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 MP Bartley
Actually, don't you hate the word "franchise" when it comes to movies? "Franchise" brings up images of McDonald's and T.G.I. Friday's, soulless places where there's no variety or spice, just a bland service and a bland menu. It shouldn't apply to movies. Movies should be at their best invigorating, at the worst an attempt to be something different. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" isn't either. It's bland, it's soulless, it's ... well, mechanical.We should have seen it coming. The third part of a trilogy is generally the one that suffers. There's no spark anymore, no originality left. Especially when they're made so long after the second installment. And T3 falls straight into that category of duff third installments, that are a shameful cousin of the previous two.
"Another movie franchise ruined. Sigh..."
Set some years after T2, John Connor (Nick Stahl) is a homeless, drug-addicted bum, living with no address or way of finding him as he's afflicted with nightmares of terminators coming after him. However, he is found in the company of an old school friend Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), whose father is in the process of launching SkyNet. He's found by our old friend the T-100 (Arnie), but also by the TX (Kristanna Loken), who has liquid metal for skin and can also control other machines. It transpires that at the end of T2 they didn't prevent Judgement Day, they merely postponed it (so it makes the conclusion of the second utterly pointless. Thanks for that). And now another attempt is being made on John's life. And again he only has his terminator to protect him.
Therein lies the film's first problem. We've seen it all before. While the second introduced the concept of two terminators and upped the action quota considerably, the third has nowhere to go. Why not set it in the future at the time of the war? No, instead it's just another terminator versus terminator shoot-'em-up with lots of running in between. And it has none of the horror and tension of the first or the fear of impending doom of the second. It's stuck between the two, not being apocalyptic enough on a global scale or threatening enough on a personal scale. Listless is probably the best way to describe it. It's also hamstrung by the decision to make it more of a family film.
Apart from one messy dispatch of a policeman, all the action is clean and sanitised. The majority of deaths occur offscreen. I'm not a knuckle-dragging grunt constantly thirsting for bloodshed, but c'mon, this is a TERMINATOR film! You want something like the police station massacre or the vision of Judgement Day? Forget it. And when there was a real sense of victory in the other two, that the characters had really sweated and nearly died to get through, there's no such feeling here. The TX seems quite easy to get away from and the ending is badly fudged.
And these are just the first problems. It quickly becomes clear that Jonathan Mostow is no James Cameron. Say what you like about him, but Cameron knows how to do action, how to shoot and edit it fluidly and logically. Mostow doesn't. The one scene worth noting in T3, a fire engine chase with the TX in a pick-up truck, is notable for the sheer amount of carnage, but fatally wounded by the messy editing. There's no clear picture of who is exactly following who.
Worse still is the inclusion of humour. In the first two, Arnie's deadpan one-liners were funny because they worked well with the tension, you laughed nervously because it was a relief. Here, it's absolutely abysmal. It's impossible not to cringe when Arnie says 'Talk to the hand' to a grocery store asssistant. It's just something he wouldn't say! And this sums up the pathetic line of humour that runs throughout. It makes T3 an absolute parody of the first two films.
Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Michael Biehn had the right idea of checking out of this one, and no one fills their shoes. Stahl is a nerdy little sap, and the less said about Danes the better. The moment where she screams 'Just die bitch!' will probably make my top 10 worst moments of the year list.
Loken makes no impact whatsoever as the TX and is probably responsible for the movie's biggest downfall. Throughout the running time, (and I know this is just a guy thing) I was thinking "Wow, that TX is hot". At no point did I think, "Wow, that TX is nasty". She's just not scary. And when you think about it, why was the TX female? Did it really serve some plot device or was it just a studio executive's desperate attempt to make T3 in someway different, no matter how stupid?
Head Honcho: So Bob, T3. What's the story this time?
Bob: It's a dog? No,no, wait a moment...a kid! Er I know, a really hot woman!
Head Honcho: Ok. Why?
And as for Arnie, I'm sorry but he's past it and no amount of hair dye will convince me otherwise. He's creaky and it's painfully obvious that they switch to a stunt double or CGI whenever he has anything more than walk. Arnie...just retire gracefully.
So what else is bad? How about these little gems...
Sarah Connor is dead. Ok, interesting. So when they steal her coffin and break it open, it's full of ... guns? Why? She thought Judgement Day was averted so why would she hoard guns? In a coffin?! In case John took up bank robbery instead of being the world's saviour?? A COFFIN!! It's only there because Mostow thought Arnie would look 'cool' carrying a balsa-wood coffin on one shoulder and a machine gun in the other. It doesn't. It looks silly. It looks like something from Monty Python.
Kate's dad works in a top-secret military installation, which is designing the most technologically advanced hardware on the planet. And yet two terminators, John and Kate just stroll into the nerve-centre of the complex! CyberDine was better guarded in T2 and that was two guys on a desk!
Kate's dad then tells them to esacpe the centre by following the particle generator out of the building. John is a homeless bum and Kate is a vet. Yet, they both instantly recognise what a particle generator is in a building full of secret technology! Not only that, John knows how it works and how to use it against the TX! Who wrote this?!
And when you see the very first prototype terminators roll into action, I have one name for you...Johnny Five from 'Short Circuit'.T3 is a monumentally bad film. Perhaps not as bad as 'Alien 3,' as at least T3 has one half-decent chase in it. But bad enough to warrant the one-start treatment. Compared to Cameron's nasty, blood and sweat soaked, doom-laden thrillers, Mostow's installment is a watered-down piss stain up against them. There's nothing like the tragically empty feeling of seeing a beloved and perfectly finished franchise whored out one more time just to make some dollars and to get the fading star one last moment in the spotlight. Especially when it's as botched as this and dis-respects the first two as much. T4? I'd rather have Judgement Day visit me first.
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originally posted: 07/31/03 23:36:21