Continuing our series of Terminator-themed posts, Ben's Movie Reviews has once again teamed up with The Solar Sentinel to bring you everything you could possibly want to know about the Terminator franchise.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
STORY: The third installment of this film series picks up in 2004 where we are reintroduced with John Connor (Stahl), who has been living off the grid since the events of T2. Even though the date of Judgment Day has come and gone and the war never started, John still doesn't believe that he is safe. He was right - Judgment Day has not been prevented, only delayed. From the future, machines have sent a new model back to destroy Connor's future soldiers in the rebellion - the TX (Loken), an advanced killing machine the likes of which no one has ever seen. So the rebels send the T-101 (Schwarzeneggar) back to protect Connor and Kate Brewster (Danes), an old friend he is reacquainted with while repairing his injuries. Skynet, the computer system that runs the machines and fuels their takeover, has moved from Cyberdyne Systems to the Air Force's new defense program. When a super-virus threatens the nation, Kate's father (a general) decides to activate Skynet, unaware of the impending apocalypse. T3 is a race against time, a race against fate, and a race to stop the unthinkable from actually happening.
While not as high quality as the second film, this one is still pretty solid. John Connor is one of the most complex characters I can think of in film - how does one live with the knowledge of what's to come, but not tell anybody because they'll think you're insane? Better still, how does he live knowing that he is humanity's only hope for survival of an event that hasn't even happened yet? He's such a well-written character. I thought Nick Stahl (the yellow guy from Sin City) was a good Connor; he played the role with equal parts distance and urgency. Edward Furlong (Connor from T2) was going to reprise his role, but he was having some drug problems so the casting people went with Stahl. Claire Danes was also a good fit for her part. She is the audience-relatable character in the movie: new to the situation, thrown into chaos, and has to be strong enough to take it all in and come out the other side. (Perhaps she was a bit TOO strong - her finacee was murdered and she barely shed a tear.)
Schwarzeneggar returned for his last starring role since he became The Governator. The writers (who are also writing Terminator Salvation) laid on the cheese factor with some of his lines and actions ("I'm back," "She'll be back." The gay bar scene, etc.) but overall it wasn't the worst performance I've ever seen Arnold give. He IS playing a robot, after all. How hard can it be? (Trivia: Arnie received a $30 million dollar paycheck for this film, which was the highest amount paid to a single actor upon the film's release in 2003.) Kristanna Loken plays the T-X, the upgraded model that can reshape her appendages into flame throwers and energy ball launchers. I could spend the next paragraph talking about women's roles in film and the meaning of having a female Terminator, but I'll save that for some feminist blog somewhere else. Suffice it to say that Loken succeeded as a creepy, emotionless, efficient killing machine. Her battles with Arnold were a little unbelievable only because his character is the one who explains how much more advanced she is. So why didn't she just launch an energy ball into his face and be done with it? Because the movie wouldn't have been as entertaining, that's why.
As far as the directing and style of the film, Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571) did as best he could when coming off the heels of the prolific James Cameron. It seems when Cameron split from wife Linda Hamilton (who plays Sarah Connor in the first two films), she received the rights to the series and sold them immediately. Schwarzeneggar called JC to convince him to direct or produce, but he refused. Cameron didn't take it personally, though, later callling T3, "in one word? Great." This entry is not as heavy on the swearing or violence as the earlier films are, and it has a much more spotless look than the dirty grime of LA in the first one and the blue haze that appeared in much of the second one. The action scenes are decent, but nothing like the awesomeness of T2. The crane chase sequence in T3 stands out, but that's about it. But if the whole movie garners the blessing of the series creator, then I guess it's good enough for this writer as well.