Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Terminator 2 managed to top the first film in this series, at least as far as action goes, by having not one, but two Terminators. How are you going to top that? Three or more? No, that’s not the path that director Jonathan Mostow has taken with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Instead, he brings back Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the Terminators, and makes the second one a female played by Kristanna Loken. Okay, that’s one way to top the last film.

The plot this time revolves around Loken’s Terminator coming back in time (again) in order to kill people (again). However, unlike last time, her only target isn’t John Connor (played by Nick Stahl in this film), but is instead to take out all of his future high-ranking officers in his army-to-be. Schwarzenegger’s Terminator comes back too, and his goal is to make sure that John and his friend/future wife, Kate (Claire Danes), survives through Judgment Day.

But didn’t we stop Skynet and Judgment Day in the last film? The characters lived past 1997, so it would seem that that’s the case. How can these androids still come back and profess that Judgment Day is still going to occur? John Connor asks why the world wasn’t blown to smithereens. “You only postponed it,” the Terminator responds. “Judgment Day is inevitable.” Well, it’s good to know that the hard work done in the previous film is going to be largely ignored. This Terminator, despite looking exactly like the other one, (save for a few more wrinkles on Schwarzenegger’s face), isn’t the same one, and therefore there’s a point made that it won’t remember any of the things that John taught it in the last film.

However, this is ignored too, because it both refuses to kill people, and it checks for keys under the sun visor of a car, both of which were things that it was taught before. Whatever, maybe whoever sent it back this time told it these things. Or maybe it’s a slightly newer model than the previous one, and it knows these things or, well, it really doesn’t matter. It’s likely just that the writers wanted to pay homage to the first two films. Fine, this isn’t a deal breaker in an action movie, nor should it be.

What makes or breaks a film like this is the action scenes, and it’s a good thing that they’re really entertaining in Terminator 3. They’re good enough that I was able to look past the many flaws it had, and instead focus on how much fun I was having while watching it. There are huge set-pieces, big shootouts and the evil Terminator gets multiple guns that she can produce right out of her arm. (Apparently in this film, the evil Terminator can morph into complex machinery.) These scenes are filled with energy and are exciting even if there are times when the CGI isn’t quite up to snuff, like when a helicopter crashes through a wall, we can tell that it doesn’t really.

To call it the best in the
series would be to lie, but to call
it the most fun might not require
you to stretch the truth.

However, most of the special effects are quite impressive, just as they were in 1991’s Terminator 2. And surprisingly, not much has changed in this area, but a little polish has been added. For the most part, the new antagonist Terminator is just like the one in the second film, but is a female and is even stronger. It still morphs its shape, and more or less absorbs and bullets shot into it. I was still in shock of how good this looked, despite not looking much different from how it did last time around.

The thing that made Terminator 3 almost a more enjoyable film than either of the first two was the humor, which came across more often and worked more often than it had previously. There are times when it seemed like this film was actually a parody, and while this didn’t exactly allow it to maintain a consistent tone, it made me laugh and I thanked it for that. For a series that are mostly just really professional B-movies, humor is important, and this is the first film in the series to really get that.

I think a lot of the humor comes from Schwarzenegger himself. He’s not exactly a charismatic actor, and it plays to his strengths when he isn’t trying to be. Here, he plays a ruthless killing machine tasked with protecting two humans that he only cares about because if he fails, he won’t have a purpose anymore. This allows for a lot of deadpan delivery of his lines, which actually make them hilarious. And then there’s also the way that Nick Stahl kind of doesn’t understand what type of role he’s really playing, and ends up just being a typical action hero—despite not looking the part. All of this amounts to the film being funnier than it really should be, which may be seen as a flaw by some people, but I take it as a strength in the production.

Oh, but this film also kind of messes up the timeline of the films. It makes Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton in the first two films) fifteen or sixteen in the first Terminator, and also changes John’s age in Terminator 2 from about ten to thirteen. I didn’t really care about these changes, (again, I pass it off as sloppy or lazy writing), but I can see how it could anger die-hard fans of the series.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. To call it the best in the series would be to lie, but to call it the most fun might not require you to stretch the truth. Granted, there’s little real intellect to the story and the characters are just there, not developing or being fleshed-out, but the action scenes were better than ever and the jokes actually made me laugh quite a bit. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun as long as you don’t compare it to the first two movies in the series, because it is quite a bit different in terms of tone and purpose.

Conclusion: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the weakest of the trilogy, but it’s a fun action movie.

Recommendation: While you could stop at #2, I’d still recommend watching Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10

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