Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Starring:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes
Directed By :
Jonathan Mostow
Grade
B+

When T3 was announced, people suspected that a Terminator movie without James Cameron would be a flop; that it wouldn't be able to live up to the previous films. Well, they were wrong. T3 is every bit as good as the previous films. Director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571) has taken an established franchise and added his take on things, while managing to expand the story a bit and leave room for another film. However, that's not to say this film doesn't have similarities to the previous films. Some of the plot is a little too close to T2 for my liking, like the Terminator's entrance and subsequent search for clothing, and the basic plot that one must search out and destroy Connor and one must save him.

The story picks up 10 years after Skynet was destroyed, and the end of the world hasn't happened. John Connor (Nick Stahl) is living "off the grid", no phone number, no address, no social security number. He works odd jobs, doesn't make friends, and basically tries to be invisible, because while Judgment Day has been avoided, he has a nagging doubt that it may still happen.

As in the previous film, two Terminators have been sent back with different goals. The newest Terminator is the T-X, played by Kristanna Loken. The TX is the latest prototype, a sort of hybrid of the T-1000; she's liquid metal over an endoskeleton, and comes equipped the ability to take control of other machines. Aside from Connor, she has been sent to eliminate his lieutenants, in the hopes that he will be unable to form the resistance without their help. Once again, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the older model Terminator, sent back to protect, and destroy the other Terminator if possible. Claire Danes plays Kate, a high school acquaintance of John, who is one of his lieutenants in the future, and possibly becomes something more.

The bulk of the story revolves around John, Kate and the Terminator trying to get clear of the city and the TX, and finding a safe place to hide. As it turns out John was right, Judgment Day is coming, and it's coming today. The story explains how Skynet takes control, and how it is still around despite the destruction of Cyberdyne in T2. We learn more about the beginning of the war, how Connor becomes the leader of the resistance, and why Judgment Day is inevitable.

The action in T3 is some of the best of the series. While the visual effects aren't as groundbreaking as those in T2, they are still very good. The car chase scene is one of the year's best, and the fights are refreshingly realistic, as realistic as 2 robots fighting can be, that is. There is no wirework, no bullet-time, just good old fashioned slamming through walls, floors, ceilings; all the brutal destruction you'd expect when Terminators fight.

The acting is well done, although Arnold is beginning to look a bit old, he still plays the Terminator character as well as before. Nick Stahl does a great job playing John Connor as a confused, slightly scared man, who has thought his destiny had come and gone, but is now thrust back into it. Claire Danes does a decent job, but isn't the tough-as-nails chick you'd expect after Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor. She's just as confused as John, but manages to accept what's happening and take action when needed. Kristanna Loken does a good job as the TX, she has the cold, unemotional look down pat, but she never manages to be as creepy as Robert Patrick was with the T-1000.

In the end, Terminator 3 manages to move the story ahead, and leaves enough of an opening to set up a sequel, should they wish to make one. Fans of the previous movies will enjoy T3, as it gives them more Terminator action, and newcomers to the series can see this without seeing the previous films, because it stands on it's own while also being a link to the others. I recommend seeing it, especially on the big screen, to see the special effects in all their glory.

- - Darken Rahl

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