Here it is - the long-coveted secret of how to tell if a movie sequel will truly suck: The first step is information gathering. Ask the following questions:
1 - Is the movie sequel in question the latest addition to a trilogy in which the first two movies were, at the very least, cult classics?
2 - Does the release date and/or hype of the new movie suspiciously coincide with a producer/director/star making a sudden media resurgence?
3 - Have any of the major players behind the originals, on-camera or off, been in Hollywood Purgatory lately, having filmed a series of disasters?
4 - Was the director of the first two movies a big-name, critically acclaimed and decorated visionary like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, or James Cameron?
5 - If the answer to question four is yes, then did the aforementioned director opt out of the directorial duties to this new movie, choosing instead to merely produce it?
6 - If the answer to question five is yes, then does the directors replacement have a solid track record? Or just one or two movies no one bothered to see because they had dog-dumb concepts?
7 - Are those behind the classics making talk show rounds, raving about how much they love the new movie?
If you end up giving four of the questions above a yes (with the exception of question six, to which the answer would be no) answer, the movie is more than likely as painful as getting a thousand lashes with Indiana Joness whip. If you answered yes to five or six of the questions above, the movie is the definite equal to lying down and having your limbs hacked off by Luke Skywalkers lightsaber. If you had to mark the yes column for all seven questions, then the fiery Cracks of Doom in Mordor are similar to your destiny if you see the movie.
Speaking of destiny. Wasnt one of the main ideas of Terminator 2: Judgment Day the standard butterfly effect idea? Thats the idea that states when a butterfly flaps its wings - or in the case of Arnie (Schwarzenegger), Lindy (Hamilton) and Eddie (Furlong), blows up some computer files and robot body parts - a chain reaction of events takes place which alters the future in ways we cant imagine. In the case of Terminator 2, the butterfly effect of blowing Skynet (or was it Cyberdyne?) sky-high was supposed to prevent the big, bad machines from becoming self-aware and challenging humans as the dominant species on Earth. By destroying the computer system, the heroic trio mentioned above had ensured the continuing survival of the human race for centuries to come, without nuclear fallout. As Sarah Conner narrated at the very end of Terminator 2, she looked to the future for the first time with a sense of hope. So the ultimate conclusion was the future can be rewritten, that there is (as Sarah put it) no fate but what we make.
This is one reason why Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines comes off as a contrived money machine. After everything was so effectively wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of Terminator 2, Terminator 3 went on to betray the very idea promoted in its prequel. No, everyone is now telling us, fate cant be changed. While hunkering underground may be good for getting whatever sort of destiny you believe in off your back for a few thousand millennia, eventually youre still gonna die and pay those taxes.
John Conner never really believed all those nukes werent gonna go boom someday. Its been ten years since the Terminator helped the Conners blow up Cyberdyne/Skynet and sent the T1000 swan diving to his fiery liquid destruction. Since then, mom croaked, and Johns been your average, everyday drifter ever since. His fear of his averted destiny is making him live off the grid, no phone or address, nothing which would make the Pentagon remotely aware of his existence. So hes running around, working the occasional odd job, drinking, and stealing pills for some unexplained reason. And its on one of these pill-stealing escapades that he runs into his old eighth grade flame, Kate, while attempting to take pills from the veterinary office where she works. Dont ask me why John is attempting to grab pills from a veterinary office - its only one of a ridiculous sequence of events which gets set off here.
Meanwhile, our two killer robots show up in the present, and you know what that means - non-explicit nudity! This time, the men dont have to cover their eyes when it happens, because one of the killer robots is eye candy for us! Thats right, Its Arnie for the gals, and some hottie actress named Kristanna Loken for the boys! The Terminator makes a rather uneventful entrance in the middle of nowhere, robs his clothes from a gay stripper in a womens nudie bar, and proceeds to paint the town red. Our TerminaTRIX, however, appears in a mannequin display. This is appropriate, considering the actress who plays her demonstrates acting ability approximate to the life-size plastic dolls she melts when she shows up. After Killer Robot Barbie steals her clothes from some poor woman whos just in the wrong place at the wrong time, she does NOT proceed to go directly to John Conner without passing go and collecting 200 dollars. Instead, she looks up the names of everyone who becomes an officer of Johns, and goes to whack them instead. John just coincidentally happens to be in Kates office when the Terminatrix looks for Kate. And all three of them are still there when the original Terminator drops by and becomes John and Kates out-of-nowhere savior.
Since the Terminatrix has the ability to control machines which arent attached to her body, the ensuing car chase becomes one of the most entertainingly illogical scenes of carnage ever filmed as the Terminatrix pursues our heroes while mentally remote-controlling a group of police cars and driving an enormous crane hook. The next leg of the movie becomes a road trip buddy movie as the three bond and get chased. Then Johns ambitious attempt to change fate leads to an Air Force base in which the movie climaxes with the machines becoming self-aware.
