Audio Commentary Commentation: Terminator 2 : Judgement Day
*With the rise of DVD’s in the late 1990’s, one feature many promised with the addition of Special Features, was audio commentaries. These would often contain dialogue from the film’s crew, or even film historians.
In this category, I’ll discuss some of the audio commentary tracks that I feel are rather compelling, and end up being entertaining, in regards to the information provided, and what is being said.*
It was some time after its summer premiere in 1991, that I was able to watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day. As the years went by, it would be a film that would stick in the back of my head, both for its story, but also for the behind-the-scenes material.
With almost all the talk of the use of computer-generated imagery, the film also was one that combined multiple effects and story tricks. Whereas one scene you’d have a computer-generated T-1000 effect, the next shot would have a practical, on-set one, and given the way the scenes were shot, your mind didn’t realize it.
An impressive 2-disc set for Terminator 2 was released in the late 90’s, with plenty of supplementary material, but it was in the 2003 release of the T2 Extreme DVD Edition, that a first was given for a James Cameron film: the director himself, had sat down to record an audio commentary track!
Along with Cameron, was his co-writer, William Wisher, who traded comments and anecdotes with Cameron over the course of the entire film.
Though it should also be noted, that the version they comment on, is what is referred to as The Special Edition, which has almost all of the deleted scenes edited back into the film, except 2 (one of the T-1000 snooping in John’s room, and another showing an alternate non-Judgement Day future ending).
This commentary is pretty interesting, as well as a little fun. Cameron and Wisher reminisce about the past like a pair of old buddies, and that chummy feel makes the audio work well.
This column is intended to bring a few ‘choice’ comments to the public eye. Here are some that stand out (pared down from a couple dozen I had in mind!):
Arnold was more-than-happy to come back to play the iconic role of the Terminator, but Cameron tells how one stipulation, shocked the Austrian:
Cameron: I remember we had breakfast, and I said: “All right, here’s the deal: you don’t kill anybody in this film.”
He said,”But Jim, I’m ‘The Terminator,’ that’s what I do. I kick in the door with the machine gun. I kill people.”
I said, “Yeah, but you can’t kill anybody in this film it’s critical thematically, that you don’t.”
Then he started to negotiate. He said, “Well, all right. That’s fine. Once the boy tells me that I can’t kill people, that makes sense, but can’t I just kill some people before that?”
I said, “No, no, you don’t understand. You can’t kill anybody!”
He said, “It’s going to be terrible!”
I said, “No, it’ll work.”
Cameron got lucky that the concept worked out. The idea of a future death-machine becoming the subject of ‘a boy and his Terminator’ story, actually worked pretty well. In fact, it went over so well, that it was then re-used in Terminator 3, and also again in the newly-released Terminator: Genisys, .this time with a younger Sarah Connor being the recipient of a future-protector.
After the film came out, Cameron received an interesting letter. As Sarah’s nightmare plays out onscreen (with a nuclear weapon detonating over Los Angeles), he tells an intriguing tale regarding what was sent to him:
Cameron: I got the strangest letter once. It was from a group of scientists who worked at the Sandia Laboratories, which is one of the the nuclear laboratories, US laboratories. And they said:
“Thank you for Terminator 2. It is the most correct visual representation of the effects of a nuclear weapon ever put on film.”
And I thought, “Well, gee, that’s a really nice compliment, but the fact that this is accurate, is terrifying.”
Cameron often strives for a realism in his films, but it definitely seems a little scary, that the guys who build these things, were praising his accuracy in what would actually happen.
On the commentary, Cameron does mention how seeing the old A-bomb test films as a kid did influence him as a young child, and definitely influenced his thinking when he first started crafting the Terminator films.
Also at the time the commentary was being recorded, trailers had just come out for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a film wherein Cameron chose to not be involved. As he and Wisher were watching the film, the scene of Arnold’s “I’ll be back” line came up, leading Cameron to quip:
Cameron: What do you think? Does that sound better than, ‘she’ll be back?’
Though the commentary stays on track regarding T2, Cameron does give a few asides to the upcoming T3.
Cameron also has an eye and memory, for specific stunts, and points out a couple that seem rather natural, but were very risky (and almost cost the lives of several stunt-men). Talk of how digital (at the time of the audio commentary’s 2002 recording) could allow more dangerous stunts to be achieved, is compared in a few areas. One of the most notable, is in a wide-shot/one-take scene, that when one looks at what was done, is pretty fearless (and achieved by Arnold’s stunt-double, Peter Kent):
Cameron: Now this is a really dangerous stunt right here. I would never do this stunt now, with digital effects possible. He actually just does exactly what you see. There were no safety wires or anything. He just ran across the back of a pickup truck,and jumped on the hood of a semi.
Wisher: At about 40 miles an hour, it looked like.
Cameron: Yeah. Anything could’ve gone wrong there.
This is just one of several great moments that are mentioned. Another tells about how one of the helicopter pilots named Chuck Tamburro, flew a helicopter under an overpass…a move that the camera crew refused to shoot given how dangerous it was. Of course, when noone else would do it, Cameron found himself manning the camera rig for the scene.
For those of you that are into knowing how things are done, or learning behind-the-scenes material, the commentary that James Cameron and William Wisher give for Terminator 2, is one of the best I know of. I watch the film several times a year with the commentary track running, and it still never gets tiresome, listening to them talk over the film, and explain their working together on this landmark, 1991 action-drama.
After the Extreme DVD release in the early 2000’s, the audio commentary was ported over when the film made its debut on the Blu-Ray format, on the Terminator 2: Skynet Edition release. The release also contains a feature that gives little facts and anecdotes about the film as it plays, making it one of the best Special Editions of the Blu-Ray releases out there.
Of all the Terminator films, T2 is probably the only one that has an impressive array of behind-the-scenes material. One would almost wish that the same TLC could be applied to 1984’s Terminator film (I’d love to hear an audio commentary with Cameron, Wisher, as well as Cameron’s former wife/screenwriter, Gale Anne-Hurd).