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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: July 2003
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Kristanna Loken, Claire Danes, Mark Hicks, Alana Curry, Matt Gerald, Jerry Katell, Mark Famiglietti, Brian Sites, Matthew Bonnar

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Remember when the first computers came out in the U.S. not the ones used only by academic researchers and the military but the ones we could put to our own use at home and in school? Recall the excitement we had doing what would now be considered elementary, such as highlighting a paragraph, moving it up in our reports, and pasting it wherever we wanted? And how we built home pages, putting in our own photos, our own poems and samples of our philosophy? We can still do all that, but the thrill of the novel, while not gone, is now not really there. With chat rooms that allow us to talk in real time with friends in Australia without giving the phone company more than the price of a local call, with 3 billion internet pages searchable by google that make a mockery of our own little home pages, with speedy broadband allowing us to see video clips in moments rather than waiting a half hour or so to download, we now appreciate the convenience, but again: the thrill of the brand new is out. This is perhaps why sequels may be even more awesome than the original movies (given advances in technology) but do not usually delight us as much as earlier renditions.

That's the way you may feel when you leave "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," particularly if you've taken in either James Cameron's T1 (1984) or the same director's Terminator 2: Judgment Day," which came out in 1991. While Arnold Schwarzenegger is boldly featured in all three and is looking buff as ever at the age of 55, the plot lines are about the same and what's more, though Arnold can knock off a few witty lines as only he with his dry humor can, "T3" relies all to much on its firepower: its digital computer activity, its smashing stunt work, its scenes of absolutely mayhem that would have put "Hulk" in his place before he took a step. The film deserves its grade of "B" based on its delightfully anarchistic sensibility: smashing, pushing, swinging, burning, blowing up to such an extent that if Schwarzenegger makes it to the California governor's mansion, he'll nothing to administer but an extended Mojave Desert.

In "T3," with Jonathan Mostow replacing James Cameron at the helm using John Brancato and Michael Ferris's script , we learn that Judgment Day, the end of humanity which should have come (via "T2") about from Skynet's self-aware and angry machines, did not happen. Still John Connor (Nick Stahl), is not at all paranoid when he opts to disappear, to give up everything including his Mastercharge card, his gig, his residence, and (horrors) his cell phone, and roam the state. As he fears, a ferocious cyborg comes out of the future to destroy him and twenty-one others, people who are predicted to save humankind albeit, perhaps, after the destruction of the earth. Not long after the stunning appearance of the gorgeous, athletic T-X (Kristanna Loken, taking a break from her New York modeling job) and her determined, emotionless killing of a woman (for her clothes and car) and a policeman (for a gun which, given her built-in weapons she hardly needs), the obsolete T-1000 model appears (Arnold Schwarzenegger), to act as bodyguard to Connor and a terminally frightened veterinarian sought by T-X, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

Unless you're new to the way movie special effects can cause entire civilizations to break down, you're likely to appreciate the opening scenes best, when the action is more identifiable on a human level. The wittiest segment, then, involves The Terminator's being reborn in Beverly Hills in his birthday suit. Terminator, who at first acts seems like the bad guy, simply does not know the ways of civilized Californians. He strides naked into a strip joint on Ladies Night to the wild applause of the young women gathered, violently ordering the current dancer to remove all his clothes, as though he had just tasted of the tree of knowledge and requires some covering (again to the ecstasy of the applauding, screaming crowd).

From there, things don't exactly go downhill, but the story, true to its theme of machine vs. machine, becomes more mechanical. Still, to its credit, the movie offers one of the most destructive car chases in recent memory, the employment of a 100-ton crane that wreaks more havoc through L.A. than the Crips and the Bloods together, and the outright destruction of buildings, telephone poles, and utter devastation leaves the havoc of the zombies in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" in the dust.

In the role of the rootless John Connor, Nick Stahl has little chemistry with Claire Danes' Kate Brewster, but a hookup between the two had not been expected by either, nor could the latter have an inkling that she would be instrumental in ultimately saving humanity. Kristanna Loken steals the movie even from Arnold, and feminists can rejoice in the ultimate empowerment of women as the ultra-feminine T-X beats the stuffings out of Mr. Universe. For those who, unlike me, prefer the human dimensions shown in the movie's initial half hour, we're assured that CGI has improved so much in just the last couple of years that neither T1 nor T2 could have employed the technology.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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