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Terminator 3 - Rise Of The Machines

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Judy Thorburn

Terminator 3 - Rise Of The Machines

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“TERMINATOR 3 - RISE OF THE MACHINES” – IS A LETDOWN

Hard to believe it’s been twelve years since Terminator 2 arrived in theatres.  That film proved to be just as awesome as the first, if not better, with the result seen in staggering box office receipts.  It also established both flicks on the list of sci fi classics. Just ask any fan!  So, what’s the chance Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines could even come close to matching its predecessors? Not much - according to me.

If you thought that T2 had a satisfactory and logical conclusion that left you thinking mankind had been saved from mass destruction, think again.  The premise in T3 is that the fate of the world is inevitable.  It was just postponed. Well, isn’t that reassuring? Let me add convenient, as an explanation for a continuation of this apocalyptic thriller.

It’s ten years since the last cybernetic organism came to save the future resistant leader, John Connor and his mother.  Now, another cyborg killing machine, more deadly and intelligent than the last, has traveled back in time from the year 2029 to kill John, his future lieutenants, to insure the “rise of the machines”.

Nick Stahl (In the Bedroom) replaces Edward Furlong as John Connor, who we meet as twenty something, homeless, without a credit card, phone, or any traceable identity, and living in fear that another dreaded machine would show up some day to kill him.  But, of course, Arnold is back as a new, off the assembly line, T-l0l cybernetic organism, programmed to return to present day L.A. and protect John and his future wife, veterinarian Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), whose father, Robert (David Andrews) is director of Skynet, the computer software program run by the military which controls all the machines.  Their mission is to stop him from unleashing the program that will enable the machines to launch a nuclear attack and bring about judgment day. At the same time, the heroes must survive the relentless pursuit of the most powerful terminator, a beautiful female version known as T-X, aka the Terminatrix, who is hot on their trail.  Fully equipped with arms that turn into weapons, and morphing capabilities, her advanced design makes her a more effective Terminator who appears indestructible and unstoppable.

I was hoping that this sequel would live up to my expectations. The original Terminator and T 2 was an awesome sci fi action thriller, that blended an intriguing story with

spectacular action and visual effects. But, those two films had the creator/writer/director James Cameron at the helm.  His touch is missing here, and it’s obvious. His characters were written with depth and emotion and offered a powerful performance by Linda Hamilton, (as Sarah Connor, John’s mother) who has not returned for part 3. Her absence is explained as “death by leukemia”. Stahl and Danes are good, but their performances can’t replace the strength and power of Hamilton’s character, which is needed.

Director Jonathan Mostow (U571) takes over with a script by John Brancato and Michael Ferns with an angle that weaves biblical references, subtle, but ever present.  Example in point – JC is the initials of mankind’s future savior. I won’t give away the others. However, the emphasis is on explosive action over story, and fails to deliver a compelling continuation of the series.

Good old Arnold, amazingly pumped up and looking not a day older than his last appearance wears his role like a perfect fit. And, why not? This is the part that made him a superstar.   For $30 million, wouldn’t you be back?  But, you’ve got to give him credit.  Even with his deadpan delivery of humorous, but silly one-liners, he has made his robotic creature multi-dimensional.  Wish I could say that for Kristanna Loken, whose femme cyborg is a one-note act.  Robert Patrick, who portrayed the last cyborg assassin, showed his machine’s ability to impersonate human actions and interact accordingly. It made him more scary and menacing. This Terminatrix, although supposedly an upgrade, appears stoic, facially stiff, and emotionless when confronting humans. The CGI effects are cool, but can’t compare with the twelve year old liquid silver morphs of Judgment Day’s evil cyborg that still, today, sets a precedent for spectacular visual effects.

Sure, T-3 is packed with exciting car chases, incredible crashes upon crashes, explosions and choreographed fights and stunts that will delight every action fan. Especially jaw dropping is a lengthy sequence that outdoes even the freeway chase from Matrix Reloaded that involves a huge crane, police cars, motorcycles and trucks.  But, the script recycles scenes from the former films and repeats the old formulaic humor too many times.

The Terminator and Judgement Day were James Cameron’s babies.  He blended all the right ingredients to deliver a powerhouse sci fi franchise.  T-3 leaves an opening for yet another installment.  Let’s hope it doesn’t play like the Planet of the Apes. The original was a winner. But, it spawned lackluster sequels that seemed to never end. We need the return of that other JC – Cameron - to be T’s savior. He’s the only filmmaker who has the mettle to meddle with the metal!

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