The following movie review was originally written at the time of the film’s theatrical or video release. Aside from minor editorial adjustments, it remains as originally published—warts and all.
Terminator 3 Movie Review
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3) had a lot to accomplish. To continue after 12 years, there should be a story worthy of continuing the series.
Well, T3 does not succeed in that department. The movie does provide a decent, generic action flick, but die hard Terminator fans will be disappointed.
Paying attention to the finer details
Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t play the terminator as static and robotic, as he did in the first two films. Many small elements that made his performance believable in the first films are tossed out here.
In The Terminator, Arnold never blinked. Sure, it’s not a grand piece of character development, but it’s one that worked subconsciously. In T2, his motions were meticulous and robotic. He was a cyborg, and he needed to act like one. Therefore, his motions required very little effort because he’s a robot.
In T3 these small choices don’t seem to be as important.
Example: the T-101 (Schwarzenegger) enters the cab of a pick-up truck as he is pursued by the new T-X series terminator. Then he readjusts himself in the seat before starting the truck and driving off.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the scene. Nothing is blatantly out of place. And had the previous films not paid attention to an intricate level of detail, I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared.
But would a machine need to readjust itself for comfort?
Of course not, because terminators do not feel discomfort. They don’t feel bullets, for God’s sake.
Most importantly, these small details are part of what made the original films so believable, and they are sorely lacking here.
Arnold did such an excellent job in the first films. Now it seems he’s being a little careless, winking to the audience, and just having fun with it. He’s being Arnold. But for the character of the terminator in a film looking to carry on the tradition of the first films, it doesn’t work for me.
T3 appears to act like a satire of the first films instead of taking itself as seriously as the originals did.
“It was always about him.”
I dislike how plot points are invented in an attempt to allow for an unnecessary sequel to something that had successfully concluded.
The plot points in Terminator 3 were invented to give it a reason to exist. It does not seamlessly continue into the Terminator series.
We meet new characters who we have never heard of before who play a large part in the impending Judgment Day.
Why haven’t we heard of these people before if they are so integral to the story? I recollect that Sarah Connor, John Connor, and Miles Dyson were the key individuals in the Terminator series.
But no, this film introduces new characters that are seemingly more important.
One line alone in this film ruins the dramatic impact of the first films in the series.
“It was always about him.”
Those who have seen the film know who this line refers to, and I ask this: Does this not remove the impact John Connor has on our future?
I’m appalled. Where was this person in the first films of the series if he is so damn important?
The new T-X Terminator
I have not yet mentioned the new T-X Terminator (Kristanna Loken). We never understand what this terminator is capable of the way we did the T-1000. She never felt menacing or threatening. I think she could have been great given more to work with, but she was left flat an uninteresting.
She has an arm that can transform into any number of weapons. Fun.
I didn’t care for how the story dealt with the absence of Linda Hamilton. It was cheap. I found it dreadful that they took this liberty with her. A character that’s a huge part of the series should not be treated this way. Her absence is sorely missed and takes a lot of the heart out of the film.
Nick Stahl does a decent job as John Connor. This is one fine young actor and pulls off the job of playing this man with the sense of the future being “on his shoulders” very well. I only wish he had a James Cameron screenplay and story to work with. He added a great deal of dimension and depth to the character of John Connor with his performance. Imagine what he could have done with a better story and screenplay.
Claire Danes‘ character is there for the other characters to explain exposition. It’s a shame. She plays her part well, so this is not an attack on Danes, but again on the screenplay. It did not offer her much in the area of development.
As a stand-alone action film, this movie does kick—a little. There are some pretty impressive sequences.
A chase involving a crane and a fire truck is impressive, yet lacks the scope that action lovers have come to expect. There is an overuse of CGI that became annoying. Some of the sets are very impressive, including an underground bunker that is one very well thought out set-piece.
Some scenes had great potential but never followed through on. One scene involves the T-101 having a slight glitch in its program. It was an interesting development, and I would have liked to see it played further.
The Terminator series created tight story that was based in its own truth and believability.
Terminator 3 falls short. The story does not fit with the established series and disrespects much of what the original films were about.
I write this review as a fan of the Terminator series, not as a casual filmgoer. Someone looking for a good action movie on a Friday night should check it out because it is a lot of fun as a stand-alone action flick. It’s not top-notch, but it is a lot of fun.
As the third film in the Terminator series, it fails. T3 is a movie, and it knows it. That’s its biggest mistake.
Judgment Day, we find out in this film, was inevitable.
Just like T4 will be.
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