Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) knows that there is an apocalypse on the way, and it will happen on August 29th 1997 when the Skynet computer defence system becomes sentient and sets off a nuclear armageddon destroying civilisation and wiping out three billion people just like that. The main problem for her is getting people to believe this: while she knows it will happen because she experienced Skynet sending a cyborg known as The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to kill her only for her to turn the tables, whenever she has tried to convince the authorities it has landed her in a mental hospital...
Imagine how her son John (Edward Furlong) must be feeling, living with foster parents and embarrassed that his mother is behind bars and crazy... but what if she were right all along? We were in a priviliged position since we were well aware this was the case in James Cameron's much-anticipated sequel to his sleeper hit The Terminator of seven years before, and such was the cult surrounding that work that the expectation levels were sky high; it barely needed the hype to get bums on seats, but the marketing department went into overdrive anyway as the era of the huge special computer effects blockbuster was well and truly upon us.
So what did audiences get for their ticket price? A lot of noise, a lot of action, but Cameron, while enamoured of the technology bringing his visions to life, was careful not to neglect the emotional side either whether that be with humour or poignancy or more pertinently, plain old humanity in wanting to save the world. This meant that its final battle proved a template for countless blockbusters to come, many of which took their cue from the spectacle but failed to apply themselves to the emotion: yes, Terminator 2 did climax with two superhuman beings knocking seven bells out of each other, but it was something we had grown to care about.
More than simply observing the talents of the effects wizards, that was, which would be the case with Transformers XIV or whatever. Nevertheless technically Cameron and his team surpassed themselves, not only in the extensive stuntwork which remains a benchmark in action cinema, but as far as the computer graphics went as well. At the time, seeing liquid metal villain the T-1000 (a splendidly icy Robert Patrick) morph into various characters and through objects then create weapons with his ability was astounding, something which has to be taken as read by those who were not around in 1991, for the only aspect which has dated really are those effects.
Even so, they still operated as intended, propelling the story along as well as providing the feast for the eyes in spite of their lustre waning somewhat, and you could appreciate them for what they led to as well as where that then record breaking hundred million dollar budget had been poured into. When the evil robot sent to kill John Connor (Skynet didn't give in without a fight, as you would see) adapts to any situation the ingenuity of giving us every permutation that we would want to see a liquid metal cyborg act out, and even come up with surprises, it was a terrific way of keeping us occupied as the setpieces played out, and each relevant to telling that story. There was a director's cut, but there was little superfluous there either.
It wasn't all good, as at the time it was possible to find Cameron's straining for cool with his creaky catchphrases offputting when really the only thing we wanted to hear Arnie say was "I'll be back", so you can imagine how past it a lot of the dialogue sounds now - maybe on its hundredth anniversary it'll be quaint. But for all the reliance on violence and brute force to get the job of saving the human race done, the message about not making such problems for ourselves in the first place was well delivered, just witness the scene where Sarah becomes a Terminator variant herself when she vows to murder the scientist (Joe Morton) who sets the deadly future in motion. You're better to fall back on reason in real life, Cameron and his co-writer William Wisher point out, if only for your conscience's sake, though while you mull that over here's another car chase or a shoot-out; the mayhem manufactured to ensure victory was never neglected no matter the do-gooder theme. Loud music by Brad Fiedel.
Canadian director and writer responsible for some of the most successful - and expensive - films of all time. Cameron, like many before him, began his career working for Roger Corman, for whom he made his directing debut in 1981 with the throwaway Piranha 2: Flying Killers. It was his second film, The Terminator, that revealed his talents as a director of intensely exciting action, making Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star along the way. Aliens was that rare thing, a sequel as good as the original, while if The Abyss was an overambitious flop, then 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a superbly realised action epic featuring groundbreaking use of CGI.
Cameron teamed up with Schwarzenegger for a third time for the Bond-esque thriller True Lies, before releasing Titanic on the world in 1997, which despite a decidedly mixed critical reaction quickly became the biggest grossing film of all time. His TV venture Dark Angel wasn't wildly successful, but ever keen to push back the envelope of film technology, 2003's Ghost of the Abyss is a spectacular 3D documentary exploring the wreck of the Titanic, made for I-Max cinemas. After over a decade away from fiction, his sci-fi epic Avatar was such a success that it gave him two films in the top ten highest-grossing of all time list.