Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Movie Review
Already, T3 has a strike against it. Sequels with "Three" in the title tend to reek, from The Godfather: Part III to Jaws 3-D. Strike two comes in the form of high expectations. Twelve years ago, James Cameron raised the bar with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a superior sequel and a long-standing leader in the high-tech special effects field. The shoes director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) was asked to fill look mighty big.
T3 may not surpass expectations, but it certainly holds its own against formidable company. A somber voice-over reminds us how John Connor (now played by Nick Stahl) and his mother, Sarah, narrowly avoided judgment day when they demolished the SkyNet labs and wiped out any trace of Terminator technology. Ten years later, the machines are sending back an advanced Terminator model, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), to eliminate more targets. As before, the trusty yet outdated T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) also arrives, though his mission is to protect Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), who plays a prominent part in the future resistance.
Instead of rehashing plot points, screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris conjure a creative thread that furthers our association with SkyNet. A super-virus infects our nation's computers, crippling everything from household Internet to government security systems. The untested SkyNet prototype can combat the virus, but for a few crucial minutes, humans would be removed from the equation and machines would be in control. Air Force official Robert Brewster (David Andrews) wants to avoid this scenario, but he's being pressured to take action.
While Brewster weighs his options, daughter Kate flees the T-X with the help of Connor and the T-800. Aside from the usual morphing techniques and an improved arsenal of weapons, the beautiful T-X has some fancy tricks up her sleeve. Most impressively, she controls driver-less vehicles, using them as battering rams to amplify the film's gut-punching car chase.
Those who relished the final 20 minutes of T2 will be most satisfied by T3. Mostow's relentless film pounds forward with brute force, squeezing in plot points wherever possible. Once the explosions cease, emotional trauma grinds T3 to a jogger's pace. Stahl's name proves fitting, for every time he attempts to apply deeper meaning to the chaos, his lack of talent causes T3 to peter out. He possesses none of the rebellious arrogance or cocky swagger that young Edward Furlong brought to the Connor role in T2. He might as well be reading transcripts from a Court TV session.
Thankfully, T3 isn't a tearjerker, unless you cry at the sight of pain. The pint-sized Loken tosses Schwarzenegger around with ease during ruthless fight sequences but doesn't strike the intense fear Robert Patrick achieved in T2. Danes, the other leading lady, plays the "shrieking victim," yet still brings depth to a poorly written role. Her best line is, "Just die, you bitch!" Lord, I miss Linda Hamilton.
Finally there's Schwarzenegger, who turns 56 on July 30, but doesn't look a day over 40. If his political aspirations don't keep Schwarzenegger out of Hollywood, I'd estimate he has two more Terminator movies left in him. And if future directors can bring the liveliness and skill that Mostow musters here, "I'll be back" could be more of a promise than the threat it's intended to be.
Two DVDs make up the T3 home experience, and it's a doozy. First is a pile-on commentary track from Mostow and the four principal actors (if nothing else you can finally get to hear Loken speak more than her two or three lines). Mostow does a solo track as well for the purists who want all the directorial dirt. Disc two offers the usual behind the scenes looks and documentaries. The gag reel is worth a look, and there's only one deleted scene, but it's one of the funniest parts of any of the Terminator movies, hands down. (And for that reason, it's an obvious cut.)
Terminatrix, why ya buggin'?