After the staggering success of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a sequel was announced several times after its release in 1991, but never having a finished script. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t want to be in the film, because James Cameron (director/co-writer of the first two Terminator films) would to return to helm the third installment. Once Cameron managed to talk Schwarzenegger into taking the role, Terminator 3 was greenlit, with a budget of $170-200 million, the most expensive film ever greenlit at that time. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, sees a few changes being made to the series, with a new director, Jonathan Mostow, and a new John Connor, Nick Stahl.
T3 takes place 7 years after the events of Terminator 2, with John Connor (Nick Stahl) now in his 20s, and attempting to put the events of his childhood behind him. However, his efforts prove fruitless when a new female Terminator by the name of the T-X (Kristanna Loken). She has been programmed with the mission of hunting down and ‘terminating’ future Skynet resistance members. When it accidentally discovers Connor, a T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back to protect him. Now with his future wife, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) on board as well, Connor and the T-101 must find a way to stop Skynet once and for all.
To answer the big question first, no, Terminator 3 is no where near as good as the first and second films. It doesn’t come close. However, what it does do right is being a fun action movie on a very large scale. There’s very little character development, the story is completely ridiculous, and the dialogue is cheesy and badly-written. But even so, there’s an undeniable charm to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and that is its self-aware, winking-to-the-audience humour. It basically plays out like the first film, but much, much funnier. The number of call backs to previous moments in the series is uncountable, and Arnold’s acting is even more hammy than it was before.
The performances in this film are pretty much universally bad, with Nick Stahl coming off the worst. It’s just painful to see him straining to show any kind of emotion, especially during action scenes. He just looks extremely bored throughout. Claire Danes portrays Kate Brewster like a ‘scream queen’ and she really gets on your nerves very quickly.
All the supporting cast all look like they would rather be somewhere else, although as mentioned above, Arnold is still a joy to watch. The tone of the film is not the only thing that has been made more light-hearted, as the action suffers from being very PG-13 (even though in America it was rated R, it was rated 12A in the UK), with the result feeling like it’s being geared towards a 10 year old rather than a late teen or adult as the other films were. Plus, the over-reliance on CGI is a big mistake, as the effects are now extremely dated. Why they didn’t just go with practical effects that actually look real rather than CGI which looks like a video game I don’t know.
Overall, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is, while not the best entry into the series, it is most certainly not the worst (*cough*Terminator Salvation*cough*). The action is fun and thrilling, and the acting, while terrible, gives it an 80s B-movie feel. And if you go in with the mindset that you are about to watch a silly Hollywood film, you’ll have a great time. Loud, brash, and utterly ridiculous, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is simple popcorn fluff, but my god does it do it well.