TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, David Andrews and Kristanna Loken

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Review by Mark Walters


WELL OILED MACHINE

When it was originally announced that there would be a third TERMINATOR movie, fans reacted with mixed feelings of curiosity and excitement.  Then it was announced that James Cameron wouldn't have anything to do with it.  Needless to say skepticism followed.  Arnold seemed enthusiastic about the project, and the incredibly large $170 million budget raised the question "Could this sequel actually be good?"  I recently saw an advance screening of T3, and I walked out of the theater pretty pleased.  The first TERMINATOR movie was different enough to be unique, despite looking very dated these days.  TERMINATOR 2 was impressive both in it's brilliant action and amazing effects shots, which still look impressive now.  My biggest concern was whether or not the third installment would even hold a candle to what came prior.

The story opens with John (Stahl) Connor narrating his current life status, explaining that despite his earlier victories, he continues to live his life in reclusive fear of what might happen.  His fears are not without warrant, as we soon see when a female terminator called the T-X (Loken) appears in a clothing store window, and quickly begins taking out important players from Connor's future.  A young woman named Kate (Danes) Brewster, who wants nothing more than to spend more time with her military father (Andrews), is about to find out she's also on that list.  As before another terminator (Arnold) is sent back to protect John.  With Kate now caught in the mix, these three do their best to stay one step ahead of the unrelenting T-X.  Thankfully the question is raised and answered as to why these terminators even exist, especially since Connor and his mother supposedly shut down the robot-manufacturing Skynet corporation in the last film.  The all-out war between machines and man is coming, and John and Kate must now try to stop it before it begins, with the help of their new cyborg friend.  Sound familar?

Aside from a few interesting subplots, T3 is very similar to the it's predecessor in many ways.  There's a good terminator competing with a bad terminator, and two rebellious humans trying to stop something before it starts.  But why break the formula if it works, right?  We get what we expect, with some new twists, and for the most part it's all good.  Perhaps the one weak aspect is surprisingly Arnold's character.  In the last film he dealt with trying to understand human feelings, which made him more interesting.  In this movie he is just a machine, and acts like a machine.  Don't get me wrong, we still get those classic Arnold puns, but it's harder to apply any sort of attachment to him during this outing.  Kristanna Loken is very impressive as the T-X, or Terminatirx.  She's sexy, very graceful in a creepy manner, and extremely fun to watch.  Her impressive powers make her a threatening and worthy foe.  To me she was the most fun part of the movie.  Nick Stahl is perfect as John Connor.  If there was anything about Edward Furlong you didn't like in the last flick, Stahl more than makes up for it with this terrific performance.  Claire Danes, who I've never really been all that impressed with, plays her part fairly well, though I have to say just about anyone could've handled that particular role.  Her character serves the story, but there's unfortunately just not much to her.  What works best in T3 is the spectacular action scenes and fights.  Cameron raised the bar pretty high in T2, but I'm happy to say this film serves up plenty of thrills, and should easily fulfill if not surpass your expectations of excitement.  One particular fight scene between the two terminators is incredibly intense, and even earned some well-deserved cheers from the audience.  Director Jonathan Mostow earned my favor with the 1997 film BREAKDOWN, which starred Kurt Russell, but failed to do too much for me with U-571 in 2000.  My expectations were mixed, but he certainly delivered with this appropriate sequel.  The violence is for the most part shown off screen, which in many ways is more effective.  It's safe to say there's more destruction in this film than the first two.  There's also a nice twist ending that I really enjoyed, though it could be argued that this film is nothing more than an excuse for yet another sequel.  Either way I enjoyed it.  The effects are superb, and every dollar spent can be seen on the screen.  Arnold still looks good, Loken is very hot, and Stahl gets my vote as the new John Connor.  If the TERMINATOR franchise continues, let's hope this team is still on board.

Images copyright WARNER BROTHERS, INTERMEDIA and C2 PICTURES 2003.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES an 8.


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