Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Film Review © 2003 by Trip Reynolds

Science Fiction, Fantasy

Directed by Jonathan Mostow; Screenplay by John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian; Produced by Matthias Deyle, Mario Kassar, Hal Lieberman, Joel B. Michaels, Andrew G. Vajna, and Colin Wilson; Executive Produced by Moritz Borman, Guy East, Gale Anne Hurd, Aslan Nadery, Volker Schauz, and Nigel Sinclair.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the resilient and ever resourceful Terminator, T-101), Nick Stahl (as the past, present and future hope and leader of humanity, John Connor), Kristanna Loken (as the most powerful cybernetic machine ever made by machines, T-X), and Claire Danes (as John Connor's paramour by fate, Kate Brewster), and David Andrews (as Kate's father, General Robert Brewster).

As sequels go, this one is definitely a positive addition to the franchise. Excellently paced, smartly written, and full of Arnold. As expected, the special effects are astonishing and, equally surprisingly, the special effects are efficient, and not gratuitous.

Story essentially begins where "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," from 1991, left off. Wow, has it really been 12 years? Anyway, a twenty-something John Connor is still keeping an extremely low profile by staying away from any kind of mainstream lifestyle - no credit cards, no phones, works temporary jobs, and has no permanent residence. Yet, try as he might to prevent any kind of surveillance of his existence, especially by electronic means, fate again brings his inevitable future directly to him and, unfortunately, to anyone who knows of him - including Kate Brewster. Initially Brewster is unknowingly but inevitably a target for the T-X because she was a former high school acquaintance of John Connor and, ironically, her father is in charge of Sky Net, the cyber-communications network that ultimately dooms humanity into the apocalyptic war against the machines.

Kristanna Loken's T-X is formidable as the latest state-of-the-art Terminator sent from the future to destroy John Connor. Like each of her predecessors (the original Terminator, and the T-1000 for "T2"), the T-X is destructively methodic and always stoic in her pursuit of John Connor. Carnage is everywhere! Schwarzenegger does an excellent job reprising his T-101 character which seems to fit him like a glove. Although not written into the script, film seems to suggest that John Connor of the future programmed the veritable human will to survive (including humor!) into Arnold's T-101 before sending it back into the past to protect himself and save humanity. So, despite being overmatched in strength and technology by the T-1000 from "T2" and the T-X in "T3", Arnold's T-101 has the edge to be a helluva lot more creative, and far more scrappier than his adversaries.

Talk about scrappy, Connor most likely acquired his will to survive from his mother, Sarah Connor, played with feisty determination by the visually petit but very fit and athletic Linda Hamilton in "T1" and "T2." In "T3" Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor didn't appear, having supposedly died sometime after the conclusion of "T2." Nevertheless, I hope "T4" brings back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Hamilton's strong femininity cast a perfect counter-balance to both Arnold's dominating screen presence, and the raging, testosterone enhanced action. Although sometimes predictable and sometimes perfunctory, due in large part to a script that places greater focus on action than acting, all players gave strong performances.

With the fates of John Connor and Kate clearly realized, film ends with a likely setup for "T4." Unlike "The Matrix" film franchise, "The Terminator" film franchise will likely perform much better in presenting an imaginative post-apocalyptic human existence. Get ready for Terminator 4! Hopefully, we won't have to wait 12 years for the next installment.

Film is capably directed by Terminator fan, Jonathan Mostow. Original "T1" and "T2" director and screenwriter James Cameron should be pleased.

Film has a brisk, nicely paced running length of 110 minutes.

Recommendation: You need to see this movie on the big screen FIRST; then purchase the special edition DVD when it becomes available!