Terminator 3

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

If you’ve seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2), you probably have also watched the original Terminator (T1), and you’ll undoubtedly see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3), even if the ghost of Gene Siskel whispers in your ear that T3 is the worst third installment of a film franchise since Robocop 3. However, for those who have chosen either cave dwelling and/or anti-violence mantras for the past twenty years (and who have recently shrugged off such social hindrances), I will review and partially recount Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest cinematic adventures.

John Connor, the series’ “hero of the future,” is now 25. Though he is confident that the “Judgement Day” nuclear apocalypse had been averted in the last film, the scruffy young man (now played by Nick Stahl) is still wary of surprise visits from robotic assassins, and is leading a drifter lifestyle in order to be untraceable. After a motorcycle accident, he breaks into a veterinary clinic in order to patch himself up, and encounters a childhood acquaintance, vet assistant Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

Meanwhile, two cyborg killers arrive from the future – the stunningly beautiful and extraordinarily lethal T-X (Kristanna Loken), and, of course, Arnold. As in the previous two movies, they arrive in the 21st century au natural; Schwarzenegger garners some laughs as he crashes a Chippendales-style revue in search of suitable clothing.

Early on, T3’s storyline is almost identical to its predecessor’s — a technologically superior evil cyborg pursues our hero-in-training, who is protected by the technologically inferior Arnold. However, there’s a twist — the future’s evil artificial intelligence wasn’t able to locate John Connor’s whereabouts, so instead it sent T-X to check off a list of Connor’s future “lieutenants,” a roster that includes — surprise, surprise — Ms. Brewster. It seems that “Judgment Day” hadn’t been erased, after all, just postponed.

T3 “cuts to the chase,” so to speak, in no time. With a legion of remotely-controlled vehicles at her disposal — including police cars and a giant mobile crane — T-X plays cat-and-mouse demolition derby with Arnold, Connor, and a hysterical Brewster through the streets of a southern California town. In terms of excitement level and all-out destruction of public property, motor vehicles and innocent bystanders, it’s one of the best car chases in recent celluloid history.

Unfortunately, T3 is all downhill from there. The rest of the movie is disappointingly rote — more chase sequences and gunplay, all of the unspectacular variety. It’s as if the film’s makers — acutely aware of T1 & T2 director James Cameron’s absentia — cashed in all of their creative chips in trying to outdo his earlier work with that amazing display of vehicular mayhem. Fill-in director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) did not make the most of what little he was given to work with, failing to recreate or improve upon the gritty, film-noirish, relentlessly menacing yet cerebral approach that made T1 and T2 sci-fi classics.

T-X’s abilities are much more advanced than T2’s robot-villain, T-1000 (played by Robert Patrick), with a variety of weapons that sprout from her hands, and self-inflating breasts. However, this sleek model doesn’t project the sense of terror and dread to the audience nearly as well as Patrick did. Rather, she comes off as a deadpan, mean-spirited, female Inspector Gadget. Arnold the Terminator is looking pretty good for a fellow of his age; however, his sole role in T3 is to not only reprise, but to caricaturize his T2 and T1 roles, capitalizing on classic scenes from the films. As for Stahl and Danes, well… Stahl is no Edward Furlong, and Danes is no Linda Hamilton.

T3’s uninspired plot chugs along like a scarecrow in search of a brain (or is it a tin man and a heart?). But there’s no wizard at the end of this movie, only a coincidence-laden, suspension-of-disbelief-challenging, outright goofy finale — complete with a set seemingly borrowed from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. With a little cinematic sleight-of-hand, the film and its marketers shamelessly troll for ticket-revenue, while setting up the next (and probably final) chapter of the Terminator saga. The audience — especially hardcore Terminator fans — will begin to feel that they’ve been “had” by the time they reach their cars, for T3’s not a Robocop 3-awful movie, but it’s not even slightly rewarding or memorable, either. Oh, Cameron, where art thou?

Warner Brothers: http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/movies/

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