While writing the blog-post for Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “life story” I was filled with nostalgia about the time I’d gotten to see a “sneak premier” of the film, T2, weeks before its proper cinematic release. I thought, while reviewing his book that it was a shame that I’d not remembered this before as I could have taken part in mistylayne and Andy’s
Nostalgiathon 2012. But even though I missed the metaphorical boat for their project together, I thought the least I could do was give their sites and the project a mention and a link.
In 1991, I lived two doors down from a young engaged couple. In a few years, with a great recommendation from the young lady I got a job where she worked delivering papers. Her fiancé Donald was a local government agency employee. He was a bit of a “Jack-the-lad” character; full of energy, good humour and a hazy sense of morality.
One day he came round the house where I was cutting the grass or painting the front of the house (I don’t remember which). He was grinning from ear to ear and so full of excitement he was practically dancing.
“Do you like Arnold Schwarzenegger?” He was sort of hopping in place while he asked the question. I stopped whatever it was that I was doing and replied in the affirmative.
“How,” He paused for dramatic effect, “Would you like to see his latest film?”
“Sure,” I said it so fast that he almost had not stopped speaking yet. “What is it?”
Donald’s grin got even wider, “It’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, mate!” His energy level shot up even further. “The sequel to The Terminator, innit!” He stopped suddenly. “You have seen the original Terminator, haven’t you? Please tell me you’ve seen it mate.”
I replied that I had and that I’d loved it.
That set Donald off again in another paroxysm of joy. “Great! How would you like to see it two weeks earlier than anyone else in the country?”
“How’d you pull that one off?” I asked.
“Easy mate, I entered a competition and won two special preview tickets to the Odeon’s showing of the film. Since it’s a preview there are a limited amount of tickets and I got two!”
I thought for a minute. “What about Nola?” Nola was his fiancée and they lived together. “Won’t she want to go?”
“No mate, she can’t stand Arnie! I was a bit lost because here I had these great tickets and was going to wind up seeing the film on me own. Bit of a downer; then I thought of you and the fact that you like Predator and Commando and I thought, ‘yeah! Smithy will go with me to see it!”
We were both excited now. I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages and now I was going to see what was promising to be the cinema event of the year.
On the day of the preview Donald and I went together to the Odeon with our “prepaid” tickets. We joined the queue of people who had purchased their tickets already and waited to get in.
*Just a side note about English cinemas “back in the day” and how they worked. When I first got to the United Kingdom, you could still smoke in the movie theatre. You had a smoking side and a non-smoking side. You always knew which side was which because the smoking side had ashtrays attached to the seats. You also had to buy your tickets in advance. People would stop by the ticket sales window earlier in the day and buy their tickets. You would then come back and show your ticket to go in. Folks would get there early to go up to the “pub” in the cinema and have a pint or two or a short. You’d then head for the screen when the movie was about to start. You also had a young man or woman who stood down in front of the screen with a selection of sweets and bags of popcorn and sodas for sale. They would go away when the trailers started and the first feature (if there was one) and come back out before the main feature started. It was a lot different in those days, no multi-screen, just good old-fashioned huge screens; one or two if the cinema was bigger. I still remember watching Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in a tiny theatre in Thetford that put an intermission in the middle of the film where they came out and sold ice creams and so on. When the lights came up clouds of smoke hung up near the ceiling. In the late 80’s smoking started being banned in theatres although you could still smoke, you had to do it in a smoking room and you could listen to the film while you had your fag (cigarette). Probably the longest side note ever, my apologies.*
The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. Excited bubbly conversations whirled in the air and people discussed the first Terminator and how they couldn’t wait to see the sequel. A lot of “I’ll be back’s” were heard and delighted laughter over rode every other sound in the lobby. This level of excitement in an English movie theatre was unheard of back then. Movie goers fit the stereotype of quiet and reserved. If there was a funny scene in a film, reserved chuckling might be heard, if you strained to hear it. Loud American guffaws meant that a “yank” was watching the film with his American friends.
Low key reactions was (and still is too a large degree) the order of the day. Where in an American movie theatre, people will gasp loudly, shriek, scream, laugh loudly and hysterically and “boo” the screen. Movies in the states are more of a celebratory party rather than a civilized viewing of the feature.
Terminator 2 though brought a different type of English film fan. These guys were every bit as loud and as excited as their American counterparts.
When the film started, the audience applauded and cheered. When Arnie strides up to the bar owner to snatch his shotgun from him, the audience went nuts. The entire film was treated like the overblown spectacle it was. T2 was bigger than the first Terminator. It had a bigger budget, better effects, a totally kick-ass score, and not just one Terminator, but two. And Robert Patrick as the T-1000 knocked it so far out of the park that no-one, apart from the Schwarzenegger himself, could match his performance.
I saw grown men weep at the end of the film. I saw them through my own blurred vision as tears streamed unashamedly down my own cheeks. Donald and I both looked at each other, crying like little (as Arnold himself would say) girliemen, and we did a painful high-five. We both agreed that this was the best terminator film ever and that they would never top it.
Sad to say, we were both extremely accurate in our visionary prediction that the film would never be equalled or beaten. T3 was abysmal and T4? Well, this post is pretty long already if I wrote about everything that didn’t work in T4, I’d have to write it in instalments.
Every time I re-watch T2 I remember the excitement of that day and how the cinema audience went wild during the film. It is the only other film that I have watched in an English cinema where the audience (in tears yet) stood up and cheered when it had finished. *The only other film to elicit anywhere near the same type of response was J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek.*
As I left the cinema that day, I realised that the industry had gone around another corner, reached a new milestone. All because James Cameron was one helluva movie maker who had vision and the guts to put that vision on-screen; he broke a lot of records with T2 and changed the way films would be made from that point on.
He also, to a huge degree, changed the way that I viewed films.
- Redefining the movie watching experience (thehindu.com)
- 5 Rarely Seen Pictures from Terminator 2 (techeblog.com)
- Revealed: Horror queen Katharine Isabelle says she’s terrified of blood (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- ‘Terminator 5’: Apparently, It’s Still Happening (screencrave.com)
- CHRIS: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Cameron, US, 1991) (dirkmalcolm.wordpress.com)
- ‘Terminator 2’ crew members reveal how they created masterful special effects before CGI took over (theverge.com)
- Fans hand Hollywood record cash (stuff.co.nz)