Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines review by The Grim Ringler

I feel dirty. I just had a one-night stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger and realized now he only used me. And I thought he loved me. I hadn’t had high hopes for T3 and I guess that it turns out it was for good reason. Every bit the perfect summer movie, T3 is complete cotton candy filmmaking and while it may be sweet to look at, honey, there ain’t no substance to that sugary goodness in your paw.

The story to T3 is much akin to the first to, only the film focuses now on John Connor and on his struggle to survive. Two more Terminator units are sent back to our modern era to again do battle, only this time the ‘evil’ Terminator – the TX, a striking new model with a real-live runway model’s butt – is not really after John (well, she sorta is and sorta isn’t. Since no one knows where he is they decide they will take out his lieutenants from the future before they can be enlisted to help him in his battle to save Man) and is instead out to destroy those that would help him. Sent to protect John once again is Arnold as the T-100, and tough as he is, he is no match for the TX, a machine that can control other machines and can mimic and appear as anything it touches. As soon as the TX realizes it can take out Connor though (and his future wife, played by Claire Danes), the race is on to escape this killing machine and to stop the re-emergence of the Skynet computer system that begins the Judgment Day war that decimates mankind. But before the three of them, John, Kate, and the T-100 can halt Skynet it has already been handed the reigns of control in the hopes that it can halt a computer virus that threatens cripple American communications. And now it becomes a race to stop Skynet before it can send the world into a nuclear war, all while the TX pursues them relentlessly in the hopes of ending Man’s last chance.

What a waste. This is, without a doubt, the biggest disappointment of the summer, and movie-wise, the biggest I have had in a while. The sad thing is, it will easily make enough money to warrant at least one more sequel. Damn them! This is frosting with no cake kids. It’s all special effects and explosions and no story. In taking creator James Cameron out of the picture (well, he took himself out of it) they have taken the very heart out of this series. Sure, the first two had boffo action, but they also had a great bond between John and his mother, or Sarah and Reese, or hell, John and the T-100. There was always someone to care about. And beyond that was the idea of whether or not we can change fate, can change the future. And if we changed it, what then? T3 has none of this. The only redeeming thing coming at the end, but it is really too little too late. And on the whole, the film feels too much like a Best Of the Terminator Films than it does a new story. There are re-hashes of scenes from the first two, there are the now-obligatory catch-phrases, and good god, there is the most pornographic uses of product placement I have ever seen. It as if the writers just, well, filled in the blanks. They knew what the end had to lead to, they knew that the T-100 was in it, and that he had to have a more powerful adversary, and they just filled in the rest with explosions. Of which there are many. And sure, they are great fun, and they blow stuff up real good, but so what? Who the hell cares at this point? I mean, we are at a stage in filmmaking where you can blow up all of Toledo and still not impress people. I have seen things blow up before, in the other two, but where’s the new twist? The new energy? And what’s with the humor? There is so much needless, pointless, and really downright juvenile humor that it all but damns the movie on it’s own. The T-100 pops up, new in town and naked as can be, and he needs duds, so he wanders out of the desert and into Ladies’ Night at some bar, he walks, naked, to the stage where a guy is stripping, T-100 tells him to remove his clothes, guy doesn’t, T-100 tells him again, big close up on the stripper, who we now realize is gay, and here we get the classic film line – “talk to the hand”. A line that Schwarzenegger actually repeats later! Sigh. Didn’t we see this in Star Trek 4, the whole – let’s make a non-funny character funny. Ummm, let’s not. This is a movie about the end of mankind, can we spare the jokes? And for a future couple, well, John and his lady friend need to read up on their book learning and get an idea what chemistry is all about, ‘cause baby, they gots none!

All is not lost. As a mindless action film this fills the bill. It’s ably, if not exceptionally directed and the actors, while none are great, are adequate. And heck, Arnie does have a couple of nice moments. But at this point he’s only caricaturing what he did in the first two films.

The difference between T3 and a movie like Matrix – Reloaded is that the Matrix, cheese and all, does deal with complex ideas. And while the first two Terminator films did as well, well, those days are gone. Without Cameron the films have no real soul, and the action no meaning. And frankly, the movie has no real sense to it any longer. If the ‘Terminatrix’ is sent just to kill, why bother with clothes at all? And why is she 1. vain and 2. emotional at moments? I assume that the further that they machines get in their evolution the more they will become like their makers – true? I mean, to be more human is to become more perfect for them it would seem, so maybe that is why she has vanity and vague emotions. Or maybe they just got lazy and didn’t care. Just like they don’t care that, well, happenstance and pretty freakin’ good luck are the flavors of the day. I mean, Claire Danes is thrown head first into a steel toolbox, and she didn’t die? Just had the wind knocked from her? And why is it that all these new models are all bad ass yet the John Henry version Arnie plays can always whup ‘em but good? Because kids, that’s why.

This is, I repeat, not a bad film. But is worlds away from being a good one. Simple minded and simply mindless, this is the bane of movie nerds like me that really loved the first two Terminator films. The hell of it is that it coulda been good. But it ain’t. Now, can they right the ship? Can they make another good one? Sure, as soon as you ditch Arnie and get a new story idea. Just like they need to do with Ripley and the Alien franchise, but that’s another story. See it if you must, but don’t expect anything more than an action film with no heart, ‘cause that’s all you’ll get.


5 out of 10 Jackasses
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