A new Terminator arrives in the present. In the form of a female, the Terminatrix exhibits terrifying new powers that combine the abilities of the T-1000 and the T-101. Strangely, though, she begins killing random people in Los Angeles. Why is she killing them?
A new Uncle Bob Terminator also arrives in the present to protect John Connor. However, theres more to this one than meets the eye. He has a secret past and mission that will profoundly affect John Connors life. He also reveals that Skynet was inevitably created despite John and Sarah Connors best efforts. The new Judgment Day will arrive in a few short hours. But is there anything John can do about it?
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is rated R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity.
T3 is more of a popcorn flick that its predecessors. While T2 was heavy on drama, beautiful cinematography, good performances, and great dialogue, T3 lacks in all those areas. It chooses to emphasize comedy and hard-hitting action even more so that the other films. If Terminator 2 was gourmet dessert, T3 is a Twinkie. Both are good, but each in their own way. One is made with a lot of care while the other is mass produced sugary goodness. Your enjoyment will depend on your tastes and what youre in the mood for.
One of the things that struck me about Terminator 3 was the improvement in special effects. T2 was a dramatic jump in special effects technology from Terminator. T3 isnt quite as big a jump, but a jump nevertheless. You see CG Terminator endosketetons walking and fighting in their full glory. You see the morphing effects used on the Terminatrix to greater effect. And as Arnold is beat up and mangled by the end of the film (and you know he is), they use a combination of makeup and CG that is stunning. I never believed more that Arnold was a robot. I wished they had used it more in the film. The scenes of nuclear destruction are impressive as well though they lack the personal impact of Sarah Connors nightmares in T2.
T3 also has some of the best action sequences of the summer. Theres a rather spectacular car chase involving a crane truck. The amount of sheer destruction in the chase is impressive and is, honestly, bigger than many of the chases in the previous two movies. I actually liked it better than the Matrix freeway chase. The grand finale is cool and it involves our heroes battling Skynet and the first generation of Terminators. Overall, thumbs up on the action.
I was really worried the movie was going to be a rehash of Terminator 2. While there are a ton of similarities between the two, they still manage to throw in a number of unique twists to make the story interesting. For example, the reason for the TX killing other people is rather intriguing. I wont spoil it for you here. Claire Danes addition as Kate Brewster throws an interesting twist into the works as well. Her role in everything is revealed towards the end of the film and her character has a lot of future potential. Most interesting, though, is that this film sets up a very cool premise for a sequel which could be set entirely in the post-Judgment Day world. I think thats a story Id very much like to see told.
The cast is fairly solid. Of course Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a new Terminator. He looks the same as he did in the other films, but his performance is a bit different. He has many more lines and it makes him seem less robotic. I think he would have been better off just looking cool. Edward Furlong is replaced by Nick Stahl as John Connor. Stahl does a fine enough job, but he lacks the bad boy, rebellious aura of Furlong. I never really thought I saw any potential in him to be a great leader. He is good opposite of Claire Danes, though. I thought she struck a good balance between the wimpy Sarah Connor of Terminator and the butch Sarah Connor of T2. She also has a good relationship with Stahl in the film. Id really like to see more of her in a sequel. Earl Boen also returns as Dr. Peter Silberman in a cameo that seemed a little forced, but it did draw laughs.
What Didnt Work:
There are numerous plot holes in the film. The TX is inexplicably able to show up where a person is least likely to be and then kills them. Theres little explanation on how she does it. Arnold, Connor, and the gang also magically infiltrate a top secret military installation with no explanation. Throughout the movie I get a sense that a lot of scenes involving exposition were cut for the sake of keeping a fast pace. Maybe well learn more on the DVD. And after a breathless, action packed pace through the rest of the film, the movie ends quietly on what should have been the biggest scene of the movie. I found it a bit disappointing. T3 should have ended on a bang rather than a whimper.
I should also mention the shameless product placements in the movie. John Connor blatantly displays a Budweiser beer bottle. A truck in a car chase has a massive ad for a nutritional supplement that takes up the whole screen. Fellow critic Danny Minton mentioned he was waiting for Planet Hollywood to appear on the screen. I guess I cant fault the film this, though, because T2 had blatant product placements for Subway and Pepsi.
Finally, I have to mention the rating. Theres no way this movie deserved an R. A PG-13 would have been appropriate. Ive seen PG-13 movies with more profanity, gore, and butt shots than this film had. If the MPAA wants their ratings to carry any weight, they need to be more consistent on how they rate movies.
The Bottom Line: