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Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

Well, he did say he'll be back....

1984's 'Terminator' was exactly what Sci-Fi fans had been waiting for. Whilst the rest of the  genre had been busy making kid-friendly fare, desperately looking for the next Star Wars, James Cameron provided us with a film for grown-ups. High on concept and (relatively) low on budget, 'The Terminator' made a superstar out of Arnie and set Cameron on his way to being the megalomaniac we all know and love today. All you romantic fans of 'Titanic' have got this ultra violent, futuristic thriller to thank - otherwise there's no way Cameron would ever have been able to raise the finances to get Leo DiCaprio telling us he's the king of the world.....

Then, in 1991, all the main players succumbed to Hollywood pressure (and the promise of enormous pay cheques) to make 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'. For a long while, 'T2' was the most expensive ever made and it was easy to see why - some of the most audacious stunts and set pieces ever filmed were on-screen for all to see. The only problem with the sequel was that it had lost the single element that made the original such compulsive viewing - Arnie as the bad guy. By making him more warm and fuzzy, some of the original's 'noir'-type magic evaporated. And no end of special effects were ever going to make up for it.

And now here we are in 2003 and we are treated to 'T3:Rise of the Machines'. And Arnie once again is back as the futuristic killing machine, charged with protecting the future leader of the human resistance, John Connor. Yes, I know that's the same plot as the predecessor, but the script doesn't seem to worry about that too much, so neither should you. To be fair, the script does try a fair attempt at explaining away the paradoxes left behind by T2's storyline but. to be honest, you're better off just ignoring them and enjoying the big explosions - because that's all we're really left with. Without James Cameron, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn from the original (and desperately missing Edward Furlong's John Connor from T2), Arnie struggles to carry the film on his (enormous) shoulders. Obviously hungry for a hit movie after more than a few fallow years (Collateral Damage, anyone??), he must have seen this as an easy way to make it back to the big time and, in terms of box office revenue anyway, I'm sure the Austrian Oak will feel he's succeeded. Unfortunately, he seems to have done so at the cost of chipping away at the legacy of his most well loved role. 'The Terminator' was a movie that didn't require a sequel in the first place. 'T2' succeeded by placing more emphasis on the ground breaking special effects that deflected attention away from it's paper thin storyline. 'T3' doesn't even have the same eye popping effects to save the day. Allegedly the most expensive movie ever to be given the green light (somewhere around $150 million was the original budget, if reports are to be believed), but it's difficult to see where the money was spent. It's true that Stan Winston's models are as effective as ever and the new TX female terminator has some nifty effects of her own - if you'll excuse the insinuation - but there's nothing new here to grab the audience. Nothing on the same level as watching Arnie almost 20 years ago ruthlessly killing everything in his path to find and terminate Sarah Connor, nor on the same level as watching Robert Patrick's T-1000 build and rebuild itself from molten steel each time the audience thought he had finally been dispatched. The whole movie seems like a TV-spin off that has somehow managed to snag a much larger than usual budget.

Maybe the performances are to blame - aside from Arnie who's as effective as ever (must be difficult for him to play a character that doesn't have to express any emotions...), the rest of the cast really do seem to be sleepwalking through the entire affair. Nick Stahl, in particular, as John Conner shows absolutely no presence at all. How the audience is to believe that this man will somehow galvanise the entire remainder of the human race into a force to finally defeat the marauding machines is a hopeless mystery. He has all the charisma of Ian Duncan Smith - but none of the charm. Claire Danes fares little better as the only human female character. In a series that's been dominated by the presence of Linda Hamilton it's a shame that in this instalment the only strong female is the baddie that we're all supposed to hiss and boo against. Subsequently, Danes is relegated to bleating in the corner asking why all of this is happening to her. A question I asked myself at least once during the movie, I must admit.

Nothing I say will stop this making an absolute killing at the summer box office and it's not even as if it's a bad film that deserves to fail dismally. It just seems a film that is completely unnecessary, given that it's all been done so much better before. If you do still want to go and see it, just make sure you don't watch the previous movies beforehand - it won't seem so much of a disappointment.

4/10 (6/10 if you haven't seen either predecessor in the last twelve months...)

Sean G

Picture from the T3 official site