Synopsis: Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as a time-traveling T-101 Terminator in this smash hit directed by Jonathan Mostow. With dazzling effects, bravura thrills and a story that boldly spins into the unexpected, this is an event spectacle to see and see again.
eyelights: Judgment Day.
eyesores: Kristanna Loken. the direction. the daytime setting. the score. the CGI.
“Judgment Day. The end of the world. It’s today, three hours from now.”
In 1984, ‘The Terminator‘ was unleashed upon the world. It was a game-changer: it put James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger into the entertainment industry’s stratosphere, it influenced countless sci-fi and action films in its wake.
Then in 1991, its sequel, ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day‘ was released. It was superior to its forbear, was an international sensation, and, for years to come, it became the blueprint on which most action films were designed.
In 2003 came ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’. Unlike its predecessors, it was neither written nor directed by Cameron. It also retained none of the films’ main cast aside for Schwarzenegger, who returned as a T-101.
It raked in 433 million dollars at the box office, to this day one of the biggest grossing R-rated picture in history. Still, it was considered a disappointment by industry insiders – no doubt because of its astonishing 200 million dollar budget.
…30 million of which went to Schwarzenegger.
You see, for years, Arnie had refused to return to the franchise unless its creator, Cameron, was on board. But Cameron eventually advised him to “take the money” and run. Schwarzenegger negotiated an unprecedented deal to return.
But even his involvement couldn’t make a turd float: ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ is weak by even one’s average action picture; in comparison to its predecessors, two of the genre’s most accomplished entries, it’s a serious piece of crap.
Let us compare T1 and T2 with T3 for a moment, shall we?
T1 and T2 VS T3
- Directed by James Cameron, who was/is noted for his unwavering attention to detail VS director Jonathan Mostow, who was noted for the under-performing ‘Breakdown’ and ‘U-571’.
- Written by James Cameron, who sucks at dialogues but fleshes out big ideas VS written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, the team behind a bunch of no-budget films as well as ‘The Net’ and ‘The Game’.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-101 during his peak VS Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-101 after a decade of middling efforts.
- Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, a central figure to the plot VS no Sarah Connor, casually dismissed off-screen by death of leukemia.
- Edward Furlong in a star-making turn as John Connor VS Nick Stahl in a half-hearted effort as John Connor.
- Future John Connor is a weathered adult soldier VS Future John Connor is a goofy kid playing Mad Max.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick nearly steal the show as the antagonists VS Kristanna Loken stinks up the screen as a “sexy” T-X.
- Special effects mostly done with realistic-looking practical and optical effects VS special effects mostly done with cheap-looking CGI – including the T-101s.
- Mostly set in the nighttime, giving it a cool, enigmatic and equally eerie quality VS mostly set in the daytime, giving it a mundane look and stripping it of any mystery.
- The T-101 has few and/or subtle one-liners VS The T-101 has many and/or crappy one-liners. He’s a bloody killing machine, for goodness’ sake, not a joke machine.
- Brad Fiedel’s pulsating metallic score, as much a personality of the picture as the Terminator itself VS Marco Beltrami’s run-of-the-mill score, contributing very little to the piece.
Yikes. On paper it looks bad. But, to make matters worse, the writers put together a truly substandard script which sometimes made no sense whatsoever. It is chock full of coincidences and poorly-conceived plot development. Le sigh…
- The originals established Judgment Day as August 29, 1997. This one changed it July 25, 2004 at 6:18 PM. Either set the film in the not-so-distant past, or make it in the present, post-Judgment Day. But don’t change the date: it dilutes the impact of Judgment Day if it’s random.
- Skynet is no longer a Cyberdyne project, and is being developed independently by the military, but it’s still called Skynet. Likely? Not. This is strictly for the audience’s benefit.
- A virus is taking over worldwide networks, shutting down communications. There’s pressure to put Skynet into motion to override this virus. I thought Skynet was supposed to gradually become self-aware?
- The T-X (or Terminatrix) arrives in downtown L.A. Naked, of course. The T-101 shows up at a Ladies night strip show. It’s basically a corny version of the opening in ‘T2’, which itself was derived from the opening of ‘T1’.
- The T-101 takes the leather-bound stripper’s clothes, and when he steps out of the club to put on his sunglasses, he finds that they are pink and star-shaped. Ouch. Turning the T-101 into the butt-end of a joke hurts.
