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Old July 4th, 2003, 08:01 PM   #1
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Terminator 3 Reviews

I'll start:

NON-JUDGMENTAL
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
dir. Jonathan Mostow starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes

Even with the target of decent summer entertainment locked, Terminator 3 is a bloodless, somewhat weak addition to the Terminator story that never quite achieves the driving rhythm and tone of the earlier films.

Those wondering if the third instalment of the Terminator series matches the entertainment value of the James Cameron films Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) or The Terminator (1984) will be pleased to note that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines does not let down in the amounts of explosions, vehicle smashing, guns blazing and robots fighting.

Each Terminator, however, seems to get progressively more sacharrine, less cold-blooded. The original film had the constant feeling of fear as the soft-fleshed humans fled from the unstoppable killing machine who broke through walls, destroyed cars and gunned down whole police forces. Terminator 2, which I had my problems with, had the heavy-handed theme of armageddon and race survival driving the characters forward but softened it somewhat with the t101's pseudo-fatherhood of the adolescent John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. In Rise of the Machines, the Terminator returns to not only protect the adult John but acts as matchmaker as he brings John together with his future wife, Kate. It seems that the deadly future of machine-ruled apocalypse was only postponed by the events of the second movie. Now, a new Terminator model, the T-X has come from the past to not only eliminate John Connor but the nascent rebel heroes who help him in the future. (The T-X is played by some supermodel come to take Natasha Henstbridge's lock on naked science fiction killer roles away from her.)

Lest this sound like T3 is Father of the Bride with explosions I will tell you it is not. Director Jonathan Mostow capably guides the film through probably more mayhem that either of the first two films combined. However, what T3 lacks over the first two films is a driving script that pushes the action forward and gives the characters an impetus beyond merely surviving to the next scene. James Cameron is justifiably praised as an action director but he, over the present writers, also is a superb plotter, knowing just when to hit the marks, when to rev up the action and how to structure a film so that it resounds.

Throughout Terminator 3, I got the sense that the writers were self-consciously trying to top elements of its predecessors scene for scene, line for line. There are the nudge-wink references to the earlier films, the bar scene, the one-liners that are only funny having seen numbers one and two and set piece chases that throw up more metal. These are all elements that satisfy by themselves. Less than satisfying is that the movie seems to get smaller as it winds up to its conclusion. Even the spectre of nuclear war seems less than horrible, antiseptic even, when the bloodless action that lead up to the end elicits a shrug. Consider that the first Terminator movie revived science fiction as an action genre because of its gun fetish, its hero the cyborg who resorted to messy and indiscriminate machineguns and assault rifles instead of phasors and lasers. The villain in T3 is a makeup model whose hair is always restored after every fight, who would have disposed of her targets long ago if only she eschewed her complicated nano-weapons for an Uzi. Terminator 3 does not have any fetish.

More importantly, the message of warning that T3 carries against supercomputers taking control over human military networks is treated as a matter of fact, perhaps as if having seen the previous two movies, they don't want to spend any time making it real. But this doesn't help the film's missing sense of dread nor does it match a whammy of an ending that sounds good in the retelling but lacks impact without a proper windup.

As the t101, Arnold Schwarzenegger is about as good as he ever has been, a little smaller and gravelly-voiced, perhaps. As John Connor and wife-to-be Kate, Nick Stahl and Claire Danes are just serviceable. Danes gets points for not being the damsel in distress but the crusty Stahl is only a marginal improvement over the whiny adolescent John Connor. His flat delivery doesn't add anything to the feeling that the real hero is to be revealed in some Terminator sequel in the future.

In theatres now
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Old July 5th, 2003, 12:04 AM   #2
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It's funny how two (or more) people can see the same movie and have different opinions!

I actually liked T3 better than T2. I thought Nigk Stahl created empathy for his character - a young man who clearly did not want to be in his position. I agree that Arnold was at his best and I enjoyed his one-liners.

Tons of action, as every penny of the budget shows up in the film. I agree that the villian looks as if she could easily have walked into a Wall Street law firm as opposed to smashing everything in her sight, but I overlooked that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this bit of escapism. It will win no Oscars, but I recommend it as a respite from reality.

Keith makes some fine points in his post and I can't debate them. I just go to the movies to be entertained . . . and I was!
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Old July 5th, 2003, 12:12 AM   #3
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I thought it was decent for what it was, but was a little let down by the end.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 12:40 AM   #4
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Why was this film made? (No spoilers. Very judgmental.)

