In 1984, director James Cameron showed us a vision of a future world dominated by machines in "The Terminator." Then, in 1991 with "Terminator 2" the murderous T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) of the first film became the protector of young John Connor, the future leader of the resistance in mankind's fight to survive the robot onslaught. Arnie is back, once again, to save now 18-year old Connor (Nick Stahl) as he runs away from the weigh of the future in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."
"I'll be back!" is one of the many catch phrases reprised not just from the "Terminator" series but also from many of Arnie's other action flicks. Like these oft used phrases, "Terminator 3" covers ground well tread in the first two movies and, under the helm off Jonathan Mostow, foregoes much of the sci-fi element and replaces it with action, action, action.
John Connor is a troubled young man who, alone, bears the weight of the future world, a world prophesied to be ruled by machines. He's a motorcycle-riding loner badly coping with the knowledge that he will become the lynchpin in the survival of man on earth. There is good reason for him to fear the future when another one of those pulsing bubble from the future lands in downtown LA one night. Out walks a beautiful, naked woman (Kristanna Loken) but we know what she is all about as she approaches a well-dressed woman and says, flatly, "I like your car." This new mechanical assassin is model T-X and has a few new tricks, like being able to remote control other machines. She is on the track of those who last had contact with John and begins interrogating and killing them one by one as she pursues her prey.
Soon after the T-X arrives another bubble lands and out steps a T-800 that looks just like Arnold Schwarzenegger! And this one also has a penchant for black leather, sawed-off shotguns, motorcycles and, of course, cool sunglasses. He's back.
John has a bike accident, narrowly missing a deer but doing himself some damage when he hits the pavement. He breaks into a veterinary hospital to steal painkillers and knocks himself out in the process. Kate Brewster, the vet's assistant, is called in for an emergency, finds Connor and traps him in a large cage. T-X, searching for Kate who was one of the last contacts before John disappeared years before, quickly learns of Connor's presence and the chase begins. Just as T-X is about to fulfill her prime directive and kill the future leader in the war against the machines when she is slammed into a building by T-800, who is keeping his own directive - protect John Connor.
Once the ground rules are established - there are no rules - T-X, dubbed Terminatrix by John, begins her relentless hunt to find and kill him. T-800 is equally relentless in his efforts to stop the beautiful, soulless high-tech machine that has its own built-in weapons systems. Her ability to control other machines is nicely handled, especially in one of the big chase scenes involving driverless police cars, a huge mobile crane and a fire engine that smash up a goodly bit of LA. This is where "T3" shines - in its action.
Helmer Mostow, who did a yeoman's job with "U-571," has a good sense of action pacing and keeps the chases and shootouts fast and furious. The script by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (with Tedi Sarafian) keeps the clever one-liners coming and you don't mind hearing "I'm back" one more time. Don Burgess's cameras cover the action from all angles giving editors Nicolas De Toth and Neil Travis some good material to work with in the cutting room. As you would expect in a long-anticipated actioner like "Terminator 3" the F/X are high powered and good looking and often delivered with humor.
There is a nice chemistry, initially confrontational, between Stahl and Danes that keep "T3" more than just a thriller. I'll leave you to find out for yourself if there is a romance or not. Arnie is doing what he does best and he is still an impressive figure of a man who, here, is not merely going through the motions. Model Kristanna Loken, as the Terminatrix, had the guys in the theater whistling and hooting when she emerges from the bubble in her birthday suit. The pretty newcomer to the screen is not given the chance for much range of emotion as the relentless killing machine but it is certainly a good calling card performance. I believed that she could kick my butt to the moon.
"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is the perfect kind of summer entertainment and should be huge in its July 4th weekend opening slot. It is familiar, with a good pedigree, slick, well crafted and has a decent script. It doesn't get much better third time around. I give it a B.
Laura did not see this film.
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