In 1995, ten-year-old John Connor (Edward Furlong) is living in LA with his foster parents (Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley). His mother Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) had prepared him for his role as the future Resistance leader against Skynet, the AI that will bring about a nuclear holocaust soon, all but wiping out the human race. But Sarah is considered quite mad and has been imprisoned after trying to bomb a computer factory. From 2029, Skynet sends a T-1000 Terminator (Robert Patrick) back in time to kill John. It is made of liquid metal that allows it to take on any shape. It arrives in 1995, kills a cop, and assumes his form.
The future John Connor sends back a reprogrammed model T-101 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect his younger self. The two terminators confront John in a shopping mall. John and the T-101 escape together on a motorcycle. Afraid that the T-1000 will kill Sarah, John orders the T-101 to free her from the hospital. She has been training for years and is now powerfully built and cool as a cucumber under fire—a far cry from the party girl the story began with. At first, she tries to escape the T-101 when he shows up, but he defends her from the T-1000 and the hero trio escape in a police car.
Sarah learns that Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), a Cyberdyne engineer working on a new microprocessor, will be responsible for Skynet. Sarah collects weapons from an old friend and sets out for Mexico with John and the T-101 to hide, but she has a nightmare about Judgement Day and decides to kill Dyson. She attacks his home and wounds him but is unable to pull the trigger. The others show up to inform him of the future result of his work and find out that much of it was based on the damaged CPU and the right arm of the previous Terminator from 1984.
He helps them break into Cyberdyne and retrieve those items and set bombs to destroy the lab. The police storm the lab and fatally wound Dyson, but he sets off the explosives as he dies. While the others escape, the T-1000 pursues them to a steel mill. The T-101 is damaged and shut down, but it reboots itself and destroys the T-1000 in a vat of molten steel. John tosses the arm and the CPU into the vat, but the T-101 points out that it too must be destroyed. As John sobs, he has Sarah lower him into the molten steel. Sarah drives off into the night with John.
The movie was the result of two ideas: Schwarzenegger needed to become a hero instead of a villain, and Linda Hamilton wanted to be crazy. She trained for thirteen weeks to look that buff, three hours a day, six days a week. She lost twelve pounds on a dangerous no-fat diet and trained with an Israeli Commando with the perfect name of Uzi Gal for fight-scenes. Her twin sister Leslie Hamilton Gearren appeared with her when the T-1000 was impersonating Sarah. The movie had to wait for film technology to catch up with it. It was a roaring success and is still considered that rare thing—a superior sequel. It was the highest grossing movie of the year and won a Hugo, five Saturns, and four technical Oscars. It surpassed the original’s total gross in four days.
The T-1000 was an offshoot of the water tentacle in Cameron’s The Abyss. Robert Patrick imitated the head movements of the American Bald Eagle. Thirteen-year-old Edward Furlong was chosen from hundreds of candidates to play ten-year-old John Connor. The chase scene in the San Fernando Valley flood-control channel is considered one of the greatest ever. When they discovered the truck wouldn’t fit under the bridge, they arranged for the roof to be sliced off. Stan Winston and Industrial Light and Magic were largely responsible for the special effects. 25 man-years were spent on five minutes of CGI effects. The film was a box-office success of monstrous proportions and knocked down the reviewers like ten-pins. In 2006, it was listed as Number 33 in the Top 100 Films of All Time.
Robert Patrick had trained so well to run that he had to slow down to avoid catching up with Edward Furlong on his dirt-bike. The kid grew up so fast they had to change the pitch of his voice and make him stand in a hole because he was so tall by the end. He bonded with Schwarzenegger immediately because he had grown up without a father. Linda Hamilton cringed when Arnie gave the kid advice on women and said they were emotionally the same age. Arnold was paid about 21,000 dollars a word. Stan Winston’s nuclear holocaust was praised for its realism by the U.S. Federal Nuclear Testing Labs. In the opening sequence, there are three shots of the playground, representing Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and there are four horses.
The sound used for Arnie’s shotgun was that of two cannons. Linda Hamilton suffered hearing loss in a gun-battle. Arnold was injured by handling his gun with one hand and nearly knocked out Furlong with it a few times. In Brad Fiedel’s score, the percussion was a cast-iron frying pan. To save a few minutes, the studio tried to cut out the scene in which the naked T-101 confronted the patrons of a biker bar, demanding their clothes, but Schwarzenegger absolutely refused, saying, “Only a studio guy would cut a scene like that.” A female passerby somehow made it past all the trucks and cameras to walk into the bar and find Arnold in his boxers. He told her it was male stripper night. The biker bar scene was being filmed as Rodney King was being beaten up by the police across the street.