In the year 2017, straight-up reviews of James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day don't really add much to the landscape. First unleashed back in 1991, the blockbuster is an agreed-upon modern classic, succeeding not only as a unique sequel, but also independently as an endlessly-impressive sci-fi action movie. That on the table, what's now changed is that the movie has been post-converted to 3D for re-release, and that's what we're here to analyze.
It was announced last summer that Terminator 2: Judgment Day was being digitally remastered in 3D to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, and now that version of the famed feature is finally ready to be shown to audiences on Friday, August 25th. Given James Cameron's close association with the 3D movie moment, expectations are crazy high -- so can the movie live up to them? Let's take a look and determine whether to 3D or not to 3D!
As a general rule, action movies make good fodder for 3D. Big moments are often captured in wide shot, which allows for tremendous depth of field, and any kind of projectiles are always fun for stereographers to play with. Terminator 2 fits this mold quite nicely, and as a bonus, it even has one of its largest sequences (the L.A. River chase) set during the day, allowing for greater brightness. The fact that it was made nearly three decades ago means that there aren't a ton of CGI elements that can be manipulated in the extra dimension, but Robert Patrick's T-1000 still looks fantastic.
This is always a tough category for re-releases, because for most movies, it deals with the question of whether or not particular titles were always intended to be released in 3D. Clearly, this was not the case for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which means that not every shot was planned to intentionally highlight the theatrical effect. That being said, this was not a slap-dash job done to coincide with a specific release date. It took a post-conversion team months of work to remaster the James Cameron movie, and that effort deserves recognition.
I went into my 3D screening of Terminator 2 expecting to be somewhat let down by the "Before The Window" aspect of the presentation, given that those elements usually require some of forethought on behalf of the director (for example, a shot of a character specifically firing a weapon at the screen). Color me surprised! While not having anything like CGI snow or ash to play with, the film does still find ways to reach out into the audience -- whether it's having Arnold Schwarzenegger's shotgun protrude from the frame, or just people having a conversation.
Given the emphasis that James Cameron has put on the depth aspect of 3D technology, I was actually modestly let down by the lack of it in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film definitely has its moments -- especially the war-torn 2029 featured at the start, and the famed apocalyptic nightmare sequence -- but the movie ultimately features so many close-ups that there aren't really enough sequences for the depth of the 3D to really amaze. Full disclosure, the screening theater I was in was small and didn't have stadium seating, meaning my angle wasn't fantastic, but I'm reporting on my experience!
Until engineers find a way to develop a way for theaters to project 3D without audiences needing to wear glasses, brightness will always be a factor in the presentation. And when it comes to a movie like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which has a lot of sequences set at night, it can be downright hazardous. Fortunately, well-made conversions factor this in, and Terminator 2 is a well-made conversion. While it's not perfect, the majority of sequences aren't muddied by the tinted glasses, making it perfectly watchable.
Lifting your glasses and watching the screen during a 3D movie can be a helpful way of gauging the quality of the effect, as intense embedded stereographic layers make the film basically unwatchable. As a general rule, the harder it is to watch, the better the 3D is. I lifted my glasses numerous times and during many different kinds of sequences while watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and I was left... whelmed. There is definitely distortion present, increasing more action-oriented scenes -- but I also didn't really get the sense that I would have the worst time in the world if my glasses broke mid-screening and I was stuck without them.
Bad 3D can do more than just bore you: it can leave you feeling physically ill. Without properly established focal points, a movie-goers eyes can start to wonder, and a side-effect from the extra dimension can be headaches and nausea. Some people are more sensitive than others, but I can say that I walked out of Terminator 2: Judgment Day feeling just as healthy as I did going in.