4K UltraHD Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

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Director James Cameron's 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day managed to accomplish that rarest of cinematic feats: it eclipsed the original 1984 classic in terms of popularity and enduring fan appeal. As big a star as Arnold Schwarzenegger was prior to the release of T2, his second turn in his signature role sent him straight into the stratosphere. The film became a full-on pop culture phenomenon. I'll never forget seeing it in theaters opening weekend and hearing thunderous applause greet Arnie's name as it appeared it in the opening credits. Now that's stardom.

T2 has appeared on every conceivable form of home video since the days of VHS tape and laserdiscs, so it was only a matter of time before it arrived on the latest and greatest, 4K UltraHD. The film hit the 2160p format back at the tail end of 2017. But the big news is that Lionsgate has now, as of July 17, 2018, issued what is inarguably the coolest reissue Judgment Day has ever received: the Exclusive Terminator EndoArm Package, which is now available for an admittedly 'collector's-only' retail price of $174.99. Keep in mind, quite understandably we did NOT receive sample product of this special set—as a Terminator fan, I can only salivate over the photos and imagine how neat this would look on alongside my BD collection. 
 
T2 special packaging.jpg But it's worth mentioning that this strictly limited package (6,000 units issued) offers a "life-sized replica of the T-800 EndoArm mounted on a uniquely numbered stand with James Cameron's signature" (this is according to Lionsgate's press materials; it's unclear whether than signature is a pre-printed replica or hand-signed). At any rate this package, an indulgence to be sure, appears to be truly spectacular. It also includes the recently-released 4K UltraHD/Blu-ray Combo Pack of Terminator 2.

What we were able to examine was the new 4K transfer itself in the standalone UltraHD release. As was widely reported back in December, there has been a rather copious amount of DNR (digital noise reduction) applied this this remaster. The Blu-ray presentation of the theatrical cut, too, has been apparently sourced from this new master—making it unique when compared to previous standard Blu-ray issues of T2. Now in 4K, Adam Greenberg's cinematography has been spit-polished to the point where natural film grain is virtually absent. The overall effect is one of "modernizing," and while purists will certainly cry foul, there are in fact many viewers who prefer this look. I tend to lean on the purist side—always preserve the original look of the film. But at the same time, the 4K version offers a watchable presentation (once I got used to the "new" look, the enhanced sharpness was pretty cool actually). Keep in mind: only the original theatrical cut is offered in 2160p. The two expanded versions are included on the Blu-ray disc.

The audio is offered in DTS-HD MA 5.1 on both the 4K and standard Blu-ray discs. New to this 4K UltraHD release is the 54-minute documentary "T2: Reprogramming the Terminator" which offers a very solid overview of the making of the movie. Again, the 153- and 155-minute cuts of the film are found on the Blu-ray (these versions have not been spruced up for 4K release, which explains why only the 137-minute theatrical cut appears in that format). Returning supplements include two audio commentaries (one group track features a couple dozen cast and crew members, the other track is Cameron and screenwriter William Wisher), a vintage 30-minute featurette "The Making of T2," and a pair of deleted scenes (with optional commentary).

With more Terminator films in the works, perhaps this will not be the final word in terms of Judgment Day home video releases. While your mileage will vary based on your reaction to the new grain-free, DNR'ed 4K remaster, superfans may want to consider ponying up for the EndoArm edition while supplies last.

T2 4K.jpg

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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