Eye For Film >> Movies >> Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) Film Review
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Whilst attendance figures for this film demonstrate the Terminator franchise is still a lucrative one, it has always been a difficult one to work with from an artistic point of view.
The first film made such a bold statement, with such a tight plot, that any sequel was going to seem like a dilute copy. Judgement Day got around this to some degree by developing different strands of the story, most notably the psychological effects of her experiences on Sarah Connor. When, many years ago now, Linda Hamilton announced that she did not intend to return for any further sequels, the project seemed doomed.
Rise Of The Machines does suffer from her absence. None of its new stars has her presence, and it's hard to care as much about them. Her legacy, however, remains, and now, in an impressive opening sequence, we gain a similar insight into what their paranoid lifestyle and terrifying past experiences have done to John Connor.
Though he doesn't have the acting abilities of Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl is believable enough in the central role. The problem this creates is that it's easier to relate to his immediate tragedy - constantly moving around, destitute, afraid even to visit a hospital when wounded - than it is to relate to the threat of nuclear holocaust. In developing the details, the film weakens the impact of its world-threatening scenario.
Crashing into this world comes a new killing machine, this time in the shape of Kristanna Loken, whose background as a model is actually an asset here, making her look all the more unnatural and vicious as she freezes to assess a situation. She makes a big impact in her first scenes, sufficient that one never doubts her deadliness nor flinches at the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger hitting a girl.
He, of course, is the familiar old T1 model, sent back in time to save Connor from her. He still has the build for the part, and the signs of aging in his face complement his status as an obsolete model, like the leather clothes and shades which he obtains as per usual but this time in a rather quirkier, pleasingly humorous way.
The scenes in which we see the two terminators fight make superb use of established effects, never screwing up by showing off with inappropriate CGI technology. All of the action sequences in this film are gripping, often surprisingly so, as one wouldn't have thought there could still be so much mileage in car chases. The TX has clearly trained by playing Grand Theft Auto, and is smart enough to appreciate that a gun is a poor weapon compared with a great big powerful truck.
All of this would have worked quite well on its own. Where the film takes a risk is in introducing Connor's future lieutenants, most notably Kate, whom we are told is destined to become his wife. The idea that there is now more than one person who must be kept alive at all costs rather dilutes the original pitch. Though she's not nearly as whiny as some critics have implied (being a wee bit upset seems reasonable upon finding oneself plunged into that sort of scenario), she's not particularly interesting either. However, she does function as a plot device, connecting Connor with the US military for whom her father works, and thus connecting us to the story of the military's involvement with the ultimate enemy, Skynet.
These plot strands are drawn together in an efficient and well-paced manner, so that each thing starts to make sense just about when it ought to. About halfway through, the film suddenly darkens, and it becomes apparent that this will be far from a comfortable ride. Much of the audience left looking slightly shellshocked. The earlier films worked beautifully in the context of the Eighties partly because many of us living then believed that the skies might at any moment bloom with mushroom clouds announcing our doom. This film is timely, appearing just when that type of paranoia is starting to resurface. In many ways, it is a film about paranoia, right down to the schizoid notion of being singled out by a killer robot from the future. But it is also about environmental, physical and emotional survival.
Terminator III really isn't as good as its predecessors. There are some clumsy bits of dialogue, the stars aren't all up to it, and it lacks that atmosphere of obsession. It is, however, a potent, relevent piece of cinema, and a great deal better than most of this summer's other blockbusters. Few action fans will leave disappointed. There's life in the old machine yet.Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007