Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

He promised that he’d be back and after 12 years he’s returned. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is an important film for a few key reasons; original director and creator of the previous Terminator films, James Cameron is conspicuously absent; it’s the most expensive approved budget ever for a film; and star Arnold Schwarzenegger needs a hit badly and therefore has much more riding on this film than anyone else.

August 29th 1997 has come and gone without incident – no nukes fell, no machines rose to conquer their former masters and no end of the world as we know it. Judgement Day was indeed thwarted by three people and a machine many years earlier.

So why does one of those people still feels apprehensive? John Conner (Nick Stahl) lives off the grid, no social security number, no credit cards and no address. Living alone and constantly on the move, he is wary of the future soon to realise that they didn’t prevent Judgement Day, just delayed it.

With Skynet unable to locate John Conner, it decides to send back a new Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), to eliminate other key members of the future Resistance, namely those who would go on to become John Conner’s lieutenants in the fight against the machines.

Meanwhile, John is holed up in a veterinary clinic where he meets Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). As fate would have it, Kate should go on to be a leader in the future too and therefore a target for the T-X now.

With the T-X closing in on the pair, they discover that the resistance has sent back a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to ensure that John and Kate survive. However, the T-X is also designed to terminate Terminators and also has the ability to over ride and control other machines, so what can an outdated T-800 do to protect John and Kate from the future’s best assassin?

Let’s avoid all the questions that may get us cross-eyed and confused, such as why didn’t Skynet just send the best Terminator, the T-X, back to 1984 to kill Sarah Conner in the first film? Or how by defeating the T-1000 in the last film only manages to postpone Judgement Day? It’s just not worth getting confused over, after all the first film does deal with the fact that a man sends another man back in time so that he can then become his father!

The special effects are good, with a car/truck/ambulance/giant crane being a particular highlight. This sequence actually makes the car chase in The Matrix Reloaded look cartoonish at times. There are some digital elements, but for the majority, its just good old fashioned destruction and mayhem with vehicles and very impressive it is too. In fact Schwarzenegger was so adamant that this sequence was to stay in the film that he fronted $1.4 million of his own money for the chase scene when the film company started getting skittish over the budget – and money well spent it was.

Performances range from good to dull. Nick Stahl does a good job as an older John Conner albeit a little wimpy at times. Original John Conner star Edward Furlong was set to reprise his role from Terminator 2: Judgement Day but was replaced due to his continued drug problem, hence Stahl’s involvement. Claire Danes, who was expected to be in just the ‘girlfriend’ role does well and does more than just stand around waiting to be rescued. Kristanna Loken is the weakest of the cast and is quite frankly dull – even if she is dressed in skin tight red leathers? The problem is that the villains in the previous two films, Schwarzenegger in the first and Robert Patrick in the second, had a mixture of charisma, lethality and even humour, but Loken just doesn’t have any of those qualities, sure, her weapons are cool, but she lacks any presence as a terrifying villain.

The best performance is Schwarzenegger as the role fits him like a glove – deadpan, solid performance that requires limited acting ability – what more could he ask for? He’s obviously been working out as his physique looks like it did back in 1984, but there are a few close up shots that let slip the fact that he’s 57. He even manages to parody himself and make the character humorous at times. After the string of box office flops this is the hit that he badly needs to rejuvenate his flagging career – so what better than the role that first shot him to fame?

On the whole, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is an interesting and entertaining enough film that starts off seemingly like the first two but towards the end shows that screenwriters do occasionally think about previous films in series. Even though it’s the biggest approved budget for a film to date, there are really only about half a dozen key speaking roles and the budget seems to have been spent on truck chases and special effects.

Director Jonathan Mostow has managed to create a film that is much better than the first impression of the trailers suggested. There are a few bad lines of dialogue (“She’ll be back”) but overall T3 fairs much better than expected, even if it still is the weakest of the three films.

Score 8/10