3: The Rise of the Machines
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and
Tedi Sarafian (Story)
John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator
Nick Stahl - John Connor
Claire Danes - Kate Brewster
Kristanna Loken - T-X
David Andrews - Robert Brewster
Mark Famiglietti - Scott Petersen
Earl Boen - Dr. Peter Silberman
Moira Harris - Betsy
Chopper Bernet - Chief Engineer
Chris Lawford - Brewster's Aide
Carolyn Hennesy - Rich Dead Woman
Jay Acovone - Dead Cop - Westside Street
“That was a different T-101.”
“What do you guys, come off an assembly line or
“Oh man, I'm gonna have to teach you
everything all over again.”
To sum up: Arnold's back as the Terminator from the future; sent to
protect John Connor from a superior Terminator sent back to kill him.
Apparently the plot from "Terminator 2" was sent back as well.
Although Skynet, the machines that are to have
overthrown mankind in the future, has been destroyed (as seen in
"Terminator 2"), a now twenty-something John Connor (Nick Stahl) is
living underground, fearfully convinced that a machine controlled future can
still happen. His fears are confirmed when Skynet sends back yet another
Cyborg, this time in the form of a sexy Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken). With
John out of sight she sets out to kill his lieutenants, including Kate
Brewster (Claire Danes), and with luck find him. Enter Arnold
Schwarzenegger as the good Terminator, sent back in time by the human
resistance to protect them.
The first 2 Terminator films were nearly perfect
action vehicles. The first was a classic example of low budget filmmaking
brilliance. For 8 million dollars we got a marvelously executed love story
about a killer cyborg from the future. It also made a career for Arnold
Schwarzenegger. The second film was almost as good as the original. Dealing
with two machines (one human in the form of Linda Hamilton and the other not
in the form of Arnold) learning what it meant to be human - it set box office
records while providing some truly revolutionary visual effects.
Now after setting the bar sooooo high, only sheer
stupidity and greed would make someone want to do another Terminator. Almost
every time we have a situation like this, good writing goes out the window and
we get a "Phantom Menace" or and "Alien 3".
Is that the case with this film? Not quite. I went
in expecting a lackluster film and came out surprisingly entertained. Why?
Well, for 3 main reasons.
One - This film didn't have either James Cameron,
the first 2 films' writer and director, or Linda Hamilton, who was John
Connor's mother. That's bad. But what it did have was the return of Arnold.
Without him there could be no Terminator films. Arnold has taken a character
and defined it so thoroughly that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone
else playing the part. And though Arnold made the studio pony up a huge chunk
of change ($31 million!!!) to star in this film, they know that when he
commits to a film, he makes sure that he gives his all to that film. Indeed
the most famous example of that for this film occurred when the studio was
reluctant to give more money for the extended car chase, the action
centerpiece of the film. To help out, Arnold donated $1 million of his own
cash to help ensure that the sequence came out just right. I don't know of
many other stars doing that.
At this point, Arnold becoming the Terminator is
like slipping on that old comfortable pair of shoes. He has the ins and outs
of this character down. His portrayal this time is more closely in line with
his take in "Terminator 2" and because of the familiarity of the
audience with this character, he gets to have a bit more fun with the role.
It's almost as if each Terminator they send back through time gets an upgrade
in the "Likable Guy" portion of his programming. In a few films, he
should be doing stand-up.
Two - The action in this film is very good.
Although it worked in "The Matrix", I for one am getting sick of the
wire assisted, Hong Kong inspired action scenes. This film has two tanks, the
Terminators, pounding away at each other in a glorious free-for-all of property damage
producing action. As a result the computer work that usually accompanies
action scenes these days is kept to a minimum and things have a refreshing
down-to-earth feel (in that over-the-top, explosive way).
Of note is the aforementioned car chase. With poor
John in a small truck, being pursued by the Terminatrix in a stolen monstrous
crane-truck, and Arnold right behind in his own commandeered fire truck, one
is assured of two things. One is that I have no idea what the true names of
these vehicles are. The second is the certainty that everything in the way is
going to get smashed. Buildings and cars all, the destruction sure looks
The second most entertaining action sequence is
when the two Terminators finally get their hands on each other and engage in a
brawl in which nothing is safe, especially a building's restroom. Not
satisfied with the destruction of a restroom in the film "True
Lies", Arnold really takes out his aggressions for toilet terminating in
Three - There's a large amount of humor. The film
plays with the familiarity we have with the other films and the Terminator
himself. We know the Terminator arrives naked and must find clothes in order
to blend in. In the past he's killed street punks and maimed bikers in a bar
to secure the threads. This time he winds up in a strip club on ladies night.
The film pokes fun at the Terminator's love of cool sunglasses. It toys with
his trying to use human sarcasm and slang - especially the phrase "talk
to the hand." In short it's a pretty funny film.
It is, however, loaded with flaws, especially
compared to the first two films. The depth of characterization is almost nonexistent.
Though it took time spent with the people he was protecting for him to learn
things in the last film, here the Terminator does has these traits almost
right away. For example, in "Terminator 2" he had to be ordered not
to kill anyone. In this one he seems to know it immediately. There are times
when he starts to show the beginnings of human emotion just like he did in
"T-2", but there are no moments of character bonding in this film to
support the sudden existence of these emotions. Did he have "quality
time" before he was sent back? If so, inform the audience.
Also the characters of John Connor and Kate
Brewster are almost paper thin. There is no real evolution by these characters
except simply realizing that they may not be able to stop the machines from
taking over. For the most part their job is to run, duck, and cover while
Arnold does his job protecting them. Nick Stahl is not bad for the role that
he is given but it's really hard to seem him as the battle-hardened leader of
the human resistance of the future. Edward Furlong, who played the Connor
character at age 10 in the previous film, was able to project that better.
Again part of the problem is the lack of a character story in the script.
Claire Danes fares hardly better with a role that is little more than
Kristanna Loken, the sexy T-X, clearly looks like
she's having fun with her role. Though she's playing the part of the
unemotional killer cyborg, there's a twinkle in her eyes that let's the
audience know that she's having fun playing with the big toys and doing the
big action. She likes kicking butt.
Also one has to wonder why the film doesn't answer
some of the obvious questions that have crept into the series. Why do they
keep sending back Arnold to battle these superior machines? Is it a nod
towards the classic underdog story? Are they trying to say that older machines
are inherently superior and I should trade in my Playstation for an Atari
2600? Yes, I know that it's because Arnold is the star but at least explain
why it has to be him. I'm also wondering why they don't send back an army of
machines? Seems like the thing to do since one at a time isn't working.
At least send them so they show up every day instead of every 10 years.
In short, as a Terminator film it's not nearly as
good as the others. As a summer action film it is definitely one of the better
ones that I have seen - a little more meat and not as empty on the
Almost certainly, they'll be back.
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