Terminator 2 remains the quintessential action movie; the new sequel is commercial schlock--slow, tepidly unsuspenseful, painfully lacking in humor, and--its worst sins of all, worse even than its poor show in the action department after The Matrix Reloaded set the bar for the summer--replete with plot holes and outrageous inconsistencies that repeal nearly all of the groundwork set by the original films and defy even the most forgiving story logic.

No one wanted to make another Terminator sequel. Not the writer-director of the first two films, which collectively grossed almost a quarter billion dollars in the US alone and set new standards for special effects and action set pieces. Not the stars (including the writer-director's ex-wife). Not the studio (20th Century Fox). Not even the chief executive producer (another ex-wife), who fought the auction of the bankrupt production company Carolco's share of the half the sequel rights. So why was this unwanted child forced through sheer will and legal action into life? The only real reason anything gets made in Hollywood: there was money to be had in making it--money, in fact, that had already been spent and needed to be recouped.

When James Cameron announced that he would have no involvement in a third Terminator film some half-decade after the success of the second, all of the other principal contributors showed allegiance by making similar oaths in interviews, including star Arnold Schwarzenegger. By this time, Renny Harlin had sunk the Terminator production company Carolco with a series of flops, culminating in the over schedule, over budget Cutthroat Island, a vehicle for his (now ex) wife, and the company's intellectual property was being carved up and sold to the highest bidder, who, in the case of the Terminator sequel rights, was Andy Vajna, a producer whose resume was peppered with bad action sequels and flops, including Medicine Man, Renaissance Man, The Scarlet Letter, Nixon, Evita, and the abominable Burn Hollywood Burn. In other words, a filmmaker of the highest caliber. By the time the auctioneer's gavel had dropped, Vajna was in the hole $16 million for a film whose writer, director, producer, stars, and studio had disavowed. But why should that stop him?

With a promise of support from Warner Brothers and a set of scripts written by committee (members of whom were responsible for the unreleasable Supernova and the just-barely-so Tank Girl), Vanja reteamed with former producing partner, the similarly down-on-his-luck Mario Kassar, to will this turd into existence. When they failed to offer enough money to entice Edward Furlong to return in the pivotal role of John Connor, the producers defamed him by announcing they had not offered him the role because of an incapacitating drug problem (a claim that was later puffed to extravagant proportions by the likes of the National Enquirer), even as Furlong was busy shooting two films in Europe and in negotiations to star in several other films in the US. When Linda Hamilton passed on the project, her character was written out--killed off--and replaced by a bland surrogate in Claire Danes (a mid-shoot pinch hitter for Sophia Bush, who appeared too young in dailies), the unwitting, unwilling love interest. Rounding out the mess with a utilitarian director, the elements were in place for the raping of Jim Cameron's original vision and the creation of a summer popcorn sequel guaranteed for a domestic box office of at least $150 million.

All the elements but one.

So what explains Arnold Schwarzenegger's acquiescence to reprise this his signature role, in total abrogation of his promise to Cameron and thousands of Terminator fans? Was it money? No--though Ahnuld is reported to have set a new personal record with a take of $30 million, he forfeited part of this money for another, most telling reason: to keep the production, with its budget spiraling above the $200 million mark, in Los Angeles, despite its scheduled flight to Canada.

There's an unspoken but tested rule in Hollywood that dates back to its earliest days. Whether a director, writer, producer, or leading man or lady, you can make two flops in a row and get away with it--but three strikes and you're box office poison. After Batman and Robin, End of Days, and The Sixth Day, Schwarzenegger's career was effectively terminated. Put simply, the offers were not rolling in for aging heart patient Arnold any more, and this is no position from which a staunch conservative can launch into the riskiest of political campaigns for governership of the most liberal state of the union. Arnold had to win back recognition, but moving the production to Canada, taking many hundreds of union jobs and thousands of ancillary wages out of California, would be naught but political ammunition for better-supported Democrat rivals. Schwarzenegger not only had no choice to revert to Terminatorhood, ignominiously reneging on his pledge to old friend Cameron--he would do it for a pittance, too. All for the chance to take the resultant film (and its inevitable sequel) to Baghdad International Airport to tell American troops "you guys are the true terminators," even as Department of Defense leaders inch the country toward a real-life rise of the machines.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 07:17 AM   #5
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Sad, but true. They should have stopped at T2 and let the bankruptcies roll as they may.

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Old July 5th, 2003, 11:45 AM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Mark Moore : It's funny how two (or more) people can see the same movie and have different opinions!

