My first experience of Terminator 2: Judgment Day was on a 12-inch television on VHS. It was cropped to 4:3 for the TV station my Father had recorded it from and the tracking on the video player wasn’t properly collaborated so the top inch of the image wobbled and warped diagonally. I was eight years old as John Connor, the coolest kid I’d ever seen, rocketed through the LA aqueducts, pursued by Robert Patrick’s terrifying T-1000 in its stolen lorry, programmed to eradicate him from existence. Hot on their tails, atop the greatest Harley anyone on earth had seen or has ever seen since, was Him. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101. My own personal Jesus Christ. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I can say quite confidently that as I observed the T-1000 calmly emerging from the flaming wreckage of the mangled truck I had the closest thing to a spiritual experience an eight year old could without sugar and as my tiny mind was blown from the confines of its child-sized skull, I knew I would never be the same. Now, on August 29th 2017, 20 years after the bombs should have fallen on the fated Judgment Day, ending 3 billion human lives and heralding the rise of the machines, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is back.
The project was initiated by James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, T23D is an endeavour to produce a 3D cinematic experience comparable to that of modern action movies. “This 3D conversion will create a whole new immersive viewing experience” says Cameron. The process took almost a year, the first step being a full 4K restoration at Deluxe LA. The calibration was supervised by Skip Kimball, the colourist of Avatar and Gladiator fame, by referencing the best 35mm prints from T2‘s initial release. The 3D conversion was undertaken by Stereo D, whose notable work includes The Force Awakens and War for the Planet of the Apes before getting one final check and calibration by Kimball and Cameron.
I should come clean right about now and say that on most days, I’m not a fan of 3D. It’s not that I’m against 3D, far from it. The notion that filmmakers can explore an extra dimension in storytelling is a fascinating concept and I have no doubt that as technology improves and our interactive capabilities develop, many great works of 3D cinema will emerge. It is simply that at the moment, I enjoy the 2D version better most of the time. I have found 3D prints to be darker on occasion and desaturated. I am more aware of computed generated imagery, out of focus corners or imperfect projections. These little niggles end up commanding my attention more than the film itself and the 3D becomes more of an irritant than an immersion. I managed about seven minutes of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace 3D before walking out in an absolute rage.
But Terminator 2: Judgment Day is no Phantom Menace. Cameron, no Lucas. And where in some cases the conversion to 3D can only magnify the shortcomings of substandard filmmaking, it can in others cases illuminate and magnify excellence.
This is where Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D shines.
T23D is by far the best 3D movie I’ve seen outside of IMAX for two main reasons. 3D is only as good as it is. Just because Iron Man get’s a few new shiny suits with greater pixel depth, it doesn’t mean that the 3D virtues of your local multiplex is any better. The other reason is that T2 is of true cinematic quality. Made in a time before the CGI repair bill became a mainstay, it’s the attention to detail that’s responsible for T23D succeeding where so many others fail. It doesn’t rely on 3D to sell a new gimmick. Rather, the 3D is used to better define what has been there since they rolled camera on day one.
T23D champions the monumental work of art departments, stunt performers, visual effects coordinators, stunt drivers, helicopter pilots, long take shot specialists, make up artists, model makers, set builders, the list goes on. This new clarity and depth puts the work of the normally overlooked on full display. Action set-pieces are beautifully renewed. The car chase sequence pre-liquid nitrogen is truly jaw-dropping. It took me a minute to remember that this film was released 16 years ago. It hasn’t aged a day.
In a word, it’s depth. Depth is what made T2 exceptional. And while the 3D conversion doesn’t make the lenses the camera team used any wider, it certainly delivers us an image that is deeper and textured. Previously out of focus backgrounds are given more detail. The steel works for example, a once large and foreboding location, is now cavernous. Like the inside of a volcano. Sparks bounce off the floor, the molten metal drips like lava and your mind begins to race as the child-like wonder beings to regain its power. The nuclear-explosion at the playground has lost none of it’s impact. In fact, it was even more shocking here than it was when I first saw it, due also in part to the incredible searing soundscape.
Simply put, Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D is great because T2 is great. It is the finest action movie of all-time. An astounding technological achievement in its day, it’s staggering that it is as fresh now as it ever was. It leaves all of it’s modern counterparts wanting and is testament to what real filmmaking can be capable of when immense teams comes together to create magic. For this, T2 will endure and inspire for decades, if not centuries to come.
A spectacular achievement, the best 3D film I have seen in a cinema and still the greatest work of action cinema to date.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY 3D only in cinemas 29th August, book tickets now: http://www.terminator2-3d