Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3 - Rise of The Machines

Terminator 2 - Judgment Day

Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines


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Arnold goes back to doing what he does
best: playing a non-emotive cyborg.

Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I would have possibly given the idea of a third installment in the Terminator series a snowball's chance in hell, had James Cameron returned to write and direct the picture.  Creating another Terminator without James at the helm was akin to doing another Indy flick without Steven Spielberg calling the shots.  T2 is one of my favorite films, and I wasn't looking forward to its being cheapened by a bunch of hacks looking to make a quick buck.  I was wrong in my skepticism.  Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines is so damn much fun, you may find yourself asking, "James who?" before it's over.

The story takes place ten years after the incidents in Terminator 2.  Although August 29th, 1997 (judgment day) has come and gone, John Connor (Nick Stahl) is plagued by nightmares of events that were destined to have occurred.  His creepy dreams, and his experiences a decade earlier, have sent him into a whirlwind of paranoia, where he refuses to take any chances.  With no job, phone, friends, home, credit cards or personal records of any kind, he hopes that no one can find him (although he does stick around his old neighborhood, for some unknown reason).  Enter T-X (Kristanna Loken), the most advanced killing machine created by Skynet.  The T-1000 (Robert Patrick) had nothing up on the T-X, and Connor is about to get sent right back into the thick of it, when the Terminatrix finds him locked inside a dog kennel (it's a long story).

Nick Stahl fills Eddie Furlong's shoes nicely, and makes the role of John Connor his own.  Like Hayden Christensen, Furlong seemed to have been born with a "whine" gene.  No matter how hard he tried, he came off as a whiny little bitch.  Stahl is able to play to perfection a stronger, more embittered and world-weary Connor.  His nemesis, T-X, is essentially the T-1000 with upgrades.  She is as relentless as the T-1000, but comes equipped with an even nastier set of weapons (and a really nice set of hooters).  The only thing that left me puzzled was her use of a cop's puny pistol to murder her victims early in the film, when she had an advanced robotic armful of slaughter, pulled straight out of a first-person shooter styled video game.  Claire Danes delivers an excellent performance as Kate Brewster -- a young veterinarian about to find out she has a far larger part to play in the world -- but as a replacement for Linda Hamilton's tough-as-nails Sarah Connor, she doesn't measure up.  Comparing the two is unfair, but Sarah Connor was the one thing I kept missing throughout the film. 

And then we have Arnold.

He comes back in a ball of light (for some reason the ILM folks decided that sending the cyborgs back in disco balls would look neat).  He arrives naked, as always.  When he enters a strip club in pursuit of some clothing, he asks a reluctant stripper, in a bit of irony, to take off his clothes.  The stripper's leather fits the Terminator like a glove, but the Elton John sunglasses he was wearing, which the cyborg puts on, make the Terminator look like a complete dork.  This is only the first of many visual gags in what becomes the most humorous entry in the Terminator series.  The lighthearted spin on a serious science-fiction franchise caused me to twitch uncomfortably for about two minutes, but I relaxed as soon as I saw that the humor actually worked (the few times it didn't, were whenever Arnold would spit out a variation of one of his stale lines from the first two films).  Terminator 3 is to the first Terminator as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is to Raiders of the Lost Ark.   

After Arnold is re-introduced as the Terminator, the movie enters the realm of non-stop, balls-out action.  This wasn't the approach James Cameron took with the more subdued and character heavy T2, but director Jonathan Mostow is creating wall-to-wall mayhem that was unseen, up to this point, in the series.  That doesn't mean that Rise of the Machines is a stupid film.  There's a method to Mostow's madness, and the movie does contain an intriguing storyline, which plays out many of the events of the Judgment Day that the Terminator described in the second film.  T3 is more of a return to the streamlined approach Cameron took in the original Terminator.  We lose a lot of the softer moments that made the second film a classic, but we gain non-stop celluloid chaos that would turn the Hulk green with envy.

The action in this movie is beyond belief.  It provides us with some of the most thrilling scenes put on film since the original Matrix.  The special-effects are nothing short of breathtaking.  Unlike most event films released over the past few years, Terminator 3 does not rely solely on CG for its FX.  Stan Winston is back, creating the robots, and he does one hell of a good job.  Along with the incredibly sophisticated T-X, Winston also creates the earliest of Skynet's machines.  These machines are obsolete, even when compared to Schwarzenegger's outdated Terminator, but are still incredibly menacing and tremendously dangerous. Terminator 3's use of makeup effects, robotics and animatronics fleshes out the look of the film (sometimes literally), making it far more believable than it would have been if it went the 100% Computer Generated route. 

CG is implemented in the movie, but it is cleverly shot, and rarely noticeable.  ILM pulled out all the stops, this time (after watching HULK, I think ILM should stick with stuff like spaceships and automobiles, rather than leading characters).  The scene where the T-X races a 100-ton crane down narrow streets, controlling police cars as she does so, is essentially the "miraculous" freeway scene we were promised in The Matrix Reloaded.  There's CG touch-up work, but there is also heavy stunt work involved, and the two come together seamlessly.  When the Terminator and the T-X go at it in the bathroom (get your mind out of the gutter), the brutal fight turns out to be the real "burly brawl" of the summer, rather than that excessive joke of a scene where a cartoon Neo fights 100 CG Agent Smiths. 

T3 succeeds in almost every area where The Matrix Reloaded failed.  It effectively recreates the magic of the original films.  It reminds us why we're the first to wait in line on opening night for a sequel.  It brings us back to the glory days of science-fiction.  No, it isn't as good as Judgment Day, but it easily surpasses the original Terminator.  For the first time this century, sci-fi fans have a sequel that won't leave them disappointed.  Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines delivers in spades, bullets, flame-throwers, plasma guns and any other deadly weapon it can think up within a 1 hour and 45 minute runtime. 

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].