A reason hasn’t yet been given for the reissue of the iconic 1991 science-fiction actioner “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” beyond the fact that’s it’s had a big-time 3D overhaul. Oh, the backgrounds and foregrounds are now a little sharper in 3D. But far more importantly, whether it’s for your first time or your dozenth time, it’s a rare treat to catch it in pristine shape and on a big screen.

Those who go to it as “T2” virgins should know that it’s part of the hat trick of sequels that are better than the originals, the other two being “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Aliens.”

“T2” opens in the Los Angeles of 2009, a little more than a decade after the onset of a war between machines and humans, in which the machines wiped out 3 billion of our population. Like “The Terminator,” it’s a time travel movie that features the premise of beings from the future going back to the past, each with different ideas about changing history.

Some explanatory narration by the first film’s heroine, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) leads to the that film’s inhuman villain — let’s just call him a T-800 series Model 101 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — again coming back in time, shortly before Armageddon is to commence, and showing up naked at a tough road house called The Corral, where he approaches some down-and-dirty bikers, picks one, and utters the cinematically immortal words, “I need your clothes, your boots, your motorcycle.” Much physical mayhem follows, and 10 minutes in, George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” is pounding on the track; a minute later, the T-800 is donning a pair of stylish shades.

Sarah, a hunted victim the first time around, has gone through a lot of changes in the ensuing years, including having a son, John (Edward Furlong) and being incarcerated in a state hospital where she routinely spits out her Thorazine and works out on her muscles and cardio.

Her teenaged son John, long estranged from her, has become a troublemaker for his foster parents. Things are going to change for everyone when a couple of guys come looking for him. One is the T-800, the other is an advanced prototype Terminator, who we’ll refer to as a T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Each is looking for the kid for different reasons, but none of that will be revealed here.

The film is dated as far as some of the now-cheesy effects work and in the video games John is playing, but a surprising amount of the visual effects are still eye-popping, mostly related to the things done by the T-1000, such as his shape-shifting capabilities. Also, director James Cameron has always had a keen sense for building tension and erupting into action, and that’s on grand display here.

Among the many outstanding set pieces is the rampaging one centered in the paved-over Los Angeles River, with John on his little motorbike, the T-1000 in his huge Freightliner tow truck, and the T-800 on his Harley Davidson “Fat Boy.” It remains one of the best motor vehicle action scenes in film history.

The characters in the film are as cool as the action around them, and are well played. Schwarzenegger, who is photographed from low angles to make him look a lot taller than his actual 5-foot-11, maintains a calm demeanor throughout it, even when he’s on a killing or maiming rampage. Patrick remains emotionless, and has a distinct way of running, exaggeratedly pumping his arms in unison with his legs. Hamilton, whose Sarah is well trained in weaponry and hand combat, shows a palpable change in her level of toughness. It shoots way up when she switches from her hospital issue white t-shirt to her own black one. Furlong, in his first film role, is too overenthusiastic for a lot of it, but delivers a totally believable reaction when he realizes his mom has been telling the truth about the Terminator.

But the main reason to see it, or see it again, is that it’s still one of the most exciting films ever made.

— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”

Written by James Cameron and William Wisher; directed by James Cameron

With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

Rated R