Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the third film in the Terminator franchise, a science-fiction/action series about time-traveling cyborgs, the end of the world, and embracing destiny. Whereas the first two Terminator films (1984 and 1991) were helmed by James Cameron, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is directed by Johnathan Mostow.
This third flick continues the series’ trend of crazy sci-fi action, but does the change of creative direction weaken the strength of the final product? Let’s see if Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is just as rock-solid as the first two films.
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The Film Review
The story of Terminator 3 takes place a decade after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. After preventing a nuclear apocalypse and the subsequent rise of an army of human-killing machines, the now-adult John Connor (Nick Stahl) has taken to living off the grid. Despite his efforts to forget about the past, John struggles with visions of impending doom, reeling from the trauma of his childhood.
When he crashes his motorcycle and needs medical attention, John breaks into a pet clinic instead of going to a hospital, eventually running into Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). The pair have little time to discuss things before being attacked by a female Terminator known as the T-X (played by Kristanna Loken), who has been sent back in time to eliminate John and the people who eventually become his lieutenants in a future resistance force against machines.
Despite the change in director and writing team, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines manages to produce some exciting action, funny comedy, and believable danger. While the script and characters are admittedly weaker this time around, the great use of practical effects and smart fight choreography makes this another fun entry in the Terminator franchise.
The return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the older Terminator model is also appreciated, as it makes the focal action consistently reminiscent of the original two films. Just like in those films, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has a good variety of action, including awesome vehicle chases, intense gunfights, and brutal hand-to-hand combat.
That said, Terminator 3 is not without its faults. As previously mentioned, the script and characters suffer from poor development and occasionally goofy lines. The character of Kate Brewster is exceptionally under-baked and is often portrayed as a simple damsel in distress.
Nick Stahl does a decent job as John Connor, but fails to live up to the strength of the role’s legacy. The script is also a bit sillier this time around, with the Terminator finding himself in some especially silly scenarios. At times, the movie resorts to slapstick comedy, which works to varying degrees. Either way, it clashes with the more serious narrative tone, resulting in some unintended comedy.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is better than most major movie sequels. Despite the change of director, the movie still has that signature Terminator action, complete with one-liners, explosions, and a slice of sex appeal.
Although the characters and overall complexity of the narrative feel dumbed down, it’s still an enjoyable story that works for what the movie is trying to accomplish.
If you’re looking for a big-budget science-fiction flick with some notable action sequences, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines gets the job done. It’s also a serviceable sequel in the Terminator series that upholds the franchise’s quality while still including new ideas.
- Great action sequences
- Special effects mostly hold up
- Never gets boring
- Comedy conflicts with serious story
- Weak characters and script
- Underwhelming actor performances