Jen Gets Terminated, Day 3 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

We revisit the Terminator franchise, one movie per day, leading up to Terminator Salvation.



Day Three: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (70%)

Where James Cameron's Terminator (1984) is a small and efficient science fiction horror film and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) a self-reflexive, large-scaled action sequel, the long-in-the-making Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) is best described as big budget Hollywood fan fiction. In providing rote thrills, by-the-book action, and a handful of requisite "see, we've seen Terminator 2!" moments, this tacked-on sequel plays like a Terminator fan's extended alternate fever dream in which John Connor is recast, Judgment Day has been delayed, and Arnold Schwarzenegger returns for the "final" time as a middle-aged, existential Terminator -- in short, it was neither the sequel fans deserved, nor the one they needed.

Granted, director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571) faced an uphill battle when he took on the task of following up James Cameron's massively popular (and influential) first two Terminator films. Cameron famously drifted away from the franchise after completing T2: Judgment Day and indeed, his absence is felt in T3 if only in how far the filmmakers play fast and loose with canon established in the first two films.


 

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines catches up with young John Connor in the year 2004. It turns out that the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which John, his mother Sarah, and the benevolent T800 stopped the T1000, have altered the future/past and the original Judgment Day (August 29, 1997) never occurred. (Yay!) Instead, it's just been postponed to July 4, 2004. (Oh.) Which, don't you know it, happens to be today!

A new T850 model is dispatched from the future to protect John Connor (thanks to Eddie Furlong's personal troubles, now played by Nick Stahl), who, much like his father before him, is now an unwashed homeless man who scares women and then dates them. He meets cute with bewildered veterinarian Kate Brewster (a bewildered Claire Danes) who we find out is not only his future wife, but the military-trained daughter of a military officer who just so happens to be deciding whether or not to unleash a little project called SkyNet into America's infrastructure. John and Kate also once kissed in 8th grade and would have happily dated through high school had the time traveling/timeline disrupting events of T2 never happened.


 

But what is the new T850 (an older and huskier Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his last screen role before conquering California state office) protecting John and Kate from? I'm glad you asked, because I have a lot of beef with the upgraded, indestructible Model T-X "Terminatrix" (Kristanna Loken).

We first meet the T-X -- the first "female" Terminator -- as she beams down from the future into the store window of a Beverly Hills boutique. (Because she's a girl, and girls love to shop -- even those of us who are cybernetic organisms with no actual discernable personality or gender-specific qualities!) Like all visitors from the future, she arrives naked and without accessories (a major fashion faux-pas) and must stop to steal a car and inflate her boobs to Victoria's Secret-level cleavage. The T-X, which is made of liquid metal and can shift into any form she wants, settles on a red leather-clad number, a severe blonde bun, and perfectly glossed lips before she embarks on her mission to kill John, Kate, and all of their future Resistance officers. Many of her targets are incidentally adolescent, so we're treated to the T-X shooting children at point blank, a vision of steely, sadistic, female power. She is every man's nightmare woman -- a blood-licking, lethal, limber, sexualized predator whose singular goal is to kill one man and prevent the propagation of the human race. And she has to check her make-up in the mirror in the middle of a fight.


 

In contrast to the T-X's Fembot persona, Kate Brewster is an attempt at a Sarah Connor redux. Introduced as a normal, everyday nice girl (she shops for wedding gifts with her fiancée, wears soft floral prints, opens her veterinary clinic in the middle of a night just to see a patient, and spends half of the film captive in the back of her own truck), Kate eventually shifts into warrior woman mode, demonstrating that she can handle a gun, going Rambo on a CyberDyne H-K drone, even piloting a plane thanks to her convenient aerial training. Kate is meant to recall both Sarah Connor from Terminator and Terminator 2, but the ploy feels like a cheap attempt to cram too much into her supporting character.


 

Likewise, John Connor has been updated in an extremely unsatisfying way. An angsty 20-something (writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris now say he was 13-years-old during the events of T2, not 10), John lost his mother -- conveniently, off screen -- three years prior to cancer and has been a lost soul ever since. He spends much of the film sluggish thanks to a bottle of animal tranquilizers, and then just becomes pitiful -- a self-doubting, ineffectual, suicidal whiner. Of course, this is all contrived to make John's arc all the more pronounced, but by the time he picks up a radio to address forces under attack as Judgment Day commences, he's become a leader! Sorta.