The Terminators very interesting resume is expanded in Rise of the Machines. Now, the original T800 model Terminator has credentials as a psychiatrist and a stand-up comedian to add to his credentials as a freelance hitman and a bodyguard. In a way, I guess its appropriate that Terminator 3 should be a comedy. The original Terminator movie was a love story. Yes, it was very thickly disguised, but at its core it still revolved around the innocent girl, the guy who was completely wrong for her, and the man who would - and did - give his life for her. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the most thrilling coming-of-age drama Ive ever seen. In that movie, if you remember, John Conner was essentially orphaned when his foster parents were killed by the T1000. So John was finding role models in unusual characters - granted Sarah was his real mother, but she was still locked away in a mental institution for a good chunk of Johns life. And the Terminator, of course, was a reprogrammed killer robot which had tried to kill his mother before he was born. The moment in T2 when the Terminator, before terminating itself, reaches out to young John and says I know now why you cry was one of the most moving examples of humanity and father/son closeness Ive ever seen in a movie. Terminator 3 tries to make itself into a love story in the vein of the first movie, but the ridiculous circumstances through which Kate and John come together, and the fact that the Terminator delivers dry lines about the human psyche while playing cheerleader to their budding romance makes the movie come off as something like The Terminator Meets Sleepless in Seattle.
The Terminators interruptions of John/Kate private moments are neither the only comedic elements in the unintentionally funny movie nor the only reason the romantic plot fails. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes, who play John and Kate, do a fairly decent job of salvaging the wackjob of a script. But their romantic chemistry is zero, and it doesnt help that the script contains no moments of genuine closeness between the characters. They meet in a dumb situation, Kate is basically kidnapped by John and the Terminator, and the two of them act like old college buddies throughout the rest of the movie after sorting out their situation. As a result, you can never bring yourself to believe these two will ever hook up. Indeed, its truly unbelievable when the most romantic line in the movie is John telling Kate You remind me of my mother! after Kate blows up a hovering drone. The only reason you even know theyll hook up is because the Terminator tells them so. The rest of the comedy comes courtesy of Arnold Schwarzeneggers dry, monotonous delivery of lines which were meant to be serious. The Terminator now has a psychiatry 101 course programmed into him, and the result is the occasional silly line like Anger is more useful than fear. Yet, the machine doesnt understand the dynamics of human romantic attraction - in reference to Kate, he calls her a healthy human female of breeding age. Breeding. Yet he plays psychiatrist. Am I the only one seeing a contradiction in this?
At one point I didnt even know if I was supposed to laugh or not. This came when the Terminator was telling John why Kate had sent the Terminator back to the present. The reason was pretty simple:
Terminator: I killed you.
John: Well that sucks.
To the movies credit, though, there is some humor which WAS supposed to be laughed at. The big ha-ha moment comes when the Terminator, after stealing his clothes, reaches into his leather coat and yanks out his sunglasses.... Which are star-shaped, the very kind of sunglasses probably worn by Elton John at some point! There are also a handful of different variations of the classic Schwarzenegger line Ill be back.
The Terminatrix is an interesting type of machine. I dont know whether or not shes supposed to be fully liquid metal. It would appear shes just liquid metal on the outside. But unlike the T1000, she can create complex weapons with her arms. She can also manipulate machines shes not touching. And blow up the size of her breasts. Apparently, shes also really stupid. After all, with that wonderful machine manipulation ability, there HAD to be a better way to kill John and Kate. And yet, any option other than direct pursuit and punishment escaped her. Although Kristanna Loken plays her part mechanically, she can be forgiven since shes playing a robot. But as far as Im concerned, Robert Patricks truly sinister T1000 is still the marquee villain of the series. The difference is that Patrick gave his character a dominating aura of evil that really stretched out.
This isnt to defame Rise of the Machines completely, however. The director, Jonathan Mostow, seems to know what hes doing when it comes to action sequences. All the action in Terminator 3 is very well-shot, not to mention a whole lot of fun to watch. Also, the producers decided against a typical Hollywood ending. The ending may put a lot of people off, but it gives the series a finality which it otherwise wouldnt have. With Johns fate set, the producers can concentrate on showing us the aftermath and the ultimate triumph of mankind if (when?) they decide to make a sequel. And while Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines makes a great Saturday afternoon B-movie, dont expect it to be good. Dont expect it to be anywhere near the level of the first two. Expect a video game-like movie. Serious Terminator fans, however, may want to save their pennies for the sequel, if it gets produced.
Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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