– Summary –
Director : Jonathan Mostow
Cast : Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Daines, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen, Jay Acovone, Mark Hicks.
Year of Release : 2003
Length : 100 Minutes
Synopsis: John Connor must help his future wife escape the deadly intent of a new, more powerful Terminator, sent back to wipe out members of his resistance following Judgement Day, which, apparently, is still going to happen.
Review : Action packed romp that lacks the energy of James Cameron’s efforts, but does attempt to up the ante with some spectaular moments in amongst the heavy-handed dialogue and overwrought plot twists. Entertaining, and certinly a worthy entry into the Terminator canon, is nowhere near as bad as others have made it out to be.
A lot of people criticised Jonathan Mostow’s instalment of the Terminator series for it’s attempt to James Cameron-ise his own style, and a generally flat tone in the narrative. Personally, I think T3: Rise Of The Machines is a great film, and a well made action flick in general. Picking up years after the events in T2, John Connor (Nick Stahl) is living a reclusive, footprint-free lifestyle to stay “off the grid”, ensuring the machines can’t send back yet another Terminator to find him. Problem is, the machines have sent back a Terminator to dispatch the future members of his resistance, including Claire Danes, who looks about as resistance-ey as a garden of roses. This time, they’ve not worried about the T1000 (bad luck mate, on the bench!) and instead send a TX, a female Terminator with the ability to control other machinery, morph into various weapons, ruin your Sunday lunch; essentially she’s an even beefier version than the T1000.
Ahnohld returns again, this time though, tasked with protecting Daines, who, it turns out, will become John Connor’s wife, Katherine Brewster. Indy-film regular Nick Stahl is adequately morose as John Connor, who is shocked (as we all are) to learn that the events in T2 didn’t quite stop Judgement Day, they only prolonged it from happening. So, as we again engage in the race/chase across the landscape of the continental US, the threat of nuclear armageddon upon us, Jonathan Mostow tries to give this film the requisite amperage to stand tall next to James Cameron’s colossal efforts in the previous two films. To a certain degree he succeeds, with the stunts and destruction wreaked by Arnie’s T101 and the TX engaging in battle certainly monumental by movie standards. Of particular note, the crane chase through the early morning streets of the city, culminating with the pulverisation of said vehicle in a few brilliant moments of CGI work, is exceptional.
But the film lacks the crucial spark, the singular element that elevates this film from a merely excellent action film to the status of a great Terminator film. It’s a great film in itself, make no mistake, and is certainly entertaining as far as wanton destruction and carnage go. But it’s not a patch on the wonderfully explosive T2,which still stands as the benchmark for the Terminator franchise. Arnold is looking pretty haggard, as well, by this stage, and while perhaps he’s iconic for the series, it might have been a good time to introduce a new Terminator model to the scene. Well, a new Good One, in conflict with the TX. The TX, played by Kristanna Loken, is beautiful, smart, and deadly. Loken’s silent, emotionless performance is almost, almost on par with Robert Patrick’s scintillating T1000 from the previous film, but unfortunately, it’s harder to take her seriously with a body like that. Her TX character derives her “evilness” from what others say about her, not from any work on her own behalf, and that’s something that’s squarely in the hands of the director. The TX takes out some teenagers working at a fast food joint, some kids having a party, and others off screen as well, but we never see any of the sneaky, nasty stuff Patrick enagged in in T2. well, as far as I am concerned, she didn’t.
Mostow, who did a bang up job in low-key Kurt Russell thriller Breakdown, and Matthew McConaughey’s U571, again handles action with aplomb, creating a genuine excitement on the screen as the world goes pear-shaped; Skynet is now in the control of the US military, after the destruction of Cyberdyne Systems in T2, and they are ploughing ahead with their new AI-run computer system to counteract a virus that is having a devastating effect on computer systems wordwide. While the scale of the story is neutered somewhat by not actually showing us the problems, but merely have characters recite dialogue to that effect, the film still energises the viewer with the tense, apocalyptic foreshadowing that we all know will no doubt come. The machines go wild, beginning their attacks on everybody, and soon, with the body-count rising across the world, Connor and Brewster must make a desperate attempt to reach a military base to warn people of the impending apocalypse.
The denouement of T3 is jaw dropping, and a perfect segue into the upcoming Terminator: Salvation film. T3 is not a film that will bring a lot of people joy, though, in terms of the tone and narrative of the film. As with both previous installments, the future (according to the story) is not especially bright, and the intonements of the T101 in this film would seem to indicate it only gets worse. However, the time-travelling loopholes and plot contrivances begin to mount, which hamstrings the film overall. if the future was altered in the past, how come the new robots get a chance to come back to start it all again? Surely the future, regardless of the events of either T1, T2 or T3, would be structured around the events of the most recent instalment. That is, the most recent “event” would have the most profound change for future history, (I know, it’s all gobbledeygook to me too) and as such, completely negates events in T2 from even being relevant. This is the key problem most people have with the franchise’s key conceit: fighting for the future. With such a problematic structure, it’s hard for the series to maintain any real integrity in it’s canonicity: and as such the link between the first two films and this one is tenuously feasible at best.
Mind you, taking into account that it’s a Terminator movie should predicate a little loosey-goosey on the realism charts, it should all be taken with a grain of salt. Personally, if the Terminators had killed Kyle Reese from film 1, in the future, he’d never have been sent back in time to have sex with Sarah Connor and produce John Conner, who’d lead the resistance, in the first place. Might have saved them all an awful lot of time if Beihn’s character had been offed in the opening scene of the original film!
Terminator 3 is a film that is most definitely has it’s fair share of problems. An aging lead actor, looking more haggard with each passing year, as well as some wobbly time-travel science, and a sense of not really being tonally in keeping with the original two films, leaves the viewer regretfully finding that it’s simply not up to the same caliber of work as Cameron’s installments. That said, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining action film on it’s own, and if you enjoy those kinds of blow-everything-up films, then you’ll still have a blast with this.