 

And that brings me to the final piece of the puzzle: the Terminator himself. In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger was pushing 60 and in great shape... for a man pushing 60. (Okay, he was only 56. But still.) In the film, however, he reprises his role as a model T850 Terminator (all 800s look like Arnold) but something looks a little bit off, a little bit older. Are Terminators supposed to have wrinkles?

Physicality aside, Schwarzenegger is given so little to do that he lapses into comic relief, like an old foreign man chaperoning John and Kate in the desert. Cringe-worthy lines attempt to reference the first Terminator films with a wink, but end up being so tonally strange that they seem out of place; "Talk to the hand," says the Terminator to a gas station attendant, a line that is at once totally '90s (a reference!) and completely stupid. Other lines are just plain sad. "I'm an obsolete design," the T850 tells John, performing seppuku on himself.


 

But in the end, it's the Terminator's arc that provides the soul of T3's story, however empty. The robot must do what he is programmed to do, whether it's saving John and Kate or, as happens when the T-X cunningly re-programs him, terminating them. Thankfully, the burly machine has once again grown close to John Connor and so, like a man possessed, battles himself to "do the right thing" -- though ultimately that comes down to a logical desire not to fail. He also comes back once more to save the pair from the T-X, sacrificing himself by detonating his power source, and so the machine has learned self-awareness... if only for its own pride of purpose.

In its defense, Terminator 3 is no worse, and no better, than the average big budget action flick; its only problem is that people might (or should) care more about it, since it has its way with a beloved, seminal, and more importantly specific fictional property. T3 is slickly made-all crane shots, explosions, set pieces, and bombastic score -- but strays so far from the tone and history of the Terminator universe that it's become, understandably, the bastard stepchild of the Terminator franchise. Can this week's Terminator Salvation avoid a similar fate?

Jen Gets Terminated Dates:

Comments

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

T3 was awful. Not just because it ruined the fantastic ending of T2 and failed to live up to anything from the previous two, but because it's a lousy movie in its own right. Like you said, it tries too hard to be self-referential and just comes off as a copycat, much like AvP2. I saw it once in theaters and haven't had the heart to pay any more money or watch it on tv. Should've just let the series end with Cameron.

I'm hoping that at the very least TS is better and more entertaining than this.

May 20 - 05:58 PM

Sputnik99

sputnik 99

T3 was pretty disappointing. It's like the Star Wars prequels, it's like Indy 4: it's a movie that lowered the quality level of a fantastic series. What makes me even more sad is that I'm sure TS will lower it even further. *sigh*

May 20 - 06:06 PM

KingSigy

Numna Stingdoo

I enjoyed the action scenes in this a few years ago, but I haven't tuned into this movie ever since. I believe I have the DVD, but I doubt I will give this another try. Every passing year just makes me hate myself for enjoying this at one point. The worst thing about this movie was that it was essentially T2 for Idiots. Why did you need to dumb down and (action wise) beef up what is probably the best movie sequel ever?

May 20 - 06:15 PM

Jason C Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

Actually, the one thing for me that T3 did was fix a major plot hole in T2: the fact that either Judgement Day has to happen or you can't have John Connor. If Judgement Day never happens then that means that Kyle never went back into the past and John was never conceived.

May 20 - 06:27 PM

willpower

will molinar

Kill yourself Jen. You are a horrible reviewer and a moron. And I wish someone would 'terminate you'.

May 20 - 06:30 PM

jokerboy1991

jack giroux

Possibly boot him Jen? FINISH HIM! Yeah T3 was meh, at times enjoyable but really bad at times. 5.5/10. Great write ups Jen!

May 20 - 07:34 PM

TombstoneLawDog

Daniel Klein

WOW, dude. Fire off rediculously over-bearing personal attacks much?




May 20 - 07:39 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I hope you're kidding willpower. If so, it's not funny.

