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Film Review: Terminator 3 ? The Rise Of The Machines

Arnie keeps his word. Again.

?I'll Be Back,? says Terminator Arnie and so he is for a third time. Even though this reviewer is an avid fan of the Terminator movies, I must admit I approached this movie with some unease rather than eager. The first 2 movies were armed with crafted character-driven storylines and an intelligent tie-over in the plot that produced an excellent wrap-up at the end of T2. It's worth wondering whether a third chapter could evolve such a creative story even further or if it would simply degenerate it into a money-grabbing franchise much like say, the never-ending Alien or Star Wars sagas.

Terminator 3Same old story here, John Connor is destined to save humanity from machines, so a Terminator is sent back through time to kill him, Schwarzenegger protects him etc, etc, etc, you've already been told this story twice before.

Nick Stahl plays John Connor now in his mid-20s, who's convinced Judgement Day is coming and consequently has become a loner, a drifter with no identity, so that no one will find him. Early on, he meets up with an old high-school acquaintance Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). Coincidently enough, Brewster's father (David Andrews) is the man responsible for building Skynet and preparing it for its start-up, in other words, the start of the apocalyptic Judgement Day. Meanwhile, Skynet sends the far more aesthetically pleasing Terminatrix or T-X to take Connor out. She's a female Terminator (played by Kristanna Loken) who can change shape like her predecessor and her arm can morph into devastating weapons. She can also control other machines such as computers or vehicles by internal remote or telepathically or whatever the cyborg equivalent is. Her mission is not only to kill Connor, but his entire future army regiment and the film wastes no time before she starts doing just that. But before long, Schwarzenegger's Terminator, the T-101 arrives to save the day. Again.

The repetitive nature of this story is forgivable, but the fact that there is no foundation for the plot is not. At the end of T2, Judgement Day has been averted and Skynet's existence was wiped out. Yet at the start of T3, Skynet has been built anyway and Judgement Day is around the corner. How can this be? Well, it's all very simply explained in the dialogue:

Connor: "How can you be here? We stopped Judgement Day, we stopped Skynet!"
Terminator: "You didn't stop it, you only postponed it. Judgement Day is inevitable".

Sorry, but that just doesn't cut it.

Still, it's possible to ignore this fatal flaw in the spectacular fighting and action scenes, none more so than what must be the most destructive chase scene in movie history. It involves the 2 Terminators embroiled in combat aboard a speeding 100-ton mobile crane, which destroys absolutely everything in its path, vehicles, buildings and even the road it's speeding on. (One wonders if they were trying to outdo the Matrix Reloaded with this) Other fight scenes don't warrant as much merit though, for example a fistfight between the 2 terminators that results in them busting urinals off each other's heads; it's difficult to take that seriously. Director Jonathon Mostow of U-571 fame does a commendable job considering the magnitude of these action sequences, but James Cameron's absence is painfully obvious. The cinematic flair and photography of the first 2 movies simply isn't here, even on the big screen so the eventual DVD/VHS release will be found lacking.

T3 does not pace itself like its predecessors. It's pretty much one big rush of action with little or no character development. Stahl does a creditable job in playing Connor, but the amount of shoot 'em up scenes leaves no time for him and Brewster to develop any sort of badly needed chemistry in the movie. Loken shines in her role, but she has little to do only blow things up while maintaining an icy stare and looking sexy. Earl Boen's return as Doctor Soberman lasts less than 2 minutes and is a waste of time. Schwarzenegger was born to play the terminator. In the first movie, he was perfect as a cold, calculated relentless killer. In the 2nd, his growing relationship with the young John Connor made the ending all the more heartfelt. But in this latest instalment, his character is little more than hapless. Of course it's necessary to have quirky humour here and there such as his constant hunt for the perfect pair of shades. But rarely did he speak during the movie where the audience weren't giggling at the blind idiocy of his remarks and his grandiose proclamations that "John Connor is the last best hope for humankind!" Not very befitting a Terminator.

In the end, Terminator 3 is a movie you hope will work but will probably end up wishing they hadn't tried as it will pale in comparison to the first two. It's an enjoyable roller-coaster ride of special effects & action scenes that sits up there with any of the summer blockbusters, but Rise Of The Machines is really a Fall of The Mechanics of the Terminator storyline. "I'll Be Back?? Next time, bring a decent script with you.

Jimmy Murphy


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