it.

Related Topics: , ,