Anyway, good write up Jen. I find a lot is hard to disagree with. The cast is poor (except Arnie's charm), but when Arnie bumps into a ambulance, and the ambulence FLIPS OVER...it's a good place. Disapointing, and the weakest, but a decent action flick.

May 20 - 09:50 PM

dalonoman

Perry Anderson

Uh yeah, ban this dude. That is not a cool thing to say... uhh EVER! Douche!

May 20 - 11:12 PM

BlueLobster

Aaron Dean

WOW! I may (highly) disagree with Jen on Twilight, but that is a disgusting thing to say.



As for T-3; I used to like it a lot for some reason, but every time I have gone back and watched the first two I have realized I like T3 a lot less. If I watched them back to back now... well, I'd probably get fairly mad [at T3]. I actually still think somewhat fondly of the ending, though.

May 20 - 11:22 PM

mtgilchrist

Todd Gilchrist

Willpower, YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. No one thinks you're funny or clever or thinks you're great because you decided to be cruel and thoughtless on a random article on a web site. Regardless whether you like or dislike her article series, it's inappropriate and just plain immature to leave hurtful comments for no other reason than you own cowardly insecurities. If you have a real critique or comment to leave, then take the time to articulate what the problem is that you have with the piece - if you are intelligent enough to do so. But if you're just trolling comments sections because you're a pathetic jerk who likes to say mean things under the guise of anonymity, NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE. I realize that you must be mean here because you are weak and spineless and no one actually likes you in the real world, but get a life, you pathetic loser, before you say the wrong thing to someone who decides to use your face as a punching bag.

May 21 - 12:00 AM

aawolve

A A

Talk to the hand.

May 21 - 09:24 AM

jmathiau666

Johanan Mathiau

What is your problem dude?Why don't you lay off the personal attacks A-hole and actually comment on the film.T3 was'nt al that bad,I enjoyed it to a point.

Oct 14 - 07:48 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

you guys are whack. maybe they should've just given this movie to uwe boll and some crack head writer with a one million dollar budget. but no you complain when this movie could have been a lot worse. i thought it was pretty good considering james cameron was determined not to return to the franchise. and besides i don't see your beloved terminator salvation doing any better.

May 20 - 06:33 PM

luishere

Luis Heredia

I actually play this DVD often.. when I want to show off my home theater system with the crane chase scene....

May 20 - 06:34 PM

Jake007

Jake Sundstrom

Nice write up.

I kick myself every time I think about this movie because I too, loved it when I first saw it (I was twelve, I feel like I should be excused). Going back to it just makes me want to vomit, so I decided to skip it in my little Terminator movie marathon.

Why ruin a good thing, right?

May 20 - 06:34 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I don't have time to read this again, I'm headin out, but, I'll say I like it. Mildly. 7/10. It has issues, but, it has Arnie.

May 20 - 06:59 PM

toats m.

toats ma goats

i guess ts has awful storytelling but great action just what a summer blockbuster needs. im done with reviews. just make you less interested in the film. everyone should go in seeing it as a great summer action movie. not a storydriven oscar worthy epic even though a nice stroydriven movie would be nice. im still gonaa see it

May 20 - 07:16 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

oh and i guess it doesn't help that the article above is coming from someone who probably has twilight on her top ten movies list of all time.

May 20 - 07:23 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

A ton of otherwise respectable women have silly fascinations with Twilight, including (unfortunately) my girlfriend, mother, and sister. I don't think it tarnishes Jen's credibility as a reviewer.

May 20 - 07:57 PM

jokerboy1991

jack giroux

Possibly boot him Jen? FINISH HIM! Yeah T3 was meh, at times enjoyable but really bad at times. 5.5/10. Great write ups Jen!

May 20 - 07:34 PM

TombstoneLawDog

Daniel Klein

WOW, dude. Fire off rediculously over-bearing personal attacks much?




May 20 - 07:39 PM

ferran275

Charles Ferran

wow, fun to read, the real question though, will the new one try and borrow from this wretched wreck of a movie, or will it stick to its roots? looking forward to Bale no matter what though, I can watch him in anything.

May 20 - 07:48 PM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

T4 better redeem the franchise or i will predict Public enemies will own the entire summer. T3 ruined the franchise

May 20 - 07:56 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

A ton of otherwise respectable women have silly fascinations with Twilight, including (unfortunately) my girlfriend, mother, and sister. I don't think it tarnishes Jen's credibility as a reviewer.

