In the decades since it originally premiered in 1991, James Cameron's classic sci-fi actioner Terminator 2: Judgment Day has seeped itself into our cultural pantheon and the collective unconscious, and it remains as entertaining as ever. The film arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray with the same somewhat average but ultimately disappointing 4K HDR10 presentation as before, an excellent DTS-HD MA soundtrack and the same set of bonus features, but the limited edition EndoArm collector's set makes the overall package Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the European releases of the 4K Ultra HD HERE and the 3D Blu-ray HERE. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, Exclusives and Final Thoughts sections.
What more could be said of what is widely hailed as one of the greatest action movies of all time and almost universally considered the best sequel ever made? In the decades since it originally premiered in 1991, James Cameron's classic sci-fi actioner Terminator 2: Judgment Day has seeped itself into our cultural pantheon and the collective unconscious. Even if the unacquainted had never seen this masterfully entertaining film, young moviegoers have heard of it and are somehow familiar with its time-traveling plot. Some also know it stars action-legend Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular killing machine sent from the future to protect a boy (Edward Furlong) destined to be someone of great importance. And, along with Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, it should also always be remembered as marking the beginning of the groundbreaking years in computer-generated imagery, heralding what would soon become a common practice in visual special effects and photography. After twenty-five years, it's surprising to see much of the work done back then remains as striking and fascinating as when I first experienced them in cinemas.
The production's continued success — the reason why the film endures after nearly four decades and why those CG effects still prevail as seamlessly as they do — is a plot driven by its characters and the unbeatable circumstances surrounding them. It is ultimately an engrossing story about a rebellious adolescent confronting a hostile, unsympathetic world and the sometimes-unbearable burden of the future weighing on his shoulders. Having come from the 80s era of "good consumer" and "living in excess" mindset, his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) is a darkly pessimistic cynic who sees a world on the brink of annihilation while John (Furlong) persists with some spark of optimism and a hope for humanity's future. Their contrasting personalities seem a fitting response to the period when a nation was about to transition from the Reagan-Bush era to the Clinton years. Uniting them is an unimaginable soul-crushing monster in the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a seemingly invincible machine standing in the way of a better future, a modern Frankenstein-type creation that even the almighty, powerful Schwarzenegger wearily struggles to defeat.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the 4K Ultra HD HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Terminator 2: Judgment Day to 4K Ultra HD as a Limited Collector's Edition EndoArm set. The arm is made of hard plastic material that looks like clean, shiny steel and enclosed by a sturdy clear-plastic case sitting atop a hardier thick base the film's title engraved across it. Beneath the case, the set is numbered, and it comes with James Cameron's signature. The whole thing stands just under twenty-one inches and looks absolutely beautiful.
The included UHD package is the same two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy, which can be redeemed via movieredeem.com or through VUDU but only the Theatrical Cut is available in HD SDR and HDX. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-vortex case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The dearly beloved action sci-fi sequel lands on Ultra HD with the same identical HEVC H.265 encode seen in the previous UHD release by Lionsgate. Literally, this is the exact same copy with an identical menu screen and the same white-text screen at the start informing viewers that the French-based studio conducted the 3D remaster. And since James Cameron reportedly supervised and approved this new 4K digital intermediate, this means fans must endure the same overzealous tinkering and digital manipulation. As mentioned in my previous reviews, the DNR may not be Predator levels of atrocity, but it is nonetheless bad and disheartening for an action classic, and there are also several instances of aliasing and moiré effects along the sharpest edges and in light fixtures.
For those more forgiving, the 2160p video delivers a decidedly step up over its most recent Blu-ray counterpart. Ignoring a few softer, poorly-resolved moments related to the original photography, viewers can better make out the tiniest stitch and wrinkle in Schwarzenegger's leather jacket while individual hairs in the T-1000's perfectly combed haircut are always distinct. When the blatant use of DNR is not an issue, facial complexions appear natural with lifelike textures, exposing the most trifling blemish and pore. While it may not be one of the stronger HDR presentations, overall contrast shows some appreciable improvement with brighter, cleaner whites, but there are also a few spots of blooming ruining the finer details. Specular highlights, however, are tighter, providing a realistic glow on metal objects and light fixtures. The bigger upgrade is the brightness levels, delivering rich, midnight blacks, providing the 2.40:1 image with a welcomed cinematic touch and exceptional shadow detail. Colors also benefit somewhat, with primaries, at times, looking well-saturated and natural while at others, seeming dull and plain. Secondary hues fare a bit better and with more variation in the palette, providing some extraordinary detailing within the orange flames of explosions, but skin tones often appear flushed and pale, as though completely drained of color.
