One of the most thought provoking and chilling scenes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a nightmare sequence; a prophetic vision of the future which is experienced by Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). The character suffers recurring dreams of a nuclear holocaust, an event that she knows will one day be brought about by the artificial intelligence known as SkyNet in an attempt to eradicate the human race – an act which is all the more horrifying due to its unshakable feeling of inevitability.
SkyNet has already used time travel once before, sending a cybernetic assassin to attempt to terminate Sarah and her unborn son John, but the cold war style threat of Judgment Day is very real for a character that lives under the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon as Sarah Connor does.
“Children look like burnt paper. Black. Not moving. And then the blast wave hits them. And they fly apart like leaves.”Sarah Connor – T2
In 1995 a new Terminator (T-1000) has been sent back in time by the malevolent AI, SkyNet – this time to terminate John Connor as a child. Whilst Sarah, John and a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (sent by John from the future to protect himself) gain some much needed respite, the audience experiences one of Sarah’s nightmares when she falls asleep in the desert.
In the dream Sarah Connor approaches a chain link fence and watches children playing at a playground, she sees herself with a younger appearance, dressed in the Big Jeff’s waitressing uniform, playing with a young John. She begins hitting the fence, silently screaming, trying to warn everyone of the impending doom, until a bright flash of light occurs and the beginnings of a nuclear blast wave decimates everything in its wake. We watch on as Sarah Connor is horrifically reduced to a burning skeleton with fingers still clutching onto the fence.
The scene was not only terrifying, visceral and haunting (given the very real fears of nuclear warfare) but also realistic, as members of the federal nuclear testing labs unofficially declared Terminator 2’s nuclear nightmare scene as:
“One of the most accurate depictions of a nuclear blast ever created for the screen.”Federal Testing Nuclear Labs
Although Terminator 2: Judgment Day isn’t the only movie to depict a nuclear blast, or even a nuclear nightmare, as Dr. Strangelove, The Day After, The Sum of All Fears and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, are just some of the other movies which have depicted a nuclear blast – in fact the very same year the first Terminator movie was release in 1984 the Sci-Fi horror movie Dreamscape had its own nuclear nightmare with a scene depicting a woman running from a blast wave.
Terminator 2’s disturbing nuclear blast scene was comprised of practical and digital effects by Stan Winston Studio and 4WARD Productions, with both effects companies studying as much archival material of nuclear blasts as they could, in order to do the scene justice with as much realism possible.
This marrying of practical and digital effects allowed Sarah Connor’s nightmare to stand the test of time, culminating in one of the most memorable and disturbing moments in cinema with its nuclear nightmare sequence.
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