a critiQal film review Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)

Plot: 10 years after destroying Cyberdyne, John Connor (Stahl) is a man on the run. With help from another T-100 (Schwarzenegger), John and his friend (Danes) face a new, more powerful threat in the TX (Loken) - and come to the harsh realization that Judgement Day is inevitable.

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  • ...while the first 2 films were truly engaging, this third film takes the series deeper into popcorn country.

Mention the name Arnold Schwarzenegger to any movie fan and one phrase comes immediately to mind, “I’ll be back”. Yes, it’s true: Arnold’s most popular character is back for another round in T3: Rise of the Machines.

It’s a little different this time with a female in the role of the evil cyborg and even a girl as one of the “chosen” ones. Are we in for the kinder, gentler Terminator, or will the 3rd installment keep the adrenaline pumping pace of the previous 2?

Arnold, in his 3rd reprise of the T-100, seems to have such ease with the role that he wants to make the character more complex then at least the 1st film showcased. He seems to have a lot more fun with the roll in this installment, and the hints of comedy we saw in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) make themselves much more evident here. Even with the new attempts at comedy, however, Arnold stays true to the character we’ve all come to know and love and falls easily back into his role.

Nick Stahl, as John Connor, seems to take Edward Furlong’s portrayal of the character and follows it along to the next logical step. He does a great job of trying to portray someone who has the fate of the world on his shoulders.

Claire Danes, the newcomer good girl to the group (probably to replace Linda Hamilton as a lead female), steps in and fills the shoes waiting for her quite nicely. Although it’s quite a different role for her than we’re used to (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, “My So-Called Life” (TV), etc.), she steps into the role of action heroine as easily as she did with the other characters she portrayed in the past. She does it with more ease than most viewers will expect, and it’s definitely a pleasant surprise.

Kristanna Loken, despite (or maybe because of) her slim female figure, steps right up to the plate and definitely tries to put Arnold through his paces.

Even Earl Boen, as our old friend Dr. Peter Silverman, puts in an appearance!

The plot is well done, considering the hurdles it had to get by to make the movie work. How do you make a sequel to a movie with an end? Don’t change the end, people will notice that. Instead, make the viewer believe that the ending they thought they saw wasn’t actually the ending at all. For instance, they blew up Cyberdyne in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) to stop Judgment Day, so tell the audience that doesn’t stop Judgment Day, that just postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.

Hurdle number 2: Arnold’s already fought a better machine – how do you make it interesting again? Replace the evil skinny guy with an evil girl and put her against Arnold.

Hurdle number 3: The audience is getting a little sick of Arnold protecting and obeying John Connor. Throw a girl into the movie and make Arnold only obey her. Pretty ingenious, don’t ya think? Now, throw that all into the mix, change directors, and yet manage to keep the same feel/appeal of the first 2. I don’t know how they managed to pull it off, but they did, and hooray for them.

Since Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) brought the world of special effects of movies to an entire new level with it’s morphing techniques, big things are expected for any sequels to follow. Rise of the Machines doesn’t disappoint in this area either. With an even more impressive array of mind bogglingly huge stunts (An example: one scene finds the TX chasing John Connor in an enormous crane truck, causing destruction and mayhem by the butt-load each and every frame).

It probably really deserves to be seen on the big screen, but is still pretty impressive to see on the small screen.The special effects aren’t limited to mass destruction either, and good ol’ Stan Winston comes through yet again here too. By now, everyone knows of the famous scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) where it’s obvious that Arnold isn’t riding the bike at one point – it’s a stunt double. It seems the filmmakers have learned from that, and there are no such obvious mistakes here.

So, is Rise of the Machines the Terminator film everyone has been waiting for? Probably not. While it is a good action packed thrill ride, it most likely won’t become the classic the first two have already become.

Think of this film not as a sequel to the first two, but more of a new series of films starring your old friends. Maybe it’s because Mr. Cameron isn’t behind the wheel for this one, who knows, but the overall effect is a bit more campy and slightly less truly breathtaking than the first two films were.

True, Rise of the Machines is still a blast to watch and, with the stunning announcement that Arnold has now quit making movies since he’s gone Mr. Politics, this film may become a classic in another way – as the last film Arnold ever starred in.

Hopefully, he’ll be back…again. After all, what will Terminator Salvation (2009) (rumored to already be in production) be without him?

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