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Terminator 2 3-D" is a multimedia, interactive, three-dimensional, wall-to-wall wonderment. Billed as the most elaborate and technologically advanced attraction yet to be created for the Universal Studios Florida theme park, the $60 million "virtual-adventure experience" is built around a 12-minute 3-D movie that is said to be, frame for frame, the most expensive live-action pic ever produced. And it looks like every penny is right up there on the screen.
Combined with a brief multimedia intro, pic is a legitimate sequel to James Cameron's "The Terminator" (1984) and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991).
Better still, it features original stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick in a story created and co-directed by Cameron. The ingeniously written and designed attraction allows audiences to receive exposition via TV monitors as they stand in line.
Inside, visitors are greeted by a "media control" spokeswoman for Cyberdyne, the high-tech corporation that was razed by the Terminator and his human allies in "T2." Fortunately, the sweet-voiced spokesperson announces, those nasty "terrorists" did nothing to prevent the construction of Skynet, a satellite capable of controlling nuclear weapons, or the development of cyborg soldiers known as "terminators."
Meanwhile, John and Sarah Connor tap into the spokeswoman's video presentation and announce their plans to destroy the building and everything in it. They make good on their terrorist threat after the audience is seated for a presentation of Cyberdyne technology. This cues an appearance by the evil T-1000 Terminator. That, in turn, cues the original, newly reformed Terminator, who brings John back to the future on a motorcycle ride through a time warp.
So far, so good. Schwarzenegger and his name-brand co-stars appear in filmed and taped segments, and provide the voices for lip-synching, convincingly attired actors onstage. Once the Terminator and John reach the future in a spectacular bit of stunting that seems to take their chopper directly into the screen, the actual movie kicks in. And it is amazing. Co-directed by Cameron and f/x wizards Stan Winston and John Bruno, "Terminator 2 3-D" is set in a bleak and blasted L.A. of 2029, where terminators of various shapes and sizes hunt and kill humans.
The highlight is the appearance of a T-1,000,000, a computer-animated morphing mega-monster that resembles a surly termite. Everything ends with the spectacular explosion of the dreaded Skynet. But the door is left ajar for yet another sequel.
The 3-D cinematography and special-effects handiwork are astonishing. Flying cyborgs, insectlike pincers and other lethal devices seem to bolt off the screen -- three different screens, actually -- and hover over the audience. But not all the trickery is in the movie. At one point, the auditorium's seats vibrate slightly, to reinforce the illusion that events are taking place aboard a descending elevator. At another point, the audience is misted, just when a frozen terminator explodes into icy droplets.
Everything about this enterprise has been meticulously thought out and cleverly executed. Fans of the first two "Terminator" pics will delight in the inside references -- the Cyberdyne building is named after the Joe Morton character who was killed in "T2" -- while parents of small children will appreciate the decision to tone down the mayhem for this family-friendly attraction.
If the MPAA were to rate "Terminator 2 3-D," it likely would receive nothing more than a PG-13.