Click here 3 and a half stars

Kristanna Loken Is there no end
to Terminator
Schwarzenegger returns without James Cameron directing,
despite "T2," which seemed to be the end of the series

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger versions and credits. After viewing, lick your browser's Back button to return to the story.)

Poor John Connor. He's survived an unstoppable, relenetless killing machine from the future, but can he survive a movie without director James Cameron or actress Linda Hamilton as his mother, Sarah? At least he's got Arnold back.

This time around, Connor (Nick Stahl) is fully grown and he's a mess. A loner who never really got over the events of his past, he's further shut himself out from society after the death of his mother.

Nick Stahl, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes

Kristanna Loken

He lives on the streets, for the most part shunning the city where he was born, although he comes back from time to time -- like when he has a motorcycle accident and needs to steal some drugs from a veterinary hospital to help dull the pain and stop the terrible dreams of Judgment Day that continue to plague him, even though he and his mom, along with the Good Terminator, stopped the machine-driven armageddon from occurring, right?

Unfortunately for Connor, wrong. Also unfortunately for Connor, the veterinary clinic isn't quite deserted. Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), the vet who runs the clinic, shows up unexpectedly to handle a pet emergency. So does the T-X (Kristanna Loken), a cyborg from the future which wasn't supposed to be there anymore. This one is supposedly even more lethal than the T-1000 from "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" and she looks like she's going to have her way with the trapped Connor when who should bust in but Arnold the Terminator.

From here on in, it's non-stop action leading to a wickedly twisted ending.

T3 did decent box office, enough to warrant a T4. Its critical reception, even within the action film addicts community, was more chilly. I have a few basic problems with T3. For one thing, one of the main action movie bugaboos: too many coincidences. Kate Brewster happens to be an old crush who gave Connor his first kiss as a young lad, and is the daughter of the general who heads the Skynet project for the government? I mean, really.

Secondly, Loken, while gorgeous, doesn't really project the air of invincibility Robert Patrick did in T2. You got the impression that the Sarah, John and Arnie were overmatched and could get wiped out at any time by the T-1000. Not so here. Although the new Terminatrix has some built-in weapons and the ability to remote-control any machine she interfaces with, one gets the feeling that Arnie could lay the smack-down on her without dropping his cigar if he had half a mind to. I didn't buy the menace that Loken was selling, and it did affect how I viewed the movie.

My other problem is with the whole idea of a Terminator coming to assassinate Connor. He is far too accepting of another set of androids from the future, almost seeming to expect them. Shouldn't he be trying to figure out how Judgment Day could be back on the clock even after he had ended any chance of it taking place?

To the good side, the writing is a cut above the average action fare, and the twist at the movie's end is a stunner. In fact, a number of conventions of the Terminator universe are turned on their heads in this movie, including the issue of Connor's survival. Arnold has the terminator thing down to a "T" and could play the part in his sleep. You get the feeling he really enjoyed himself making this movie, although, of course, he remains fairly emotionless onscreen. Those who thought that the Awesome Austrian can't act have to be eating some crow these days; he's actually done fairly well in a couple of roles ("The Sixth Day" and "End of Days") of late.

Director Jonathan Mostow has some pretty impressive shoes to fill in Cameron's absence, but he is given a good template from which to work, and acquits himself nicely. The action sequences are well done, and the byplay between Connor and the Terminator is snappy. The only quibble I have here is a lack of spectacle; T3 seems in places more like a TV movie than anything else, but that doesn't necessarily make it bad entertainment.

Arnold's impending political career casts into doubt whether he'll be back for another go at the Terminator series (I read on the Internet somewhere back when they had announced the making of T3 that it would lead directly to the events of Terminator 4, which the ending seems to imply is the case). I hope he does; while I wasn't as satisfied with the third installment of the Terminator franchise as I was with the first two, it was nonetheless good enough to be worthwhile summer entertainment.

The eye candy isn't overpowering enough to make a big screen a necessity. It'll work just as well on your home screen.

Get the DVD:

See cast, credit and other details about "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" at Internet Movie Data Base.