141 – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Smack dab in the middle of such lustrous movies as Pirates of the Carribbean, The Hulk, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Matrix: Reloaded, and X2 comes Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You know, I remember when Arnold was mighty enough to warrant a Fourth of July opening for his movies, but apparently his studio is happy with the movie’s being buried in a sea of zap!bam!pow! action movies.

Ah, but enough carping about the timing. Let’s get to the nitty gritty, shall we?

People fall into three categories. First, there are the ones who have never seen a Terminator film. Those people aren’t likely to watch this third installment. Then there are the ones who thought the second one was better than the first. Those people will probably think this one’s not as good as the second, but about on par with the first. And then thee are those who thought the first one rocked like a mighty cradle; those people might be disappointed and will probably crow to the rest of us that sequels are always bad and that the original is always better.

Here’s the story, kids. The scene is a few years after Terminator 2. In that movie, John Connor was 11 years old. Now he’s more like 14 or 15. He’s on his own, pretty much bumming around the country, doing odd jobs, always on the run, that sort of thing. And somehow he runs into the Terminator along the way.

Now, you might remember the Terminator as being Bad in the first movie and Good in the second. When John meets him, he doesn’t know which attitude will be taken by the robot. So why is the T-800 (Arnold) back? Well, he said he’d be. But more importantly, he’s here to protect John once again. And from whom, you might ask? From a T-X, a female Terminator, sent back in time by the machines in the future to kill John’s lieutenants.

See, the machines don’t know where John is in this present time. They do have a fix on the whereabouts of the people who will become his top deputies when he finally leads the resistance. Their theory, then, is to kill them off, hoping to thwart the rebellion by man before it really develops.

Funny thing, though. The homeless John breaks into a veterinary clinic to get some medicine, and it just so happens that working at the clinic is Kate Brewster, who is to be one of his lieutentants. The T-X arrives there to rub Kate out and stumbles upon John, and that’s when Arnold shows up.

The second Terminator movie had a huge budget, and the money was wisely spent on special effects, effects that were state-of-the-art in 1991. Now, CGI is all the rage, so the effects aren’t so special. So to make up for a lack of innovation, the filmmakers (not James Cameron, who made the first two movies) throw in a lot of crashes, explosions and other loudnesses. In fact, there’s a long, long car/truck chase scene near the very beginning that’s pretty well done – but overlong. And, unfortunately, it occurs before the plot can really be set in place.

The movie itself isn’t very long – two hours is nothing for an action movie. A little more plot padding would have made me feel better about it.

But back to the movie as a whole. Nick Stahl plays John now (it was Edward Furlong in the second, in his debut), and he does a great job. He looks a lot like Ed Furlong probably looks now. Kate Brewster is played by Claire Danes. Yes, Claire Danes! A bit of an unusual role for her, but she can do plucky and empathetic. And of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the T-800, the original Terminator. There’s one cameo by a character who had a big role in the second Terminator movie, and it’s a funny one, too.

Will you enjoy this movie? I think you will, but it’s not going to blow you away like the first or second may have. Arnold carries this movie for the most part, because he doesn’t have Linda Hamilton from the other films (as John’s mother, Sarah) to help him out. Hamilton was a big reason that T2 was so successful – her role made it more than a Guys Smash Stuff movie. This one doesn’t quite escape that fate, however.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: ***

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