Demolition Derby

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

by Randy Shulman
Published on July 10, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

There's something really bothering me about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, something that didn't bother me in the first two installments. Why do the humanoid-style warrior robots -- the metal gleaming army we see marching across the terrain early in the film -- have teeth? What could they possibly need them for? They're machines, they don't have stomachs, they don't eat, they don't require teeth.

This petty annoyance aside, T3 isn't as bad as it could have been. In fact, sometimes it's downright entertaining. But mostly it's just loud, dumb and… well, loud.

John Connor (Nick Stahl), whom you'll recall is destined in the future to save what's left of mankind from from the reign of the evil robot empire known as SkyNet, has been living anonymously "off the grid " since his traumatic experience a decade earlier. Imagine John's surprise when along comes the slinky T-X (Kristanna Loken), her built-in bazooka/flamethrower set on crush, kill, destroy.


John, of course, is puzzled. Hadn't he and the T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) prevented the rise of SkyNet and the nuclear obliteration of the planet (also known as Judgment Day) from occurring a decade earlier?

"You only postponed it, " says the new but not improved T-101. "Judgment Day is inevitable. "

Like this sequel?

(Apparently so, particularly after all the miserable, bloated, ridiculously expensive films that sent Schwarzenegger's career into a nosedive, reducing his asking price per film from $30 million to $1.99 and a night on the town with Rip Taylor. The cigars Arnie pollutes his lungs with are expensive. As are political campaigns.)


Little Miss T-X relentlessly pursues John Connor and a new -- and equally important character -- Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, filling the spot vacated by Linda Hamilton) with single-minded murderous intent. T-101, who admits to being less intelligent, less well-designed, and a less than adequate match for the sophisticated robolady ("I'm an obsolete model, " he drones), still does a dandy job of thwarting the T-X. Meanwhile, John and Kate must prevent Kate's Army bigwig father from pressing the tiny little button that will activate SkyNet, thus making it self-aware, thus allowing total control over the world's nuclear defense systems.

Which brings me to another irksome point. If the machines come to power by obliterating the world with nuclear weapons, wouldn't they'd be vanquishing much of the own circuitry, energy and computer connectivity needed for them to exist and replicate themselves? Look, why not simply place the humans in slime pods, give them "virtual " lives to make them think they're alive, and just feed off the energy they produce? Wouldn't that be a better solution for everyone involved, machine and man?

Terminator 3
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, and Clare Danes
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Rated R
108 Minutes
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James Cameron declined to direct this installment, so Jonathan Mostow (U-571) steps in. He's exceedingly competent at staging the action setpieces. Good thing, too, since the story is driven exclusively by nothing but action. The movie's biggest chase scene, in which the T-X mows down a portion of L.A. using a crane, is like a super-sized demolition derby. Where Mostow lacks finesse is in the arena of emotional involvement. This T-101 and older Connor don't connect like the earlier T-101 and the younger Connor did in T2. And yet that doesn't keep Connor from constantly reminding the T-101 that he was the closest thing he'd ever had to father. The T-101, a phrase-magnet if ever there was one, really has nothing to reply with, other than "She'll be back, " "We'll meet again, " and "You must live. "

T3 is excessively violent (yet markedly bloodless), it contains an extraordinarily  high body count, and it concludes on a less-than-optimist note. Should Arnold's gubernatorial bid be terminated, his future -- indeed, his destiny -- is very clearly paved with Terminator sequels.

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