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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: July 2nd, 2003 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Mostow Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews

J

ohn Connor (Nick Stahl) was the target of an assassination attempt before he was even born, thanks to time-travelling killer cyborgs. And he was homed in on again when he was only 13. With the help of family and unexpected allies, the “judgment day” that would initiate a future nuclear apocalypse was thwarted. The three billion lives that would have been extinguished in the coming war between man and machine were saved. But although the future is not certain, and fate is what individuals make for themselves, John Connor again finds himself the prey of a robotic assassin. A female robot (at least in appearance), the advanced model T-X (Kristanna Loken), is sent through time to terminate Los Angeles school district targets – all teenagers who will eventually become lieutenants in the rebellion of the future. And the familiar, older style, obsolete T-101 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is also sent back to once again counter the unrelentingly murderous cybernetic organism’s mission.

Meanwhile, veterinarian Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) and her fiancé Scott Mason (Mark Famiglietti) are scheduled to meet her Air Force father General Robert Brewster (David Andrews), who cancels at the last minute due to a new, destructive computer virus that is overtaking the military’s weapons programs. That night, Kate and John are coincidentally in the same location when the T-X arrives to execute the woman, allowing the T-101 to rescue them both, with the objective of hiding them in a fallout shelter in the Mojave desert. When he informs them of the new, looming judgment day that is inevitable and had only previously been delayed, they decide to instead initiate a chancy rescue mission at the Skynet headquarters, where General Brewster is about to turn over control to the experimental computer defense system.

The special effects have improved (though the CG-heavy terminator duels lack the intensity of practical effects alternatives), action sequences are more complex, explosions are grander, bullets are unleashed with less restraint, and the destruction level is maddeningly extensive (a car chase involving a wide load crane and a fire truck is particularly unforgettable and annihilative). Music is curiously absent from many of these scenes, likely hoping to isolate the elaborateness of the shots and the vehicles and other participants, though they would have been much more exciting had the very recognizable score intervened. By the end, it’s apparent that the plot is little more than an excuse to move from one action or chase scene to the next, unable to tell a new story and clearly content with rehashing the premises of the earlier episodes.

“The Terminator” and its sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” are two of the greatest entries into the science-fiction film genre. So is it possible to match or top the previous creative qualities? How about the creation of the incredibly formidable T-1000 antagonist? Director Jonathan Mostow and his crew have certainly tried, bringing back the irreplaceable Schwarzenegger as a protagonist, and upping the capabilities of the primary villain to include not only liquid metal regeneration, but also the ability to communicate with and control computer-governed equipment and duplicate complex weaponry – all while it resembles a deceptively slender and sexy woman. But none of the fresher concepts possess the lasting power of elements exhibited in the previous theatrical outings. Here, recycled tricks and notions are gimmicky and less sincere.

Plenty of humor again makes its way into the adventure, with one-liners and physical comedy supplementing the various nods to the preceding movies. Schwarzenegger is wholly watchable, reprising the role that made him a household name, as he monotonically demolishes the scenery, combats law enforcement (with zero casualties), psychologically manipulates his charges, and frankly divulges information about the future. Despite the lead human characters absorbing more physical abuse than possible and the conclusion presenting a rather objectionable post-apocalyptic notion, it’s undeniably fun to see Schwarzenegger return for another high-octane installment in the hugely successful franchise.

– Mike Massie

 

 



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