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Twelve years since the groundbreaking second film and nearly 20 since the series started Terminator returns to the silver screen in Rise of the Machines, an action packed romp for nearly two hours that brings closure to certain parts of the series while opening the door for future films in the franchise.

Regardless of your feelings about this film, not bringing back Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, or director James Cameron, you need to leave them at the door and take what you will from this entirely worthy addition to the series. Rise of the Machines can be held back by possibly taking too many plot elements from the successful second movie (two terminators hunt a man, battle along the way, etc.) but after viewing T3 you will see that Jonathon Mostow’s creative interjection into the series is both welcomed and perfect for the evolution of the franchise.

Terminator 3 finds John Connor (Nick Stahl) living apart from society, drifting from place to place and keeping his name out of credit card databases and mortgage payments. He doesn’t exist to society, and only a select few who know him from his days in junior high even remember that he exists. The events of August 29th, 1997 never happened and we meet up with John in his early 20s trying to survive, viewing each day after Judgment Day’s belated arrival as a blessing. Belated? It appears as though destiny has one again caught up with John, and now the machine army has sent back it’s most high tech terminator yet to destroy him, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), and like the T-1000 before her, she will stop at nothing to complete her mission. The T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is then sent back again to protect John from this new nemesis and preserve the future.

If you sit back and really think about Terminator 3’s storyline you eyes go cross-eyed much like Austin Powers. There are so many ways for a paradox to be created and completely destroy the universe. We learned about this kind of stuff from Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Still if you can hold back on critiquing even the smallest plot holes and paradox points you will fully enjoy the experience that you receive. Sure the character development seen in T2 isn’t as strong, or nearly as fleshed out, but we know who these characters are for the most part, with the exception of Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) who serves as one of the T-X’s targets and holds ties to Connor in the future. For the most part not having James Cameron working on the film doesn’t detract from the mythology of the series in any way.

Series newcomer Kristanna Loken pulls off the expressionless T-X with total ease. She looks amazing, and while she only has a few lines throughout the film she provides a interesting, exotic menace when compared to the original T-800 in Terminator and Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in T2. Of course, it also helps a bit that she is beautiful.

The special effects, as previously described by Editor entopia_john’ review, were very tastefully done without the constant overuse we see in the days of CGI characters being credited in movies. For the most part CG is only used when it is needed and when it is used it is very, very well done. The art house behind these effects should be very happy with themselves as they have crafted some of the best F/X seen this summer, especially the opening battle sequence in the future with an army of machines traverses a barren wasteland.

Another welcome addition, only hinted upon in the second film, is the added humor to the series, but not a laugh-out-loud Farrelly Bros. kind of way, it is more influenced by the Terminator’s lack of human understanding. There will be times when you find Arnold’s one liners completely amusing, and other times they just sort of drift off, like the much criticized “She’ll be back.”

Some may be a bit thrown off by the ending, as I was initially, but when you sit down and think about those paradoxes I mentioned before you will get it, just before your head explodes. Also, one other gripe, is the writing off of a certain character in a clever, yet annoying way. We knew this character wouldn’t be coming back, but you still feel really disappointed that a piece of the franchise’s mythology is missing, and you have to totally disregard the “happy” ending from Terminator 2 (which was never suppose to be included in the final print of the movie anyway).

Based on everything you have read here and around the web, Terminator 3 will still prove to be an action packed, fulfilling experience that acts as a bookend to one trilogy and the possibility of bridging to another. Forget that some of the previous two film’s principle characters and production people aren’t with this one and have a good time, you might be surprised how well you actually like it.

The theater I went to see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in wasn’t too crowded, which was a plus. I really didn’t want a bunch of little kids screwing up the experience like the Hulk. As the credits rolled, and the all too familiar Terminator theme began to play, and I had no idea what to expect.

More than 10 years have passed since the previous Terminator hit the box office, and almost 20 years have passed since we first caught glimpse of the metal menace. This Terminator comes into the spotlight in a very different generation. Many of us who were so psyched never actually got to see the original Terminator in the theaters, and we had to sneak into the theaters thanks to older brothers or friends for the second one. As I went into the theater to sit down, I noticed that a great number of smaller children were sitting talking about the legacy of the Terminator with their parents. I guess this trilogy holds something for everyone.

In this third helping of flesh and metal, we find ourselves in the present time. After sending Arnold back the second time to destroy the T-1000 and avert John Connor’s death, it seems that August 29th, 1997 was just another day in time. There was no nuclear war, the lab containing SkyNet was destroyed, and John (Nick Stahl) lived to tell about it. However, John has now had to break contact with most of the world, becoming a drifter, still fearing the nightmares of Judgment Day. The opening scenes are very reminiscent of the previous two terminators. A big bubble, a lot of lightning, and a naked machine emerges into an unsuspecting public. However, instead of seeing a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger or Robert Patrick, we get the eye candy that is Kristanna Loken. After making her first kill, nabbing a Lexus and using only a cell phone and her voice to access the LA Unified School District database, she sets out on her mission. Our metallic hero has a bit more comedic entrance, as he attempts to find suitable clothing in a bar which is featuring a ladies night complete with male strippers. As the two cyborgs begin their missions, an injured John finds himself at an animal hospital where he is cornered and caged by Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). Miraculously, both terminators end up at the hospital at the same time, where it turns out they are both after John and Kate. Of course, that is the cue to run. Arnold grabs both of them and drives off, trying to outrun the new female T-X.

I admit, I really wasn’t looking for much out of this movie. For me, it had a lot riding against it. It’s hard to make 3 really good action packed movies with a decent story. It’s also hard to wait 10 years in between movies; public interests can change, making it hard to continue a story that had originated so many years before. And with out the direction of James Cameron and the acting talents of Linda Hamilton or Edward Furlong, the movie wouldn’t feel the same. However, many of these fears were squelched in the nearly 2 hours running time of the movie. Nick Stahl made a decent John Connor. I do wish Ed Furlong would have played him again, I kind of miss the whiny John over the dark John. Claire Danes was a good female counterpart, being the whole first-whiny-then-sort-of-badass type of character. She’s got a good set of screaming lungs too, and she proves many times throughout the movie. Kristanna Loken was definitely an eye pleasing terminator, I wouldn’t have minded getting blasted by her plasma cannon. Her facial expressions, or lack thereof, made her all the better character. Whether she was pounding Arnold into walls, or getting crushed by helicopters, or walking down the street naked, the blank effortless look on her face really helped her character. For some reason I was disappointed on how scary of a terminator she was. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 still scares the bejeebus out of me with that look of his, however the Terminatrix just wasn’t as scary. I suppose that was because I am older and that sort of thing isn’t as scary, or maybe it was because I was rarely starting at her face.

The element that absolutely made this movie for me was the visual effects. Never before in these movies was the superhuman strength of the terminators so well portrayed. In the first and second Terminators, Arnold’s strength was portrayed with throwing people through windows and taking bullets in the back. In this one, it’s shown by him being dragged through an entire building while hanging onto a speeding crane truck. It’s shown by him and the TX picking each other up, and violently throwing each other through walls, into toilets, and other breakable objects. The fight scenes between the two terminators were the best I’ve seen, and director Jonathan Mostow’s use of computer graphics was wonderfully executed, and did not interfere with the movie’s realness.

As in many movies, there were a few dislikes I had. The vast majority of them circle around that the movie was too short. Since when was a Terminator movie going to fall short of two hours? I would have gladly have sat in that theater another 40 minutes to get more character development and more action, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the T3 Super Secret Special Edition release of the DVD to get that. A few plot holes got in the way a bit, but nothing major.

All in all, it was probably the best movie of the summer yet. This summer has been somewhat of a letdown with less the than stellar Matrix and Hulk movies. Here, almost halfway through the summer blockbuster season, we come to our first big hitter. While it does have its flaws, as many movies do, it definitely was just about the best movie I’ve gone out to see this summer, although I haven’t seen 28 Days Later yet…