Despite these few positives sprinkled throughout, a majority of the 4K presentation lacks warmth and often feels flat. And this is related to the original color timing having been changed to a steelier blue and the ever-popular orange-teal ugliness. Cameron made a similar change to Aliens, but it doesn't feel nearly as dramatic and unattractive as seen here. All in all, I imagine purists and cinephiles will find this video presentation a travesty while the more forgiving fans will enjoy and possibly even applaud the results.
The same remastered lossless audio options enjoyed on the previous releases are also offered on this 4K Ultra HD disc — a pair of highly enjoyable and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks, one in the original English while the other in French, and a third German DTS-HD 7.1 track.
For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read our review of the 4K Ultra HD HERE.
All the same bonus material has been ported over and can be enjoyed on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, which also features the Theatrical, Special Edition and Extended Special Edition versions of the movie via seamless branching. For more details, read our review HERE.
Reprogramming (HD, 55 min): a brand-new documentary that is surprisingly candid, exhaustive and informative with recent cast & crew interviews reminiscing about the plot, production, and the film's legacy.
The Blu-ray copy. Since there hasn't been any word of a standalone Blu-ray release of the new 4K remaster, we can consider the second disc an exclusive to this Ultra HD package. And as mentioned in my review of the 2D version seen in the U.K. import, the epic battle for the future erupts with a good-looking but slightly problematic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, struck from the same 4K remaster as the disappointing HDR presentation. The HD SDR presentation suffers from the same digital manipulation and noise reduction, sometimes very light and forgivable while at other times, excessive and horribly distracting. While it may not be the worse we've seen, it is nonetheless bad and disheartening for an action classic, plagued with several instances of aliasing and moiré effects.
Overlooking this disappointing aspect, however, the video delivers sharp, resolute definition, showing great detailing in the clothing, animatronics, and various practical effects. Interestingly, when watching the "Extended Special Edition," which inserts the untouched, "as-is" deleted sequences into this new presentation via seamless branching, owners have the opportunity to compare the differences and perhaps even imagine what could've been without DNR. Overall, this new 1080p transfer easily out-classes the previous 2015 release in terms of definition and resolution by a significant margin, making it the best the dearly beloved action sci-fi sequel has ever looked on any format.
The 2.35:1 image displays crisp, generally spot-on contrast with relatively clean and brilliant whites, but there are times when it falls flat, possibly related to the change in the original color timing to the orange-teal palette. Again, when watching the "Extended Special Edition," owners can compare the difference of the original warmer look in Adam Greenberg's photography versus this colder exhibition approved by Cameron. Colors seem slightly affected by the change, but primaries remain accurately rendered and a tad richer, though faces sometimes appear flushed and pale on occasion. The biggest improvement is the rich, midnight blacks providing a lovely cinematic appeal, and shadow detailing remains strong.
James Cameron's classic sci-fi actioner Terminator 2: Judgment Day is widely hailed as one of the greatest action movies of all time and universally considered one of the best sequels ever made. Added to that, the film's legacy and lasting impact marked the beginning of the groundbreaking years in computer-generated imagery, heralding what would soon become a common practice in visual special effects and photography.
Arriving on Ultra HD Blu-ray as a Limited Collector's Edition EndoArm set, the classic film fights for the future with the same somewhat average but ultimately disappointing 4K presentation seen in the previous release, offering only a minor improvement over its Blu-ray counterpart. The same set of DTS-HD MA lossless mixes are also ported over and don't really sound that much different than what's already been heard on previous home video editions. The same set of supplements, including a brand-new retrospective, are joined by a standard Blu-ray SDR copy that's exclusive to the UHD. In spite of the small disappointments, the limited collector's package is highly recommended for loyal fans willing to forgive the HDR transfer's shortcomings.