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James Cameron had bigger box-office hits in Titanic and Avatar, but his best work is arguably Terminator I & II. Although, that’s not to discount nearly half-a-billion-dollars in ticket-sales - in the early 1990’s!

T2 now gets thought-of as a ‘popcorn action movie’ or for its special-effects(not to mention T2 Trainspotting stealing its title), but its script is also top-notch. It’s not just rife with over-the-top action scenes and never-before-seen imagery, the structure is sound.

Analyzing the Story-Structures of Famous Screenplays: T2 - Terminator 2

John says goodbye and the Terminator sacrifices himself. Sarah looks to the future, with hope this time.

Well, at least until the next installment!

Denouement: BACK FORWARD

John Conner is just living his life, like any normal American kid - except that his mother is in a hospital for the criminally-insane, believing that robots from the future have been sent back in time to kill her.  She’s not crazy though, it’s all true. A liquid-metal, shape-shifting T-1000 (Terminator) is dispatched to kill the boy - his only saviour is the Terminator (T-800), his mother’s newly built and reprogrammed adversary from the first film in the series (The Terminator released in 1984).  John and the Terminator must escape the much more powerful terminator if humanity has any hope of surviving in the future!

Inciting Incident: 1st Turning-Point: 2nd Turning Point: False-Victory or False-Defeat:

The T-1000 shows up at the mall, attempting to kill the boy.

John Connor is, ostensibly, the protagonist (although, granted, I’ll accept the argument that the Terminator is the main character in this instalment). Before the terminators show up at the mall and duke it out, John isn’t in any danger. His life is proceeding as normal. But, the second the T-1000 shows up, his life has changed forever. He’s no longer safe anywhere on Earth - at any time. Forever.

Notice how the stakes rise for the protagonist: No danger to grave danger all of a sudden.

Notice that the setting also changes: John goes from neighbourhood-life - to being on the run.

The future. Post-apocalyptic war-torn wasteland filled with evil robotic war-machines.

The much more dangerous T-1000 is dispatched from the future to kill John Connor.

They find out that the future war was started, basically, because they reverse-engineered the Terminator’s severed arm (from the first movie) and that they now have to break into Cyberdyne to destroy all the technology humans never should have had.

Notice how the stakes rise for the protagonist(s): They aren’t in any immediate danger, they’ve lost the T-1000, they can flee to Mexico safely - to - they now need to break into the most secure facility around with a T-1000 on their backs.

Notice that the setting also changes: On the run - to fighting the T-1000 head on. They are now fighting at Cyberdyne and then in a steel mill or iron smelter or some sort. First act is normal-life and a mental hospital.  Second act is the good guys on the run. Third act is at Cyberdyne and a final-battle with the evil-terminator. Three distinct settings and each changes right at the act-break. This isn’t a coincidence!


They’ve escaped the T-1000, they can flee to Mexico, they’ve won. Or, at least, guaranteed a draw.

Well, not quite…  This isn’t a victory at all.  In fact, it only gets far more dangerous from here on out.

Original movie posters from the film

Screen-Writing Contests:

Plot Recap:

Determinism and free will. One person can change the future. We must have hope. Technology is becoming too prominent in our lives. We are becoming slaves to the technology.


Sarah goes from being a hard-ass bitch - to having hope for the future. From neglecting her son - to being his mother.

Character Arc: WARNING: May Contain Spoilers!