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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - Click to view! TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristianna Loken.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow.
MPAA rating: R

Terminator 3 is a modern action movie through and through. There's little character development, and the plot is fairly straightforward. Yet the movie is successful because it doesn't pretend to be much more than it is, and it delivers action in spades. From the crane (a crane?!?!) chase in the beginning of the movie to the inevitable climactic dual between the two robots, the action is as relentless as—and nearly as ruthless as—the Terminators themselves.

As promised, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, and he's as bad as ever. Joining him in this third installment of the Terminator series is a "female" form of the deadly robot, a Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken). Her job, much like Robert Patrick's T-1000 in the second Terminator, is to eradicate John Connor (Nick Stahl) from the time line and thus prevent his leading the human opposition in the future. Unlike the T-1000, however, this is her secondary mission; her primary mission is to take out several of Connor's friends who are instrumental in his future campaigns, including Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). Schwarzenegger, again, comes back to the present as an updated T-800, a familiar-yet-different T-850, to protect John from termination.

Exactly why John should be protected is not at all evident here. The movie opens with him relating some events of the past few years: his mother's relentless prodding and grooming concerning his future role, the victory gained by averting Judgment Day, and his subsequent life as a drifter. He remains the disturbed young man from the second movie, older now, perhaps wiser, but again directionless, with the more troubling aspects of his personality no longer held in check by the focus required to achieve his goals. With the threat of the machine's attack removed, what is his life now about? He is resigned to a life of mediocrity, his time of greatness gone—worse, unrecognized. After years of living below the radar and lessons from that type of life now deeply ingrained, he is uncomfortable returning to any semblance of a normal life.

And then the Terminators return to shake things up. John is understandably upset, not so much because the robots have returned, which is bad enough, but because he's confused as to why he remains a target. He averted doomsday, end of story. He poses no threat now; his time is past. As little as he likes the progress of his life, he's accepted it and can no longer consider any other point to his existence. The presence of the T-850 in his life again challenges all of his pre-conceived ideas.

It seems John incorrectly assumed the threat of attack was over because the date of the original assault had passed without incident. Instead, it was merely postponed. Contrary to his beliefs, he will be the major leader in human resistance after the machines attack within the next 48 hours. Partnering with him in the resistance is Kate Brewster, another current target whose dad plays a pivotal role in the rise of the machines. Is she the catalyst to spur Connor into his seemingly-impossible role as leader of the human resistance? Or will it take a traumatic event as happened with his mother to transform him into what he was taught he would become?

It seems there is more to this movie than initially meets the eye. Yes, it is an action movie; there is no dispute. The action serves the story, though, and does not exist merely to be loud and cool and keep the attention of male viewers, unlike some of the scenes in The Matrix Reloaded or parts of the Lethal Weapon series. Several questions within the Terminator universe are answered, and new ones are raised. (Is time travel possible? Not a new question, but it makes my head hurt to ponder.) You could dismiss this as a pointless actioner because of the less-than stellar performances and deceptively shallow story, but you would be missing out on a fairly-decent chapter in the (hopefully) continuing saga of The Rise of the Machines.
- Jack Curl
August 2003
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