New Year's Eve will be a sad day for the Human Resistance. That's the day that Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D will play its final performance. After 13 years and countless thrilling shows, the attraction based on the blockbuster 1991 sci-fi film is closing at the end of 2013.
It's the latest move by the theme park to replace its older rides with newer ones based on more recent properties.Back to the Future: The Ride has become The Simpsons Ride, E.T. is now Revenge of the Mummy, andBackdraft was recently supplanted by Transformers: The Ride 3D. No announcement has been made about what will fill Terminator's space on the Universal lot; counteparts at the company's Florida and Japan parks remain open. Yet for those of us in Hollywood, saying goodbye to T2: 3D is losing a lot more than a ride.
The show - full title Terminator 2: 3D Battle Across Time - was not just another theme park attraction making use of an entertainment franchise. T2: 3D was unique in that it involved all the major players from Terminator 2. The twelve-minute 3D film shown during the main part of the attraction was written and directed by James Cameron, and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick. It reportedly cost 60 million dollars to make.
This is some serious equipment at work: multiple projectors running across three adjoining giant screens, creating an enveloping 3D effect that can get kind of freaky when there are giant tentacles from a T-1000000 swiping near your head. They don't make rides like this every day.
Yet like the Terminator franchise itself, T2: 3D has an important human element that works with all that technology. Rotating teams of five actors - playing the T-800, Sarah Connor, John Connor, the T-1000 and the ride-specific character of Cyberdyne hostess Kimberley Duncan - interact with the 3D movie as it plays. They shoot and get shot, run through the auditorium, and have to lip-sync with the film's dialogue as they step into some big roles.
These folks put in much more time and effort than the theme park audience ever sees. Before they even step onto the stage, they have to undergo physical training and firearms training, because that's a real shotgun in the T-800's hand. During Universal's peak season, the casts could be doing as many as three shows an hour. These men and women deserve a huge round of applause, because this isn't a job that just any aspiring actor or actress could handle.
Then there are the fans. For Terminator enthusiasts like myself, who grew up having watched Terminator 2, the attraction presents the opportunity to step into the world of the film. It's a fan's dream to see all the little nods to the film, such as the fact that the building is named the 'Miles Bennett Dyson Memorial Auditorium,' after Joe Morton's ill-fated engineer. The glossy auditorium really does feel like part of Cyberdyne Systems. Brad Fiedel's timelessTerminator theme plays on more than one occasion.
At the height of the ride's popularity, the attraction's gift shop featured everything from official Cyberdyne badges to a T-800 endoskeleton standing in fearsome tribute to the production. It's as close as fans can get to being in theTerminator world without being targeted by Skynet. As a child, I saved my money to buy my first ticket to Universal Studios simply so I could visit T2: 3D, and I remember coming out of the ride with my adrenaline pumping and a huge smile on my face, excited that something I loved was something I had now experienced rather than just watched.
Therein lies the sadness of the closure. T2: 3D never capitalized on the renewed interest brought to the franchise by the releases of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles or Terminator: Salvation. In fact, its profile seemed to diminish as the years went on - that once all-Terminator gift shop gradually became just another store at the park. The film itself is even a little dated: it includes a cameo appearance from former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal when he was still in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform.
But none of that made T2: 3D any less wonderful. Like the movie from which it was descended, the ride remained memorable throughout the years that went by. For children of the 1990's, it represented something priceless: the ability to step back into our youth, to when we were in awe of these giant robots and cheering for the Connors, and once again experience one of the great science-fiction universes. With its disappearance, we won't quite be able to recapture that magic ever again.
You still have a limited time to experience it before it ends: Terminator 2: 3D runs through New Year's Eve at Universal Studios Hollywood.
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