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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: Frank's Take

01/08/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in the USA - or Buy Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in the UK

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This juiced-up futuristic fable is delightfully on maximum overdrive and Arnold S. does what he does best ... deliver his brand of robotic ribaldry with the precision of an extremely well-oiled machine.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) Warner Brothers
1 hr. 49 mins.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow

Finally, the word is out: Arnuld is baaaaack!! In fact, the whole apocalyptic scope of filmmaker James Cameronís majestic landscape of destruction returns in the thrilling third installment of the Terminator series.

But the reality of the matter is that Cameron, along with Terminator tagalongs Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong, is sitting out this riveting edition. Instead, director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) gets the nod in continuing the delicious devastation of sci-fiís ultimate no nonsense cyborg in the revved up thriller Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines Movie Review

This juiced-up futuristic fable is delightfully on maximum overdrive and Arnold S. does what he does bestódeliver his brand of robotic ribaldry with the precision of an extremely well-oiled machine. Thereís no denying the sentiment that T3:ROTM has the jolting synergy to carry on the tradition and provide the surging cinematic rush that Cameron had instilled in his two previous menacing masterpieces.

Mostow, along with intuitive screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, creates a provocative underworld among the ruins where the biblical themes (male/female nakedness, a deceptive crawling reptile, flawed humanistic temptation) flow side by side with the flirtation of dominance between mankind and machines.

The constant struggle that invites the chaotic ritual that only an ardent Terminator enthusiast can grossly appreciate is performed brilliantly in its nightmarish ecstasy. The tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement will certainly enhance the high-wire act of force and fury. Itís certainly "judgment day" for T3:ROTM and the consensus looks awfully favorable for Mostowís brand of visual vibrancy.

The premise of the movie, suffice to say, is achingly familiar but nonetheless just as entertaining the third time around. Schwarzeneggerís Terminator is up to his old resilient tricks in his efforts to protect a now mature John Connor (Nick Stahl standing in for the departed Furlong) and his future veterinarian wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) from the potential harm at hand.

John Connor has done everything imaginable to safeguard himself from the danger of being traced by the killing machines looking to tame his hide once and for all. Somehow, cutting all ties from the regular norms of civilization doesnít seem to help at all.

Perhaps his efforts are futile thanks to the resiliency of Skynetís latest femme fatale, a curvaceous and cunning "terminatrix" machine known as T-X (Kristanna Loken). This bucket-of-bolts beauty is determined to make life miserable (and short) for Connor and his companion. T-X is quite impressive in her skilled abilities and is far more persistent and potent than that of her predecessor T-1000 (Robert Patrickís villainous Terminator prototype from Terminator 2: Judgment Day).

In any event, T-X is armed with an exaggerated viciousness that adds to the sexy allure of her terrifying tendencies.

Enter the Terminator himself, a.k.a. Arnold the bombastic one-man army. The hammy stone-faced cyborg struts around in all his comfortable nakedness while sporting a perplexed demeanor. Upon parading around in the buff as he strolls aimlessly amongst an approving strip club female-packed audience, the Terminator momentarily searches for his own missing identity.

Itís as if heís being reborn once again while maintaining that resisting inkling of curiosity. Reunited with his trademark leather-clad outfit and distinctive sunglasses to add that excitable exclamation point as an anointed wrecking crew operative, our hostile hero is ready and willing to take on the fury that will be fed to him in chaotic mouthfuls.

For the Terminator, being the Doctor of Demolishment is his name and contributing to the uncontrollable frenzy certainly is the game.

To say that T3:ROTM has incredible energy would indeed be a gross understatement. Mostow spares no expense and literally pours his animated guts into this superlative sci-fi session that marvelously boasts the eye-popping action sequences Terminator fans have come to embrace with steady aplomb.

The special effects are overwhelming and the surrealistic universe that serves as the pulsating playground for these dueling androids and their human counterparts to partake in is absolutely amazing. In addition to Mostowís high-spirited direction and sense of vigorous raucousness, the forces behind the design and operation of the robotic images and other CG manipulations ought to be commended for reinforcing the stylistically stimulating frames of excitement that sci-fi admirers will hold dearly to their overall appreciation.

Thereís no doubt that the film is shot exquisitely and that the continued saga of blow Ďem up mechanism misfit Terminator/Schwarzenegger would be as imaginative and wryly humorous in its latest outing.

Mostow doesnít get to the belabored point where his film is too overwrought or repetitively drunk with overdone random silliness. On the contrary, the moviemaker has a shrewd sense of structure where the mixture of cartoonish calisthenics and a bold dose of redemption fall into step of one another. For the most part, the formula isnít anything new to write about but it wisely follows the frantic footsteps of the prior Terminator flicks while making a conscious effort not to top itself as compared to the other previous films but live for its boisterous moment.

Clearly, one would think that Mostow had the proverbial two strikes against him seeing as though he was saddled with fresh blood looking to improve upon a franchise that could have needed a transfusion had this current offering failed in comparison. Yet all Mostow needed was the jaw-dropping stuntwork (look out for the indescribable 100-ton crane scene worthy of the fantastic highway bit in The Matrix Reloaded), the self-deprecating humor and goofy unruliness of star Schwarzenegger and a slab of sheer creativity and boundless confidence to combat the lingering reminiscences of Cameronís colorful affecting touch.

Although the character development doesnít necessarily chart into the depths of flawlessness, the performers are quite comfortable in their on screen skins and seem challenged by the inspired, protrusive project.

Schwarenegger slips back into his T-1000 persona in effortless fashion while nostalgically going through the cornball motions that made him the cinema sensation heís been in countless American action-oriented flicks throughout the years (yes, even counting a few duds like the much maligned and misguided The Last Action Hero). When Arnold is at the center of the entertaining mayhem taking place moviegoers are undeniably content to get caught up in his delightfully furious mode.

As the voluptuous vamp with the brilliant butt-kicking arsenal, Lokenís tough-minded T-X is a wonder to look at physically. However, she psychologically lacks the inherent fierceness and glimpse of vulnerability that Linda Hamiltonís defiant "mere mortal" Sarah Connor was so renowned for.

Ironically, Hamiltonís heroine in the first two movies embodies the spunk and sassiness that Lokenís T-X and Danesís Brewster exudes passably in this explosive edition. Both Loken and Danes are quite suitable but cannot completely compensate for the absence of a harried Sarah Connor that will be probably be the one and only true First Lady of the Terminator experience. Stahl is stable and fits the older brooding profile of Furlongís restless renegade John Connor.

It was nearly two decades ago that Cameronís original Terminator (1984) movie made an astounding impact on science fiction movie audiences only to have their expectations met with the arrival of the favored second helping in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Now the stamp of approval can be applied to Mostow and his top-notch collaborators that patiently came together to usher in a whole rousing spectacle for the millennium age.

Arnold may be approaching his Medicare years real soon and the desperate survival ritual of the Connor clan and their deadly detractors may be wearing thin in the minds of some skeptics but this doesnít take away from the fact that Rise of the Machines enthusiastically rises to the smashing occasion. The disregard for societal order in Cameronís (and now Mostowís) hasty world of technology and its overreaching ambition of self-importance is truly infectious.

In theory, T3: Rise of the Machines isnít just an elaborate joyride that punches holes into the heart of our fragile humanity. Itís simply a rollicking religion to relish when your active sensory perceptions are joyfully off balance.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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