Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES

Directed by Jonathan Mostow (2003, Warner Bros.)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristanna Loken

A third Terminator comes back in time to eliminate the military captains of the future war against machines, as Skynet is finally activated.

 

 

2+ stars+

August 5th, 2003 in the Theatre  
    This is just about what you would expect a Terminator movie to be. Unfortunately, it also lacks the emotional core of the previous ones (if you can call it that), and it seems like a rerun of T2, with a different ending.

With a different directorial style, I can see how this movie could be the first of a new trilogy. The film's ending could be considered in one of two ways. One, which would be the case only if the film had a poor box-office showing, would tell us that we cannot cheat fate, that John Connor would become a war hero even though the timeline was changed, just as the machines would ultimately attack humans. The end.

In the second interpretation, we can see the end of the movie as a cliffhanger. The nuclear bombs are flying, making Earth look like a giant firecracker, with sparks whizzing all over its surface, leading to nuclear winter and total devastation. With John and Kate in the control bunker, they could easily take on a leadership position against the machines. The second movie in this new trilogy would harden John into a great leader by the end, but not allow him to win the war just yet. The final movie would see the hard-earned victory lead by John or maybe Kate, if the future hasn't changed again.

But what about this movie? There were the requisite action scenes, which were terrific to watch, the big gunfights, and lots of fistfights. The car/ truck chase must have been hugely expensive, as the giant (I don't even know what that huge truck was for...) took over the road. I loved the way the crane took out everything in its path, even the front of a building, as the TX drove after John. Her remote control of the police cars and fire trucks was hilarious to see.

The gunfights were cool, but much of that we had seen before, in T2. The new TX was a liquid metal Terminator, just like the one in the previous movie, with the sole extra features that she could control other machines, and could create her own weapons. This makes me wonder why she needed the gun in the first place, and what she uses for ammunition when she transforms her hand into a machine gun -parts of herself? The sole weapon that made me laugh out loud was the bazooka into her chest!

I can't figure out why we had any fistfights at all. The good terminator knows that he is no match for the new one, and that punching her will do no good. Neither will hitting her over the head with a urinal, or smashing her through walls. I suppose he was stalling for time, so that John and Kate could get away, but it made no sense, otherwise.

Was the TX cool? As cool as the one in T2, but nowhere near as chilling. To see the terminator reassemble after being frozen by liquid nitrogen in the previous movie was really spooky. Similar scenes here were barely a novelty. I thought she should have sustained some damage after being subjected to the magnetic field of that strength (so should John and Kate, for that matter); it would have been interesting to see her CPU wiped because of it! She was no longer needed by that point, because we knew John was going to live, and Skynet had already been activated. What an interesting plot that could have been. I don't know why she was reduced to a solid shape by the end, so that good Terminator could grab a hold of her. Maybe the magnet did damage her, to the point where she had trouble shape-shifting any more after reassembling herself.

What about the fact that the TX was female? In T2, the terminator didn't have a shape until he killed the police man. Here, she has a female shape that allows her to walk naked across the street. Where did she get that form? The mannequin? And if they were going to titillate, why not go ahead and give some nudity to make it worthwhile, because otherwise the continuity breaks down. She tries to look sultry and sexy, but I don't think she succeeds.

She somewhat resembles Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek Voyager, especially with the hairdo -but I thought she looked better with curly hair at the very beginning. Having said that, I never thought Seven was all that attractive, and the same goes for the Terminatrix.

The true beauty of this movie is Kate Brewster, future wife and second-in-command of John Connor. How John can't remember making out with her, even ten years ago, is beyond me! These two have pretty good chemistry, I think, and Claire Danes really reacts to the world around her going crazy in a human way. Being the daughter of a military designer, she knows how to handle weapons ("you remind me of my mother", John says at one moment!), and seeing her with BFGs was terrific! Her relief upon seeing her fiancÚ is apparent, as are her instincts when she senses something wrong, noticing the dead police officers. After they escape once more, she breaks down and cries, mourning until she realizes that her father is the next potential victim. Once they reach the bunker, and she realizes that they are alone there while the world is ending around them, she goes to comfort John, being strong at his side. It is worth noticing that she comes to the realization of what the bunker is first, knowing that there was no central core to Skynet.

So how do the machines take over? It seems that Skynet became self-aware before the military thought it could. It started slowly taking over even before it was released into the internet, looking like a massive virus that was taking over cell networks and servers around the world. When the US military decided to let Skynet battle the virus, it finally had complete control, and didn't waste much time exercising it. Sneaky machine! We weren't really given a motivation for the attacks, however. In the last film, it was explained that Skynet only attacked humanity after "we" tried to pull the plug. Here, nobody is trying to do that yet. I suppose that being self-aware, it knows how humanity will react when it becomes free. It would have been nice to get that in the dialog somewhere. I can't see how the initial casualty count could be as low as the Terminator said it would be, with all the bombs flying.

The good terminator is much the same, except that John thinks he "has to teach [him] all over again"! He does end up saving John, though, as in the previous film. I liked the fact that he had been reprogrammed by Kate, but his responses to questions was rather haphazard. He wouldn't answer something from John, but he would answer the same question from Kate. That's fine, except that he had been answering John's questions for a long time before Kate came into the front seat. Then, after Kate's question, John would ask something else, which the Terminator would answer. It appears that his programming could have used some consistency checks.

As a side note, I wonder how John and Kate are going to survive in that bunker. If the computers are 30 years old, then the food has to be that old, too. Even cans don't normally last that long, and freeze-dried packs require water, which will be difficult to find (it will be either radioactive, or full of 30-year old algae). It looked like nothing had been kept current in there except the gateway controller.

Most of the movie is a chase, the same as the two previous Terminator films. The emotion tried to come from Kate, and her father, but it was nothing compared to the grimness that possessed Sarah Connor in the last film. While the other two movies ended with victory, this one, while the Terminatrix is defeated, still ends up in defeat. It is a true departure in that sense, reminding me of the way The Empire Strikes Back ended -hope for the good guys, but with the bad guys in firm control. We shall just have to see what comes next.

 
   

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