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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Movie Review

John Connor thought he changed his destiny. He thought humankind was safe from the machines but he is proven wrong! They came back to hunt him but he has one protector, Arnold Schwarzenegger!
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Genre: Action/Comedy/Sci-Fi

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Moira Sinise & Earl Boen.

Run Time: 109 min.

US Release: 02 July 2003

UK Release: 01 August 2003

German Release: 31 July 2003

Welcome back to my review series of the Terminator franchise. If you followed my blog during the past days, you will know that I am lately reviewing all of the cyborg’s films before the release of the fifth instalment - Terminator Genisys. This week I am analysing the third movie, which coincidentally is also my least favourite of the bunch.


One of the biggest problems I have with this film is that I see no point in having produced it. Although most people felt unsatisfied with how James Cameron ended the series with Judgment Day, I find it to be conclusive and it contains a good ending to the film's series. Yes, Cameron did have thoughts and ideas for a possible third movie, but he ultimately disposed of them as he felt like he told the whole story.

Since Cameron was not coming back to film a sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was given to Jonathan Mostow (U-571) to direct. The movie sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Earl Boen, as well as starring Nick Stahl as John Connor, Kristanna Loken as the T-X, Claire Danes as Kate Brewster and David Andrews as Lt. Gen. Robert Brewster of the US Air Force.

T3 focuses on John Connor and his life after the events of the second film. 10 years have past since his mother and him stopped judgment day from happening. He is living a life as a drifter, staying under the radar, however, he soon figures out that he did not stop the rise of the machines from happening, as Skynet sends a new and more dangerous cyborg into the past. Connor is not alone, though, as the T-800 model returns to protect him and other allies targeted by the T-X.

The narrative to this film has some serious problems, for one it feels like the story is all over the place. Having several sub-plots in a picture isn’t a bad thing, if these add to the core of the story but here it just feels disjointed and unnecessary. Especially the side-plot with Kate Brewster and her fiancé. It was all written and handled very messy.

The main plot also suffers from some serious issues. The writers and production team tried to connect the story of this feature into the events that happened in Terminator 2, yet it feels as if they are forcing a wrong piece into an already finished puzzle. Then there is the love story that develops between Danes’ character and John Connor, which doesn't not feel natural but rather forced. My personal grudge, however, that I have against Terminator 3 is the change of genre.

The Terminator is a shocking sci-fi action-thriller. Terminator 2: Judgment Day shifts more into the science-fiction and action blockbuster trend of the 90's, yet is still filled with a lot of tension. Rise of the Machines is stripped from its emotional strain and horror roots, and turned into a silly action-comedy that has nothing in common with the previous two films. Not to mention that it does contain some serious continuity errors; for example, when John Connor mentions that the events that took place during the second film he was thirteen, when in fact he was ten years old.

I am not saying it is all bad, the movie does has redeeming qualities like; the return of Schwarzenegger and Earl Boen as the Terminator and Dr. Silberman respectively. I really like the fact that they gave us a glimpse on how Silberman has dealt with what he saw in T2. I also like the philosophy in the movie, about how you can’t change fate, even though I don’t believe in it. However, that's about it, as T3 is a complete and utter mess.

Arnold and the rest of the cast did an OK job but it isn’t good acting, and that is mostly due to Mostow’s direction. We all know since The Terminator, and especially it’s sequel, that Schwarzenegger is able to act. The fact that he gives a mediocre performance can only be due to the course and changes the director took.

The T-800 and the T-X (Loken) do not move natural. The motions looked extremely robotic and it is something they should not, as they are machines programmed to infiltrate human population, mimicking their behaviour, as portrayed in T1 & T2. It is also extremely disappointing to see how they turn Arnold into a funny puppet, to create more laughter rather than fear. This movie is proof that Arnold (as much as I love him in his role) is not really needed for the franchise.

Stahl’s performance as John Connor is mediocre and forgetful. Furlong proves to be tougher in T2 than Stahl in the entire movie. I can not not picture this character becoming the leader of a human resistance against machines! Claire Danes is completely miscast as Kate Brewster, a woman that is meant to be a Sarah Connor-like female protagonist, as envisioned in the first Terminator. Danes’ portrayal, nonetheless, is more painful than likeable.

Cinematography wise Mostow made a satisfactory job. His shots during the film's quiet moments are great and on focus but as soon as it jumps into action it can turn a little chaotic. I am not saying that all actions sequences are bad, but there are a few that are hard to follow, or feel unrealistic because of the movies over-reliance on computer imagery.

Like I said in my Jurassic Park reviews, computer generated imagery looks best if the movie is not based on it. I have no problem with CGI, as long as it is used properly and during the first two acts practical effects have been used for the largest part. As soon as it goes to the third act, however, CGI is suddenly overused and it is really noticeable. Especially during action scenes like the physical fight between the Terminator and the T-X at the air force base. These scenes do not look good by today’s standards.


Verdict: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the weakest movie in the franchise - until now. The story is messy, the last arc of the narrative filled with CGI that looks dated and the acting was average at best. I am a great fan of the franchise, but this one left me disappointed and I will therefore give it a 5.5 out of 10.

I will be reviewing the fourth entry of this franchise shortly before the release of Genisys . If you are interested, I am also currently uploading my reviews for the Phase 1 Marvel movies, with a review for The Incredible Hulk following tomorrow.

So, what is your opinion of Terminator 3? Did you enjoy it or have you been disappointed by it? What is your favourite Terminator movie? Comment below and if you enjoyed this review, like it, share it and follow me on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

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