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PCR # 171  (Vol. 4, No. 27)  This edition is for the week of June 30--July 6, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Terminator 3:
  Rise of the Machines"

Movie reviews by:
Michael A. Smith
Nolan B. Canova

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes


MIKE SMITH
Three stars
NOLAN CANOVA
Two and a half stars
August 29, 1997 has long passed. For those who have followed the story of the Terminator, you will recall that the above mentioned date was Judgment Day. On that day, the nation's defense system, overtaken by the Sky Net computer system, was supposed to have deployed nuclear bombs all over the world. Thankfully, Sarah Connor, her son, John and the T-100 sent back to protect them both managed to save the day in "Terminator 2." Jump ahead to the present.

A clear night in Los Angeles. A small flash of light and we are greeted by the nude appearance of the T-X - a sort of Terminatrix. She quickly begins her mission by accessing the computer records of the Los Angeles School System. Out in the desert, a larger flash and once again we come face to face with the T-100 (Schwarzenegger). As in the previous films, the nude cyborg finds his way to a local watering hole in search of clothes. This time he is mistaken for one of the male dancers appearing nightly and has an interesting time finding the right wardrobe. Finally, after finding the right pair of shades, he is off into the night.

These days John Connor (Stahl) is a laborer, working odd jobs and moving about the land. He is glad that Judgment Day didn't come but can't help but wonder what his destiny is now. Circumstances cross his path with that of veterinarian assistant Kate Brewster (Danes). Kate's dad is an Air Force general in charge of the nations defenses. It's a coincidence that Kate and John used to attend junior high school together. Or is it?

Director Mostow has done an excellent job of taking over the reigns from creator James Cameron. He faithfully follows the Terminator blue print, mixing emotions and explosions perfectly. A sequence where a giant crane chases everything from a pick up to a fire engine rivals the final freeway chase in "Matrix Reloaded" in terms of excitement. The T-X has one main advantage over the T-100. It has been programmed so that it can control any mechanical device, from cars to computer systems. Also, where the T-100 shows wear and tear whenever it's shot at or set on fire, the T-X emerges from her battles with nary a hair out of place.

As for the cast, two words: Arnold's back! 18 years after the first "Terminator" film made him a star, Schwarzenegger seems to inhabit the role. As a cyborg he's not supposed to have any emotion but his words and body language says it all. And, speaking of bodies, should we all look as good as Arnie when we are 55 years old. Danes is a welcome addition to the story. As she learns, and then accepts, her part of mankind's future, she takes on a toughness that I didn't know she possessed. Stahl is serviceable as John Connor, though he doesn't exhibit the same kind of quiet disbelief that Edward Furlong showed in "T2." As for Loken, she only has to look good and be able to run in what appears to be a red leather pant suit. She does both well. A humorous cameo by Earl Boen, who appeared in the previous films, is also an added treat.

In a summer where the last above average film was released almost 2 months ago, "Terminator 3" is a welcome present for the 4th of July. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines"  .

OK, so after we get our Terminators in place (Please see Mike's review at left for the details of this) I can describe the rest of the movie as this: car chase....explosions....more car chases...gunfire....car chase.....the end.

OK, that's a little over-simplified, but not by much.

Seems that would-be world savior John Connor's (Nick Stahl) rep after grade school was not too great, being linked with his psycho mom in a headline-making shoot-out and all, so he dropped out and basically became a drifter for lack of a better destiny. Guess being a future hero was more exciting until he and his mom saved the world in T-2. Or did they?

Turns out that determination may have been a little premature as Ah-nold, the new T-101, informs us. (Excuse me, but wasn't he the T-800 in Terminator 2? And didn't the press for this flick call him the T-850, albeit all inferior to the Terminatrix model? I'm confused.)

The Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken) figures she's going to get at John by wiping out his whole grade school class. I'm not sure I understand why this would be effective. Obviously, by now the noise has alerted John Connor to a new threat. Funnily, this happens after being captured and held captive in a veterinary clinic by ex-girlfriend Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) following a sort of botched burglary for drugs (the implication is he's a dope fiend now, but I'm not sure I got this right either). In the chaos, the two are thrown together and life will not be the same for either of them again as they learn from Ah-nold their new destinies and developing roles.

Kristanna Loken can certainly take punishment and come back with nary a hair out of place. With not much dialogue she has to convey a lot physically. While some critics are quick to point out that her super-quick recovery after injury and invulnerable clothing are nearly cartoon-like, I submit that she's part T-1000---you know, that liquid metal stuff. It's the exact same thing that Robert Patrick did in T-2---just sort of melts himself back together again after being blown up.

I certainly agree with Mike about the car chase sequence involving the crane. In fact, I liked it way better than Matirx Reloaded's chase if for no other reason than there were REAL cars being crashed, not just CGI ones. It is breath-taking, over-the-top stuff and director Mostow is to be commended for this.

Unfortunately, if you're not going for the action scenes, the paradox explanations and furthering of the mythos so wonderfully developed by James Cameron are in painfully short supply here as if everyone's too afraid of imitating HULK's exposition-scene snooze-fests. They briefly covered why Arnold's back after we thought the world had been saved already.....still, they should've stopped the action once or twice here and there for a little more detail about the big picture.

Another blown opportunity also serves as an example of how there's a little bit too much comedy in here. The delightful Earl Boen has a brief cameo as Dr. Silberman (Sarah Connor's keeper at the sanitarium, remember?), and does a comedy relief bit that turns burlesque: he tries to help Claire Danes cope with the stressful situation by informing her he once imagined he saw insane things, too, under stress (the disappointing implication is that seeing wasn't believing for him in T-2). Earl Boen's Dr. Silberman was one of the most memorable characters from the previous Terminators, but here he's simply comedy relief; once the gunfire starts he runs off screen never to be seen again.

The writers give Ah-nold a punch-line whenever they can, but it comes off to me too often like he's getting proficient at doing impressions of himself. While I agree with Mike that star Arnold Schwarzenegger is in remarkable shape for a 55-year-old, a few extreme close-ups near the end are not flattering and give you the feeling he may not be up to another outing like this. (Stan Winston's legendary make-up effects are surprisingly conservative this time.) In fact, given their historical release dates, the next Terminator would come out when Arnold is 65!

I compliment the writers and the director with developing Judgement Day in a plausible manner. Kate Brewster's father is a general with Sky-Net, the military outfit in charge of the nations's defense systems. In the background are familiar-looking machines whose designs will echo into the future. It all comes down to a few decisions regarding how much control to give the machines in times of crisis.

Will there be another Terminator sequel? Predictably, they leave the question open, particularly regarding the relationship between John Connor and Kate Brewster. Arnold's carried a lot of the show up to this point, but as he nears retirement, it might be a good time for James Cameron to come back on board and point the way.

I give T-3 a decent  


This week's movie reviews of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith and Nolan B. Canova for their respective columns.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.