- The T-X runs around in heels. She/it is supposed to be a cold, practical killer; it simply does not make sense that she would be in heels. Or sexy. Or a pouty, bad actress (whoops, I’m being a bitch. Sorry).
- John happens to break into the vet shop of Kate, the daughter of the General working on Skynet. Wow… talk about convenient!
- John happens to break into the vet shop in the middle of the night… at the same time that Kate goes on an emergency call there. Lucky for him!
- Kate recognizes John because they apparently went to school together ten years prior and made out at a party. Wow… talk about a coincidence!
- Why does the T-X show up at the vets? Especially at 5 in the morning? Only later do we realize that she’s after Kate, not John. But, for a while, it looks like another random occurrence. And yet… why wouldn’t the T-X go to Kate’s home first, given the time of night? Seems more logical…
- The T-101 comes out of nowhere in a truck and rams the T-X by flying two feet over Kate, who is lying down on the ground. Naturally, she comes out this completely unscathed.
- John escapes in a truck, but unknowingly has Kate in the back. She was locked in there by the T-101, but he happens to pick the same vehicle. How convenient!
- The T-X can control vehicles remotely, which makes no sense, as not all parts are computer-controlled. And yet it doesn’t stop the vehicle John’s in; it only gives chase.
- The T-X steals a heavy truck with a crane on it. Even though she can control all other vehicles remotely (including police cars), it picks the least possible practical vehicle possible.
- The T-X chases John and destroys half of L.A. because the crane ends up sideways – but it doesn’t fix this, even though it likely could do it remotely.
- The crane never tips the truck over even though this redistributes the weight unevenly. Instead, the T-X continues to race down the street as though nothing was happening.
- John, Kate and the T-101 stop at a garage en route to Mexico. The T-101 gets all sorts of junk food instead of real food for them. Since it is programmed with a full knowledge of the human body, surely it would seek nutrition for the people it’s trying to protect – not crap.
- John actually asks the T-101 if it remembers him (from the previous film), somehow forgetting that it was destroyed at the end. It’s a dumb, awkward way for the writers to reconnect the audience to ‘T2’.
- John also tells the T-101 that he’s the closest thing to a father figure that he’s ever had – even though there isn’t the same connection between him and this T-101 unit. Or that the T-101 would understand. Again, the writers were merely pandering to fans of ‘T2’.
- John, Kate and the T-101 go to Kate’s dad’s secret government facility. How did they get in? Looks like just waltzed in… isn’t there security there? Or was it “Bring-your-kids-to-work Day”?
- We got to see the very first Terminator prototype, the T-1. It would have been cool if it didn’t feel like such a cheap ploy. Plus which it looks crappy; it doesn’t look awesome or even plausible.
- After watching Kate fire a machine gun for the first time, John tells her that she reminds him of his mom. Really? In what way?!! This was yet another awkward attempt by the writer to reconnect the audience to ‘T2’.
- The T-101 gets its head torn off but can just pop it back on. Likely. Not.
- Conveniently, Kate (who’s a veterinarian by trade) can fly a plane, which works out because they need to get to the supercomputer in a hurry to blow it up. Convenient.
Finally, the many final confrontations were just lame, not exciting. Even at the ripe old age of 57, Schwarzenegger outgunned the latest Terminator; she tried to look tough, but instead looked like she trying not to break out with laughter.
She was nowhere near his match; it was utterly unconvincing.
From what I’ve read, the novelization fleshed out the story a lot more and actually fixed some of the problems by providing background information that the film omitted. Although I haven’t read it, I would recommend it over this film.
‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ is such a poorly-conceived motion picture that it became the most expensive independent production in history and managed to fall so far behind schedule that they had to cut material to make their deadline.
I get the impression that the ‘Terminator’ franchise may be similar to the ‘Alien‘ one in that you only need see the first two picture in the series to be fully satisfied. Everything else is superfluous. Then again, I haven’t yet seen ‘Terminator: Salvation’.
And ‘Terminator: Genysys’ has yet to come out.
Perhaps they’ll be better, but whatever the case may be ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine’ is a major misstep in this landmark series. It’s hardly any wonder that people have gotten cynical about it. Let’s hope there’s a way to redeem it.
(Hmmm… maybe they should make a ‘Terminator: Redemption’ movie. Hollywood: give me a call!)
Date of viewing: March 18, 2015