TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES
****1/2 (out of 5)
July 2, 2003
Arnold Schwarzenegger as THE TERMINATOR
Nick Stahl as JOHN CONNOR
Claire Danes as KATE BREWSTER
Kristanna Loken as THE TERMINATRIX
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
BY KEVIN CARR
If you listen to the pre-press of this film, it was easy to believe that it would stink. The production was fraught with stories of clashing egos, script rewrites and other dangers of movie making. However, like the first “Charlie’s Angels” film, “Terminator 3” manages to come out ahead. The movie could, in fact, revitalize Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career – especially if more sequels are made. It is probably his best film since “True Lies.” Apparently, he is able to make a good movie without James Cameron at the helm.
Now that doesn’t mean that Arnie should start making more movies like “Batman and Robin,” “Jingle All the Way” and “The 6th Day.” Arnold is just able to make the character work, but he plays a robot. He’s not ready for Shakespeare.
The core plot of “Terminator 3” is not all that different from the first two films. John Connor is now an adult, living under the wire with no phone number, address or anything else that would allow him to be tracked down. But that doesn’t stop the machines of the future from sending back an assassin (and the humans sending back a protector) to find him. This time, however, the assassin is the sexy T-X, who is also seeking out Connor’s lieutenants to further cripple the resistance’s power structure.
I won’t go into too much more detail on the plot, because to do so would spoil some pretty good twists, turns and surprises. And many of these plot points open the door for some really cool stuff to happen in “Terminator 4,” which I’m sure is already being hammered out at the Warner Bros. offices.
This film really doesn’t seem like a tired third installment in a popular series, like the odious “Lethal Weapon 3” or “Alien3.” In many ways, “Terminator 3” plays more like a good sequel to the first film than a follow-up to the second. In the way that “The Empire Strikes Back” expanded the “Star Wars” universe and humanized the mythology, “Terminator 3” opens up many different doors – some we want to see, and others we would rather remained closed. It rivals “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” as a kick-ass third installment.
My biggest beef with “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” was that it broke its own rules laid out in the first film. In 1984’s “The Terminator,” there was the undeniable message that the past could not be changed. In fact, with Kyle Reese becoming John Connor’s father, it was clear that the future could not happen without the Terminator and Reese traveling into the past.
“Terminator 2” changed all that, ignoring the core of what made the tightly written “Terminator” work so well. “Terminator 3” works hard to make up for this and actually makes both stories work within the context of the films.
Of course the biggest triumph of “Terminator 3” is the fact that Edward Furlong is nowhere to be seen in the film (a continuing drug problem caused him to be released from the project). He is replaced by Nick Stahl, who isn’t the strongest actor and hero but at least isn’t as grating and irritating as Furlong was in the second film.
A special note has to go out to Kristanna Loken, who plays the nearly indestructible Terminatrix. A fusion of the first Terminator (with a metal endoskeleton) and the second (covered by a layer of liquid metal), she is quite deadly to both man and machine. Oh, and did I mention that she is really, really, really hot? And don’t forget that you have to be naked to travel through time, so one of her best scenes is when she first appears in present day.
Other gems can be found throughout the film, including inside jokes that pay homage to the first films – such as Earl Boen reprising his role yet again as the aloof psychiatrist and the Terminator’s sub-mission to find a good pair of sunglasses.
Make no mistake. This movie is rated R. It is a hard R, not some wimpy R for minor cursing and a good scare now and then. It has the same brutally violent undertones as the first “Terminator.”
This movie doesn’t cop out. It doesn’t go for fake, feel-good warm fuzzies, and it’s not for the feint at heart. “Terminator 3” has guts. It has a LOT of guts. And it’s a rare thing for any movie – whether it’s a summer blockbuster or an indie arthouse flick – to have guts.