Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

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.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!