Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the role that made him famous in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. This franchise is releasing films at approximately one per decade, and the latest one is missing director James Cameron and co-star Linda Hamilton. This third installment has a lot to live up to. The first established Schwarzenegger as an action hero and gave him the role that defined his career and the second redefined special effects with, among other things, its then revolutionary liquid metal. Cameron also became a Hollywood heavyweight with both films. Now, Schwarzenegger (Collateral Damage, The 6th Day) is over 50 years old, and arguably in the twilight of his career. Most (if not all) attempts to broaden his action her image with comedy or drama were unsuccessful, and are his recent action movies, which all feel seriously outdated. The lure of politics also beckons, and a return to his greatest role would be a great swansong (hey, he still looks fantastic).

T3 lacks the sophistication or innovative quality of its predecessors, but makes up for it with non-stop action and many attempts at deadpan humor. Judgment Day has passed, and yet the robot/human war has yet to emerge. John Connor (Nick Stahl, Bully, In the Bedroom) lives as anonymously as he can, with no address, phone number, or any other information that machines could identify him with. What he doesn't realize is that he did not avert Judgment Day, but postponed it. The machines send a T-X (Kristanna Loken, Academy Boyz, Panic) back into the past to assassinate Connor's future lieutenants when she espies Connor and decides to go after him. The T-X model is the most advanced yet. It has a deadly arsenal of weapons, is nearly impossible to destroy, and can adapt it's shape to mimic others. The humans send back another T-101 model (Schwarzenegger) to protect Connor and the other targets.

The other new character is Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, The Hours, Igby Goes Down), one of the T-X's targets. She was an old classmate of Connor's, and is destined to play a large part in the future resistance. She has no clue what is going on and is noticeably perturbed for most of the film. For the most part, T3 is one sustained action sequence, but screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris (The Game, The Net) along with Tedi Sarafian (Tank Girl, The Road Killers) do spend a little time having Connor try to reconcile his destiny. He has no desire to fight in the future, and is doing everything he can to make sure the future doesn't happen. He believes that if he can somehow destroy Skynet today, tomorrow will never be. The script ignores many of the paradoxes that time travel movies often address, which is kind of disappointing.

Whatever is left if due to director Jonathan Mostow (U-571, Breakdown). Mostow does an important thing; he does not try to make a better movie, he tries to make a different one. Technology today is a lot more elaborate than it was during T2, but he doesn't do anything cutting edge. There are a lot of special effects, usually big explosions involving many assorted vehicles. The pace is breakneck, so that the viewer doesn't have time to sit back and think about how thin the story sometimes is. In fact, T3 is great in how it seemingly flies by on sheer energy. Mixed in are some paltry attempts at humor, most in the form of one-liners, which brings everything back to Schwarzenegger. This is his best role because it requires him to look like a badass and do a minimum of acting. He just needs to fire guns, say a droll line every now and then, and look tough. He is still great at doing this, but it's probably time for something different.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity.

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