Directed by Jonathon Mostow of U-571 and Breakdown fame, Terminator 3 should be something of a dog. Not that the director himself isn't competent - for Breakdown is a taut accomplished thriller - it's just a case of “do we really need a third Terminator movie?” I mean, where else can the franchise go?
As Terminator 3 opens, we are introduced to a grown-up John Connor (Nick Stahl) and one of his childhood friends, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). Connor is a troubled, slightly dysfunctional man (hey wouldn't you be if you were hunted by a robot in your youth?), his life seemingly directionless after he and his mother succeeded in averting Judgement Day 10 years earlier.
Enter Kristanna Loken as the female Terminatrix, sent back in time (déjà vu anyone?) to kill Connor and several key people who - according to the future - become officers in his resistance against the machines.You may be thinking at this point “what resistance?”, because in Terminator 2 we saw the development of Skynet halted, but of course it goes without saying that development is well and truly underway again, with none other than Kate Brewster's father heading up the project.
As the Terminatrix begins slaying her list of targets, and finally gets Brewster and Connor in her sights, so enters the man himself - Schwarzenegger - to save the day yet again. Cut to over-the-top fight sequences, brutal destruction and lots of running as the future of mankind race to outwit the Terminatrix and stop Skynet being activated...
Luckily for us, Terminator 3 - Rise of The Machines turns out to be an enjoyable action romp, albeit one that is much shallower than both predecessors. Whilst being the weakest of the three movies and suffering from limited character development syndrome (in the first 40 minutes there's barely any dialogue), this packs in enough set pieces and insane fights to satisfy the most hardened action fans. Much of it we've seen before, although it has to be said the various scenes of wanton destruction are executed well. Humour is here also, and with Schwarzenegger delivering most of the “knowing” lines, it's in danger going a little too far at times.
Speaking of Schwarzenneger, his performance is as wooden as the character requires (lucky for him), and whilst Danes and Stahl offer up reasonable turns as the fleeing hero and heroine of tomorrow, you can't help but be under whelmed by the Terminatrix. Certainly it's an interesting twist to have a female Terminator, but no matter how stony faced the beautiful Kristanna Loken is, she fails utterly to instil any sense of menace into her character. You only need to look at Robert Patrick's effort in Terminator 2 to see the gaping divide between the two roles.
Overall though, Terminator 3 is an enjoyable - if unoriginal - movie, and while I would say it sits firmly in the “average” category, the ending just elevates it beyond this. Indeed, although many will disagree, the ending in my book is superb, even if it does pave the way for Terminator 4, 5 and 6. Watch it and you'll know what I mean...
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