May 20 - 07:57 PM

willywonkanobi

Evan Godbold

Jen, good review. Willpower, I hope they ban you.

As far as T3 goes, I am going to have to agree with whitey_mcwhite. It may not be anything close to T2, but it has better logic. T2 doesn't make any sense considering its view of the future. "No fate but what we make for ourselves..." *cough* except for the predestined one your son has because his very existence necessitates the end of the world *cough*.

I like where T3 leads it. "Sure you can change your fate. Subtly maybe. But you can only DELAY the inevitable, not prevent it." Don't get me wrong, it is definitely rough in some spots, but really, boys and girls, Terminator 3 is a good movie. It takes itself less seriously, sure, but the last scene gives me chills still. You can't outrun destiny.

And one correction for you Jen. Not all 800 models look like Arnold. All Model 101s look like him. He is an "850 Series, Model 101." 800 and 850 refers to what is "under the hood". 101 is just the "paint job", with 101s looking like Arnold, 102s someone else, 103s someone else, etc. The difference between 800s and 850s are minor, mostly software I think. I think that is why this Terminator has more human-like qualities than T1 and T2. He may have a subtly different skeletal type, too.

I know, NERD ALERT!

May 20 - 08:08 PM

Jason C Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

Exactly, willywonkanobi, this movie is fun even if it isn't great (or good depending on your view). As far as undertones, story, character, etc it doesn't live up to T1 or T2. It's got some good ideas (I thought it was interesting that this model was the model that kills John Connor in the future), but Mostow's an action director and doesn't know how to make the moments have any resonance. The writers don't really help fix this problem either. It also has a completely different feel, not in the way that T2 doesn't feel like T1, but it feels too overproduced, something that T2 didn't even feel with all of the added special effects.

At the same time though, T1 seemed to say that you can't change fate with the fact that trying to stop the Terminator actually led to the birth of a savior leading to what would start the end of the world. T2, though, seemed to say that you could change it but didn't think of the ramifications of changing the future. T3 resolved those issues.

May 20 - 08:33 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

i didn't say it takes away from her credibility. it's just that i don't take someone seriously if they try to give an opinion on something like terminator when they're the kind of person who has a hissy fit every time someone mentions twilight. twilight is definitely a girl thing cuz i'll never understand it lol.

May 20 - 08:22 PM

Jason C Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

Chris B: Your "observation" was way off base weather you say it takes away from her credibility or not. Who are you to say that she probably (you did say probably meaning that she also probably does not) has Twilight on her top 10 list? Do you have intimate knowledge of what she loves and does not love? You saying that you can't take her seriously because she likes that is like saying that she has no credibility.

May 20 - 08:42 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I like Twilight, especially the books and I'm also also a dude who has about a 2,000 issue comic book collection that I got for reading not collecting and a collectors replica Terminator automaton hand. Variety is the spice of life my friend.

May 21 - 08:01 AM

zaphod67

Dan Waldman

I read somewhere that James Cameron said he enjoyed this movie. Personally, I kind of liked it myself. I remember enjoying it more than that other big budget R rated sci-fi sequel released that summer -- Matrix Rebooted, or whatever it was called. That being said, I always believed that they should've stopped at 2.

May 20 - 08:29 PM

Jason C Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

Exactly, willywonkanobi, this movie is fun even if it isn't great (or good depending on your view). As far as undertones, story, character, etc it doesn't live up to T1 or T2. It's got some good ideas (I thought it was interesting that this model was the model that kills John Connor in the future), but Mostow's an action director and doesn't know how to make the moments have any resonance. The writers don't really help fix this problem either. It also has a completely different feel, not in the way that T2 doesn't feel like T1, but it feels too overproduced, something that T2 didn't even feel with all of the added special effects.

At the same time though, T1 seemed to say that you can't change fate with the fact that trying to stop the Terminator actually led to the birth of a savior leading to what would start the end of the world. T2, though, seemed to say that you could change it but didn't think of the ramifications of changing the future. T3 resolved those issues.

May 20 - 08:33 PM

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