Worth A Look: 38.73%
Pretty Bad: 11.43%
Total Crap: 13.97%
12 reviews, 243 user ratings
|Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
by Scott Weinberg
When a sequel breaks the rules set down by its predecessors before heading out to reference just about every favorite moment of the earlier entries...well that's just sequel-making in the big city. But when all we're offered that's new is a sexy female villain, a reliable amount of predictable explosions, and the blank visage of a Claire Danes...that's where we have a little problem.Frankly I'm stunned that it took over a decade for us to get a new Terminator sequel. The first two films are embraced by sci-fi geeks and action maniacs alike, and the critics also found a whole lot to like in James Cameron's one-two punch of high-end mayhem and time travel twistings.
"Terminate Her: Claire Danes Strikes Again"
Over the past several years, everyone's favorite Arnold has been featured in such forgettable fare as Collateral Damage and The 6th Day and Jingle All the Way and Batman & Robin...
Like I said, I'm stunned it took this long to get a Terminator 3 into the multiplexes. Cameron bowed out this time, ceding the directorial reins to one Jonathan Mostow, a not-half-bad filmmaker who has precisely two features under his belt (Breakdown and U-571), neither of which exactly scream Big-Budget Action Extravaganza. But when Mostow points his camera at the three or four extensive action sequences, Terminator 3 certainly earns your attention.
Unfortunately there's a whole lot of "down-time" in between the rather expensive-looking explosions and gunfights. This screen time is then dedicated to a redundant series of plot exposition and backstory clarification, stuff that would probably be compelling were it not taking place on the back of a pickup truck in clumsily hurried fashion.
One thing an action flick should try and avoid is having its best sequence occur in the first half hour, and this is something that Terminator 3 does quite capably. As our beautiful villainess takes "remote control" of a collection of vehicles and then climbs behind the wheel of a massive crane, Mostow delivers one helluva flashy (and mega-destructive) car chase.
That very little else in the film measures up to this early sequence may be cause for alarm.
All the questions the fans want answered are (briefly) touched upon and then promptly jettisoned. What happened to the inevitable "judgment day" of nuclear decimation? Conveniently given a rain date in order to afford the sequel a modern-day setting. The fate of scrappy Ms. Sarah Connor? Barely touched upon (as if by contractual obligation) in a casually throwaway fashion. HOW IN HELL the exact same Terminator keeps getting sent back through time? Divulged alongside some other "in da fyoocha!" plot points too arcane to mention.
Nick Stahl (as the now-grown up John Connor) acquits himself reasonably well, particularly considering the cipher he's saddled with as a reluctant love interest. Simply put, Claire Danes is not a very good actor; I've seen everything she's ever been in, and not once has she convinced me that she was anyone other than Claire Danes with a camera pointed at her. Her blank stare and vacant line deliveries capably suck the life out of any scene in which she's asked to speak. (Listen to Danes as she orders the Terminatrix to "Die Already!" and tell me that's not someone begging for a Razzie Nomination.)
Despite T3's fitful moments of bona-fide entertainment value, one just can't help but feel this second sequel was born out of a strictly financial sense, and not because anyone really had a brilliant new adventure in mind. Consider the endless references to the earlier entries; they're just included to invoke a knowing chuckle from fans. In the long run, what these moments do is turn a bleak tale of mankind's defeat (and the giddy thrill of humanity fighting back) into a winking satire. And that's not really what I'm looking to a Terminator sequel for.
The curious moments are everywhere: what is the significance of having the newest Bad Guy Terminator be a female? Her gender is never once brought up as a point of dramatic interest; if the cyborg can morph into anything she wants, there must be a REASON she retains her sexily feminine form. Heck, even those two silly Species flicks offered a reason WHY the evil instigator was both a stunningly hot female and also frequently nude. Most troublesome of all is that this new villain, though quite lovely to look at, cannot hold a candle to the fluid creepiness of Robert Patrick's T-1000. She's got a sweet figure, gorgeous eyes, and an electrical rocket launcher for a right hand...and would be right at home in the next James Bond movie.
And I don't care how many nuclear reactors she can spout from her wrist. Until the evil futuristic robots are able to RUN over 25 MPH (or maybe fly on their very own), all these weapons are just bells and whistles. How intimidating is a villainous cyborg that can be thwarted by a 1999 Ford pickup driven by Claire Danes?
Nowhere is T3's outspoken devotion to formula more evident than in a scene where Good Guy Terminator arrives (naked of course) and goes about retrieving some new clothes. In the first film, he simply kills some punks for the grimy jeans. In the second, he must overtake a saloon full of thugs for his wardrobe. In T3? He walks (nude) into a bar full of partying women, all of whom mistake him for a very buff go-go guy, and then commands a homosexual stripper to disrobe while offering a piece of pop-culture pablum ("Talk to the hand!") that went out of fashion about a year ago. It's all very cute...and totally ridiculous. The humor in Cameron's films came from tension and the release thereof; the humor in T3 comes from pre-positioned running gags. Not a great inclusion. (And why a Terminator would maintain such a curious obsession with sunglasses is probably a question best left to the product placement folks.)
But I'm getting a bit too negative; this is not that stinky a flick. Littered throughout 110 minutes of generally boring chit-chat (save one truly effective twist) are a collection of very slick and swanky mega-brawls, super-chases and big booming explosions. Frankly, on the merits of action alone T3 would be nearly a five-star flick. Overall it gets a three. You do the math.Certainly of a higher caliber than many of the assembly-line sequels we're often presented with, but clearly missing that sense of futuristic dread and technological awe that came with Ts 1 and 2, T3 is a sequel you just KNOW you're going to have to see for yourself. Expect not much more than a melange of kinetic lunacy and the inevitable stuff "in-between" and you may have a better time than I did.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7893&reviewer=128
originally posted: 07/02/03 13:35:39