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4K UHD Review: James Cameron’s ‘Terminator 2’ Is Almost the Upgrade Fans Need

Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The title basically reviews itself.

Back in 1991, James Cameron changed the game — most importantly in his use of CGI — to deliver one of the best action films, and one of the best sequels, ever. With the two main characters returning — Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — Cameron delighted fans, critics, and a whole new audience.

In this day and age, sequels can be a bad idea when it’s been too long since the first. But with a way bigger budget and a slew of new filmmaking tools, T2 wound up being the sequel we didn’t know we deserved. It still holds up while being possibly even scarier now than it was 26 years ago. It’s also now being released with a 4K upgrade that might not be as good as it should, but is definitely the upgrade it was needing.

Lionsgate chases greatness in the 4K realm, but never reaches the heights it should. Whether it was Cameron or Lionsgate’s fault is up for debate. The 4K transfer was created for a 3D re-release (the same thing Universal did with Jurassic Park). Framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and presented in native 4K at 2160p, the first thing you’ll notice is that the film has been scrubbed of all grain from top to bottom. Most videophiles will be instantly put off — as we should be — but it also hasn’t been denoised to oblivion.

I’m not sure if they redid the transfer, but early reviews for this 4K transfer were not kind. It was said to have been every bit as bad as Fox’s butchering of Predator, but no, this is absolutely not the case. The DNR on hand is more akin to what Cameron did with Aliens. Faces still reveal every pocket, pore, and peach fuzz — when not in soft focus — with costumes and props revealing lots of fine detail. No one ever looks like they’re made of plastic.

If anything, the 4K actually calls attention to the then Oscar-winning breakthrough CGI that doesn’t quite hold up. Be that as it may, it still blends in with Cameron’s use of practical effects, something I don’t think he knows still exists. Blacks are solid and contrast — thanks to the help of a new HDR palette — is completely natural and looks better than the film ever has before. The best scenes are those taking place during the day. When the pack is out in the desert there’s a huge boost in detail and clarity with some shots as stunning as I wish the whole film was.

As if the transfer wasn’t wishy washy to begin with, Lionsgate has opted to keep the original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. While the extra disc space helps give it a little more oomph, it sounds awfully generic — and a little tinny — compared to what a new Dolby Atmos or DTS:X track could provide. At least directionality and prioritization is better than average and dialogue is always clean. There is a 7.1 German DTS-HD track. The only other audio option is a French 5.1 with subtitles available in English, French, and German.

There are only two new special features available. While everything else has been ported over from previous Blu-ray releases, there is a 55 minute retrospective called “Reprogramming” that is in-depth and surprisingly candid. The other special feature is the included Blu-ray which comes from the new 4K scan. So for those who don’t have 4K, at least there’s a new Blu-ray disc included. Something Disney/Warner Bros. should have highly considered with the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.

As for the rest, the following features have been included: “The Making of T2” (30:54), “Deleted Scenes” (3:18), “Trailers” (6:33), “23 Members of Cast and Crew Commentary,” and “Director James Cameron and Co-Writer William Wisher Commentary.” The Theatrical (137 mins), Special Edition (153 mins), and Extended Special Edition Versions (155 mins) are also included on the Blu-ray via seamless branching. Only the theatrical cut is in 4K.

T2 still holds up today and continues to provide viewers a breathtaking and thrilling romp that one-ups the original classic to become an even bigger classic. With CGI moments that still look better than some of today’s this is one of the landmark effects films of the ’90s that sits right alongside Jurassic Park in importance. While Edward Furlong continues to be the whiny and annoying flavor-of-the-week he always was, Schwarzenegger manages to elevate his Terminator’s character and Linda Hamilton continues to shine as a badass.

The 4K transfer may leave a lot to be desired, but aside from a whole new overhaul/restoration, this may be as good as it gets for now. Take that as you want. I highly recommend the new presentation as it’s the best I’ve ever seen the film look on home video. While it doesn’t sound as good as it can, at least the video finally got upgraded — caveats be damned. Fans won’t be thoroughly satisfied, but this definitely whets your whistle.

About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival and a member of the Utah Film Critics Association.

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