johnlink ranks TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)

Marched right through the TERMINATOR trilogy pretty quickly this week. Obviously there was a fourth (and soon fifth) movie, but this third film did feel like it was closing an arc before the whole thing was relaunched for a new generation. Hadn’t seen this one since theaters, so I was curious to see if it was as mediocre as its reputation says it is, or if it just was the victim of super lofty expectations after the strength of JUDGMENT DAY.

Oct 16, 2002; Hollywood, USA; Actors KRISTANNA LOKEN as T-X and ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER as The Terminator star in the futuristic action thriller movie 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.'  Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros./ZUMA Press.  (©) Copyright 2002 by Warner Bros.

I watched TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) on 5.22.15. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since its theatrical run.

The tone for TERMINATOR 3 was set long before a camera was ever turned on. Series creator, James Cameron, had already decided that he told the totality of his story in the first two films. He wanted nothing to do with a return. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his part, said he wouldn’t do another one unless Cameron was in. Cameron told him he needn’t be so noble. Why not just take the money and run? Doing a film for an actor isn’t the year-long time suck it is for a director, Cameron and Schwarzenegger must have reasoned, so why not roll out the character one more time. Annie was paid, reportedly, a near $30 million to come back to the series, and that is before considering the stipend he was getting for the little things like private jets.

Linda Hamilton was asked to come back for a cameo, but she declined. Edward Furlong was going through some personal issues, so the producers brought on Nick Stahl to take over the role of John Connor. In fact, other than Schwarzenegger and an amazingly forced cameo by Earl Boen – as the doctor who spent the first two movies not believing Sarah Connor – nobody else from either of the first two films is back on board in front of the camera.

In terms of story, the previous two movies weren’t exactly treated like canon. TERMINATOR 2 actually took place a couple of years later than it was made – more mid 1990’s than 1991 – and so John Connor is clearly shown to be 10 years old in a computer file looked at by the villainous T-1000. But in TERMINATOR 3, this John Connor references that he was 13 years old. This is done, partly, to justify that he might have been romantically involved with his new female companion (Claire Danes) had the events of the previous movie never happened. But, truly, it shows how this entire film was merely an excuse to have an action flick and that the story was a secondary consideration.

The action, for its part, is spectacular. A chase on the streets of Los Angeles involving a crane truck driven by the new female Terminator (Kristanna Loken) is breathtaking. A later scene in a cemetery is also effective. The climatic moments work. But, for most of the first hour or so of this movie, the writers merely want to cash in the gimmicks of the first two movies (like Arnie stealing clothes and the evil Terminator turning into loved ones) rather than be truly groundbreaking. Being honest, the third act of this film isn’t all that bad. There is a twist at the end which actually pays off in a productive way. But the movie hasn’t earned that ending. It spends the first 90 minutes being too pedestrian an action film for the ending to have the impact it might have.

The bulk of the story has Schwarzenegger again protecting John Connor and his wife-to-be. The villainous female Terminator was originally just in town to kill off all of Connor’s highest ranking military lieutenants, but she stumbles across Connor himself and updates her mission. It all feels exceedingly coincidental, something the movie rights off as ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ or something. Nothing says lazy writing like chalking all events up to ‘the way it is all supposed to be’.

Is this a film which is hurt by the height of the first and second films? Absolutely. If this was not a movie in a larger series we might forget the lack of character development and just focus on the action. But TERMINATOR 2 was too good a film to be followed up by such an exceedingly average film. Nobody in this is all that bad – nobody here is even as wooden as Michael Biehn from the first TERMINATOR film – and Nick Stahl actually plays a pretty good John Connor. But no actor here seems like they are doing anything to further their craft. A lot of paychecks were cashed for this one, and there is nothing wrong in that. It just doesn’t make for a particularly memorable film.




FINAL SCORE: 4.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on May 23, 2015.

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