Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

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Iíve always like science fiction. Basically there are two aspects of this genre that draws me and millions of others, it can take you to fantastic worlds and situations that you could never personally experience and, perhaps more importantly, it is the perfect venue to discuss social issues in the guise of entertainment. The first two movies in the Terminator series fit this description. They were great pieces of entertainment but they also explored human nature and the growing dangers that technology can provide. Unfortunately, this third installment falls short in the all important area of giving you a plot that you can think about. Now, its okay to present a film whose only purpose is to thrill but since it is a part of what is at this point a trilogy the expectations held by many in the audience was a bit higher. Nick Stahl is John Conner, the future leader and potential savior of mankind in its desperate fight against all powerful machines. He is so important that the machines in the future have sent back cyborgs, machines with living flesh, to first try to prevent his birth and then to kill him outright. Now, on the eve of the nuclear war that would begin the rise of the machines they try again. A new breed of terminator the T-X (Kristanna Loken) is sent to kill John and a young woman Kate (Clair Danes). Their only protection is an older model terminator once again played with stoic strength by Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is a lot of running, things blowing up and new technological twists to be had but the film ultimately falls short by a lack of any real believable plot. Fans of multiple part stories, myself included, want consistency between the films. There has to be a continuity that drives the internal logic of the story in order to make the audience believe in this world that has been created. Well, continuity with the other films is not even attempted here much to the chagrin of the fans of the first two flicks. According to the original two films the nuclear war was to begin on August 29, 1997. No real explanation is given for how this date came and went and we are all still here. We can assume it was the actions taken by John and his mother but it felt like a bit of a copy out. John is also considerably older than he should be while the original model terminator is much older. The coincidences and all to pat plot lines pretty much put me off a lot of the storyline here. There are so many inconsistencies and induced paradoxes that the audience is distracted from anything that might be going on in the film.

The acting here was good but out of place considering the story. Where as Edward Furlong, the original John, was a determined and resourceful boy trapped in incredibly horrible circumstances, Stahl tries too hard to be the action hero. While that would normally be an interesting twist next to the redoubtable Mister Schwarzenegger it comes across as forced. Danes is an under appreciated actress. While she is pretty, talented and intelligent but little of this comes across here. Her main job here is to scream as often and as loudly as possible. Here role is diminished to the old time damsel in distress where if she had been given a chance she could have fleshed out the role of Kate far better. Call this one her so called apocalyptic life. Of course there is Schwarzenegger. While far older than when he started this franchise he can still deliver the goods for action. Since he is not actually playing the same terminators shown in the previous movies there is still the learning curve to go through while trying to assimilate what the other two incarnations have gone through he must fight a terminator at least two major revisions above his own model. Too bad the human resistance couldnít get a hold of a couple of upgrade patches for him. The villain here is the beautiful new comer Loken who has virtually no lines in the film and must convey her entire character with body language and facial expressions. She puts in a good freshman effort playing the much more powerful foil to Mr. Sí character.

James Cameron declined taking on the directorís chair for this flick handing things over to Jonathan Mostow. While Mostow does not have a lot on his directorís resume there are two bright spots there. He directed the last episode of the acclaimed series From the Earth to the Moon. This episode, le Voyage Dans La Lune, was presented with great imagination and flair. He also did the submarine action flick U-571. He goes off on a different direction than Cameron had in the past. Mostow keeps a faster pace, providing less time afforded to expository information. His style is less detail oriented than Cameron but the use of lighting and framing is impeccable. He also does well in taking up the challenge afforded to modern action film directors, the integration of the sound track as part of the story. Mostow gave the Foley department a workout here.

The DVD is extremely well done. This is something that you can use to impress those neighbors that still do not have home theaters. The Dolby 5.1 sound track is one of the best ever presented. The full use of the six speakers is not short of spectacular. Your sub woofer will fill your bones with a deep rich vibration. The rear speakers will pull you right into the sound stage. The anamorphic 2.40:1 video is crisp, clear with a great color pallet. I could not detect any problems with the edges between light and dark. There are two commentary tracks provided. Due to problems with getting the whole cast together at the same time the first commentary was recorded separately and mixed together. This had the effect of coming off a bit disjointed, without the social dynamic that this type of commentary usual has. The second directorís commentary is much more specific to the trials and tribulations uncounted in production. I found the second discís extras a bit mundane and superficial. There are the obligatory special effects featurettes, and deleted scenes but nothing really stood out. The gag reel was amusing but also fell just a bit short. In all this is a good Friday night beer and pizza movie but the sad thing is it could have been so much more.

Posted 10/28/03

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