I actually liked T3 better than T2. -->>>

I don't really like T2, I have to say. It doesn't really sing for me. It is well constructed but and flows along (see what I said about rhythm) but I don't like the softer Arnie.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 06:22 PM   #7
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I wonder if it's a softer Arnie or softer T-movie or some polictically correct philsophy where there is less of a body count . . . especially by Arnie?

With the exception of a few choice words, I'm not sure that the "R" rating was justified!
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Old July 5th, 2003, 06:53 PM   #8
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But even in T3, the filmmakers make it explicit that Arnold doesn't kill anybody, so as not to demonize his character.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 06:54 PM   #9
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R rating? It wasn't R here. It was 14A. (14 years limited admittance = with an adult).

I felt the violence was antiseptic. I couldn't help but wonder how it would have been handled by Paul Verhoven. It had the potential for mega mayhem but alas, it did not happen. I could even have handled an Emmerich version. At least he would have made the end apocalypse something to behold.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 09:04 PM   #10
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For some reason it got an "R" here. (From IMDB):

"MPAA: Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity."

I still don't know why it got an "R". The "brief nudity" was so brief that if you blinked, it was gone! I agree that there was strong violence, but mostly against structures. I could have sworn I've seen PG-13 movies that were worse! Maybe it's the old feeling of, "I don't want to see a PG13 movie, but I'll go see an R "!

No matter. I saw it again today (with a different set of friends) and I still enjoyed it, but I do agree that the ending could have been a bit more cataclysmic (sp?)! Maybe they ran out of budget busting everything else up!
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Old July 5th, 2003, 10:09 PM   #11
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So one shot of an ass and it got an R? That's really screwed up about censors. There's a good article in the LA Times this week about filmmakers fighting those ratings. Massive violence can lead to a mature rating while one brief glimpse of sexuality will garner a rating that would kill a film in the box office.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 11:00 PM   #12
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I've lived overseas a loooong time and tend to have a "fish bowl" view of North American culture now... and one of the things that has stood out for me has been the tendency that Keith is talking about. Little by little, films have become more violent and more action-packed (how many "Remains of the Day" type films are released anymore?) and sex is becoming almost non-existent. I crack up when I see leading ladies wearing bras, shirts or corsets during sex... as in "Mystery, Alaska" and "The Whole Nine Yards."

When did even "tasteful" sex (included in the film because it is essential to the relationship between the main characters...just as sex is essential in relationships) become a bad, dirty thing...and violence become acceptable? You can show a head being lopped off with a sword, but you can't show human beings engaging in as essential a part of our being as are birth, love, and death.

Quite a flip-flop from a lot of the films of the 60s and 70s.
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Old July 5th, 2003, 11:23 PM   #13
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I don't want to get started on the MPAA. It's my personal soapbox and I don't want to bore anyone nor do I want to write a bunch of personal blather and go to bed angry!!!

However, someone correct me if I'm wrong - but isn't the MPAA only a guideline service for film goers? I mean they have no "powers" or "authority" (ie: law enforcement, etc.) or anything like that, do they?

Our theatres in Greensboro (at least some) actually state that it's against the law to admit an Under-17 to an "R" rated movie. If they want to enforce the code, then fine, but I'm not sure it's an actual law (though I suppose it could be - I haven't actually checked).

The bottom line is I think a guideline service is fine, but it is the parent's responsibility to determine which movies are good and bad for their children to see. And if a parent relies only on the MPAA rating, then I think they are not doing enough research.

Ok, now I'll go to bed 'not too mad'!
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Old July 6th, 2003, 07:11 AM   #14
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I'm not sure about any actual illegality over admission of underage persons to strongly rated movies--those things vary from state to state, but to me, it would seem illegal to pass laws that favor one ratings system over another--but then, the MPAA does seem to hold a movie ratings monopoly that amounts to a cartel. No, films don't have to be issued an MPAA rating, or even advertise their rating if they are issued one, but many cineplex and rental chains refuse to exhibit or rent movies that don't have a suitable rating. Hollywood Video, for example, won't shelf NC-17 films or films that are unrated.
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Old July 6th, 2003, 08:43 AM   #15
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Interesting...Did anyone else hear Arnold when he was on Howard Stern a couple weeks ago? He said he doesn't allow his own kids to see his R-rated films. In fact, he said they aren't even allowed to watch TV.

FWIW, I saw T3 last night. I enjoyed it as a mindless diversion. It continues the Hollywood tradition of "more is more"....
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