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Movie Review: "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)

Updated on January 19, 2012

DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.

"Just do 'T3' and ask for lots of money."

That was James Cameron's advice to Arnold Schwarzenegger when he approached him to direct it but quickly declined. James Cameron said everything he had to say in the first two 'Terminator' films. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" serves no other purpose than a huge cash-in on the franchise name brand. It was one of those highly anticipated sequels everybody wanted to see but nobody in Hollywood wanted to make... until 2002, that is.

John Connor is now in his 20's, his mother passed away from leukemia, and he lives off the grid. August 29th, 1997 came and went, Judgment Day never happened. Everything seemed fine until the damn T-X showed up, a female terminator that is made up of both endo-skeleton and liquid metal. She even has built-in weaponry and can also control other machines to do her dirty work.

The T-X's mission is to kill John Connor's future commanders in the resistance, including Connor himself. But not to fear, because good ol' Arnie, or maybe I should say T-850 (for some reason, he's no longer a T-800?), has traveled back through time as well to protect John. Joining the two of them is John's future wife and second-in-command, Katherine Brewster, whose father is a military man who unintentionally initiates Skynet this time around.

Let's start with the good. The entire crane chase sequence is perhaps the best part of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", the way it's shot is very engaging and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The cemetery scene was a ripe location for a 'Terminator' film, due to the series' dark themes, but it quickly turned into a comedy (much like the rest of the film) and that opportunity was lost.

"T2" Opening Reigns Supreme

"T3" Opening Leaves a Bad After Taste

The Transition

What's important with any film sequel is the transitioning between it and the previous film, especially if the release gap between them is five to ten years. So many sequels screw this one up, it's not even funny. And "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is no exception.

The opening sequence for this movie stinks. It's boring, uninspired, and very low key. The openings of the first two movies grabbed you, especially that of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." To top it all off, Nick Stahl's voiceover in the beginning is badly written, talk about spelling things out for the audience.

Even the nuclear bomb sequence is way off compared to the nightmarish scene that James Cameron depicted in "T2". Wow, what a far cry this was. They just took what James Cameron did in that one scene and turned it into a Michael Bay special effects shot. Seriously, there's a little too much similarity going on between the meteorite bomb scenes in "Armageddon" and the nuke scenes in "Terminator 3".

Terminator 3: Rise of the Comedians

One noticeable factor in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is that they increased the amount of humor, almost to the point where the film is borderline sci-fi comedy. For instance, the first time we see Arnold as the T-850 this time around, he time travels to the desert, walks into a strip bar where there happens to be a Ladies Night event taking place with male strippers, one of whom he obtains his outfit from. A moment later, he's wearing colorful pimp sunglasses. Let's not forget the whole "Talk to the hand" business.

This is not to say that "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" were without any humor, it was much more subtle in those films and didn't overshadow the dark apocalypse that was approaching in the story. This third film is more along the lines of a spoof.

No Fate

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" automatically steps on the toes of the second film in its plot. Basically, Judgment Day was not prevented at the end of "T2", it was simply post-poned. Wow, so much for 'There is no fate but what we make for ourselves'. This completely goes against the ending of "T2".

This was one of the main reasons that series creator James Cameron didn't want to return for "Terminator 3", because the story he wanted to tell with the series ended in the second film. By making a third film, he would be throwing the whole point of "Terminator 2" out the window. Judgment Day is post-poned? But John Connor and his mother changed things and stopped Judgment Day, so how is that even possible?

"That's funky, man! Funky, funky!"

A 'Terminator' film is not a 'Terminator' film without Brad Fedel's original score. What the heck were they thinking when adding this generic and bland soundtrack to "Terminator 3"? To top it all off, there's stupid song that goes something to the effect of: "That's funky, man! Funky, funky!".

How did that song end up on the soundtrack for "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"? Was this like a joke, an after thought perhaps? How does one expect to take this film seriously? Without the music from the first two movies, "Terminator 3" loses even more of the franchise's dark and gritty edge.

It's not like it was a rights-related issue either, because they play the damn score during the end credits... the END CREDITS, for Christ's sake.

Remedies for "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"

  • It's a bit hard to imagine a "T3" after the whole 'No Fate' idea. But if there were any chance of this film being remotely good, James Cameron's presence is a definite must. There's no one else who could maintain the continuity and the atmosphere of the first two films in this series.
  • Tone down the humor.
  • A story that doesn't feel like a remake of the second film. Perhaps this would have been a good time for the future war setting (which they messed up in the following fourth film).
  • Nick Stahl doesn't quite strike me as John Connor. He seems more like a wimpy version. I sure can't see him as the battle-scared guy we saw in the opening future war scene of "T2".


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    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago

      Yeah, i have to agree with you here, on both T3 and Terminator Salvation. Although I've gotten a lot of flak from people who claim that "Terminator Salvation" was great, and said that haters of it just simply don't understand not going there. However, I think the franchise as a whole would've been better off just stopping at two and never making another film. The first two films were good as is, and if they were going to make another movie, it should've been more along the lines of a prequel showing how John Connor became the leader of the resistance in the first place. That would've been a great movie if you asked me, but they never did follow suit with it.

      I know from reading various entertainment magazines, Warner Bros. originally contemplated making T3 a pg-13 movie instead of R because they wanted to draw in a lot more people to it. However, they decided to give it an r rating when fans complained about that possibility online. Of course, after t3 came out, we both know that terminator salvation got a pg 13 rating.

      It's also kind of a shame that "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles" got cancelled, as it kind of made up for the follies of part 3. I don't know if you ever watched that series, but in it, they explained that in an alternate timeline that sarah connor does die of lukemia, so the female terminator protecting John and Sarah takes them ten years or so into the future, so Sarah avoids getting lukemia completely. not sure how that works, but according to that tv show, Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation take place in an alternate timeline. I think you probably would've liked "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles" as it follows the first two movies a bit more closely than the last two films.

    • profile image

      icountthetimes 6 years ago

      I was a big fan of the first two Terminator movies, but for me the third installment was when it started to go down hill.