Monday, August 30, 2004

Movie Review: Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines

United States, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 7/2/03 (wide)
Running Time: 1:50
Rated: R (Violence, profanity, brief nudity)
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews

Director: Jonathan Mostow
Producers: Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Hal Lieberman, Joel B. Michaels, Colin Wilson
Screenplay: John Brancato & Michael Ferris
Music: Marco Beltrami
Studio: Warner Brothers

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The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1993) provide for arguably two of the entertaining sci-fi/action plots of all-time. Both films fascinated viewers with the concept of a cybernetic organism traveling back through time to prevent future events from occurring, and the money statistics more than prove this. Now, with the third installment in the series, the captivating plot continues. While T3 is a worthy film to share the Terminator title, it is not up to par with its prior one-two punch. It still entertains and garners a recommendation, but it falls short in comparison to Cameron’s knockout hits.

Upon hearing about the rise of The Rise of the Machines script, most were thrilled yet hesitant--knowing that Arnold was the only returning member of the original casts. Furthermore, with a new director on board in Jonathan Mostow, things were not looking up. Mostow cautiously stepped up to the plate, after the past director of both installments, James Cameron, said that he couldn't put the movie together in time for it to become a 2003 summer blockbuster. Cameron wanted more time to make it good, while Mostow was told to motor something up quick before Schwarzenegger entered the world of politics. Mostow filled the shoes rather nicely in creating a respectable representation of the third film in the series (and notice I did not say, the third and final film in the series).

Mostow claims that there are already screenplays in the works, and that they already have ideas down for 4, 5, and possibly 6. In fact, Nick Stahl, who skillfully takes the place of Edward Furlong in the role of John Connor, has already signed on to make two more Terminator films. Stahl was chosen for the part of Connor after his superb acting in the Academy Award nominated and highly recommended film, In the Bedroom. At this point, it is unknown if Arnold will return for any or all of these future installments, due to his role in the realm of politics. Either way, Schwarzenegger wins. People will either pay money to see his films on the big screen, or they will continue to support him in office. If Jesse Ventura (the former pro-wrestler) can make it in politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger (the emperor of action films) can sure as heck make the cut.

It is hard to tell that Arnold Schwarzenegger is now in his fifties. Before the film's production, the muscular Austrian had to undergo strenuous workout sessions in order to get back into the built physique of the T-800. Arnold worked hard for this feature, and it shows; every bulging bicep and rippling muscle found in the original T-800 prototype can be found in the same Schwarzenegger character some twenty years later.

To add to the manly muscled cast, Kristanna Loken, as the T-X fearsome female Terminator, locks into her robotic moves and terminatrix glares with ease. She also brings a lot more sex appeal to the screen than the previous T2 villain (the T-2000, played by Robert Patrick) could ever provide.

As expected, there is some eye-candy to find in this mixed bag of treats. The helicopter crash scene, the one-on-one Terminator battle versus good and evil, and the unbelievable mechanical crane chase scene towards the beginning of the picture, all provide for eye-popping entertainment. T3’s extensive chase scene comes close to the downright-amazing chase sequence found in The Matrix Reloaded.

Not only is this film aesthetically pleasing to any action aficionado’s eye, but it is also aurally appetizing to every viewer’s ear. The soundtrack by Marco Belltrami (adapted from John Williams's prior composing), with its crisp, thunderous, and snappy snare hits, creates the perfect robotic background feel for this film.

Another nice touch to this third installment is a more potent presence of comedy. With a new additional screenwriter (who previously wrote Rush Hour) this time around, a fresh flavor of humor is added to this sci-fi/action thriller. For example, when Arnold travels into a strip joint, he picks up the line "Talk to the hand," and then uses this same line throughout the film--replacing his old and always quoted lines such as, "Hasta La Vista, Baby" and "I'll Be Back."

While Arnold was honored on the AFI's "100 Villains, 100 Heroes" list for both his role as the villain Terminator in the first film and the hero and protector Terminator in the first sequel, he won't be gaining any more honors for his 50+ work here. The only ground he gained here was in placing his chiseled self in the minds of all of the California voters.

Even though T3 doesn't come quite as close to the level of T1 or T2, it is still an entertaining, thought-provoking, action-filled, high tension, sci-fi thriller that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004