Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

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…

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!