Title  : Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Platform  : Cinematic
Director  : Jonathan Mostow
Publisher  : Warner Home Video
MPAA Rating  : R
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The future is dangerously close to becoming the present. But he said he'll be back — and he is. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the robotic assassin from the future in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. John Connor (Nick Stahl) and Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) will need his protection as they are hunted by the malicious T-X, an advanced model of terminator, played by Kristanna Loken. 

Schwarzenneger is one of the film's few personalities of continuity, as series veterans James Cameron and Linda Hamilton are both absent. Though this film does little to honor its predecessors, it is an enjoyable, action-packed, and even funny film on its own. But fans cursed with the tendency to think too much and over-analyze things might be unsettled by some inconsistencies. 

Having realistic expectations about an unrealistic science is often an exercise in disappointment. Fiction has collectively created many variations of temporal mechanics, and even those that don't make sense can be overlooked when they are used effectively — witness the movie Frequency. So despite the causality loops of the previous films, what we've seen so far in the Terminator series does not prepare us for the new continuity created by T3. 

The events of the series' progenitor engendered both SkyNet and John O'Connor, the leaders of the post-Judgment Day war. T3 terminates this clever poignancy by making SkyNet's existence in dependent of that causality loop. We discover that the second movie's protagonists did not change the future; they simply delayed it, and Connor must again fight to set things right. This defeatist attitude of an inevitable outcome is in sharp contrast to all we've watched Cameron's heroes strive for so far. 

Also, though the future timeline has been altered by past events, Schwarzenegger's terminator is apparently aware of the facts of the first two films, despite this new machine coming from an alternative, and now non-existent, timeline. 

Time travel aside, there were other aspects of T3 to dislike. The new antagonist, the T-X, is much less personable than either Arnold or the T-1000. We see very little interaction between her and other characters, and her ominousness comes primarily from her technological capabilities, not her demeanor; in contrast, Robert Patrick's T-1000 was a wicked and malevolent villain, due not just to Hollywood's then-emerging morphing technology, but the actor's own excellent portrayal. The fist- and gun-fights between Arnold and the T-X are mundane and consist mostly of exchanging blows in turn; there were no real surprises. Even the final showdown between these two characters was anticlimactic. 

There was also a sequence that showed a plane landing and taking off – but the plane we see in these scenes is different from the one we see airborne. Though movies are rife with such minor errors, few are as obvious and unexcusable as this one, which should not have been overlooked by the production crew of a big budget Hollywood film. 

There is still plenty to like about this film, though, including at least one action sequence that is as unforgettable as classic scenes from other Terminator flicks. Rather unusual for the Terminator series was the presence of good amount of humor in this third installment, but its execution was appropriate and realistic and was a funny and original element. 

Overall, T3 was a good film, but I prefer to consider it a "what if?" rather than an actual extension of the first two films. Director Mostow has recreated Cameron's dream in his own image. Is the result a great movie? Yes. A great Terminator film? No.


This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Boston Beacon, 01-Nov-03