The Nuclear Explosion Scene in Terminator 2 Still Haunts Me After More Than 20 Years - Dread Central
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The Nuclear Explosion Scene in Terminator 2 Still Haunts Me After More Than 20 Years

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terminator2nuclearexplosionskeletonbanner - The Nuclear Explosion Scene in Terminator 2 Still Haunts Me After More Than 20 Years

A beautiful, bright, sunny day on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Children frolic and delight at a picturesque playground. A merry-go-round spins lazily, a see-saw goes up, then down, then up, then down, over and over, a swing set glides back and forth, ever higher. It should be the setting of a moment of happiness and joy. Instead, it is the canvas for one of cinema’s most nightmarish and enduring scenes.

A bright flash goes off in the distance and everyone, parents and children alike, duck on the ground only for their bodies, and the ground itself, to smolder, smoke, and then burst into flame from the intense heat. The buildings in the distance evaporate, blown apart by a growing dome of fire that burns hotter than the core of the sun. Cars and busses are blown away like leaves off a tree on a windy day as infrastructure crumbles.

Back at the playground, all those miles away, everyone is screaming as their bodies blister and char, turning their limbs into brittle ash. The shockwave reaches them and they disintegrate, their bodies becoming little more than clouds of their former selves.

If you need a reminder how horrific Sarah Connor’s nuclear explosion nightmare was, here you go.

A testament to the hard work of effects company 4Ward Productions, the nuclear bomb nightmare in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day has been hailed by scientists has being one of the most realistic depictions in a film. Created by using incredibly detailed miniature sets, matte paintings, air cannons, and prosthetic body doubles, the sequence required multiple takes, went through a myriad of issues, and ultimately ended up as Cameron’s, “…favorite fucking shot in the movie.” [Source]

For me, it’s just as haunting today as it was when I first saw it over 20 years ago. Seeing innocent children quite literally explode in front of my eyes was a shocking moment for someone who, at a young age, thought kids were exempt from being harmed in movies. Then seeing Sarah’s flesh peel away to reveal a skeleton clinging to that fence as her chilling scream echoed through the air? That ruined me then and it still makes me wince and turn my head now.

Even knowing that it’s all a part of Connor’s nightmare doesn’t detract from the terror of that vision. After all, what can a nightmare add to a nuclear explosion to make it more frightening than it already is?

If you want to read an incredibly in-depth piece about how the sequence was created, from inception to actual filming, there’s a wonderful article over at Cartoon Brew that details every aspect of the scene. If you want a mini-version, you can watch the below video.

Also, some quick interesting facts about that scene: Linda Hamilton’s twin sister, Leslie Hamilton Gearren, played the happy Sarah Connor in the playground and the infant John Connor is played by Hamilton’s own son, Dalton Abbott. The more you know!

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