Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Since I reviewed that Terminator Salvation movie that nobody seemed to like, I decided to travel back in time and check out T3, one that nobody seemed to like at the time but, now, when compared to the new one it's, apparently, almost as good as Terminator 2 or some shit. Well, as it turns out I didn't need to go back in time to see this, it's on DVD so that will save me the embarrassment of having to walk around downtown Boston 2003 without my clothes on. Phew.

T3 is the movie I guess where the terminator series started heading towards parody. Like skynet it was becoming self-aware. Judgement day for the series was just over the horizon. The only way to salvage things would be to make a deadly-serious movie set in the future, cast Christian Bale, and not allow anyone to smile. Mission accomplished.

Anyway, back to T3. This one is actually better than I gave it credit for in my review of Salvation where I say Salvation is "better" (it is) and that "minus the terrific ending (T3) was pretty bad" (not exactly true). This is an enjoyable action movie with a few intentionally funny moments and several over the top in their cuteness moments. Once again we got a couple of time traveling robots. We got the old fashioned everyman model, the T-101 (Arnold Strong) re-programmed in the future by the resistance and sent back in time to protect John Connor (Nick Stahl) again. And, in this other corner, we got the T-X model (Kristianna Loken) sent back in time by the evil robots to blow shit up pretty good. Actually, her mission is to kill Connor's lieutenants before they can join the resistance in the future, which includes a McDonald's drive-thru employee and a bunch of other helpless kids. And Claire Danes who plays Kate Brewster who would later become Bryce Dallas Howard and finally Kate Connor. The T-X isn't even assigned to kill John Connor this time. Connor's been living "off the grid". Taking odd construction jobs, riding his motorbike real fast, and dropping beer bottles off of bridges. Thankfully, and coincidentally, he swings by Kate's veterinarian clinic to steal some meds just as Kate swings by for a late night appointment, just as the T-X arrives to finish her assignment...and then we also got the T-101 factoring in here somewhere. This is the kind of fate shit this whole series has been about.

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, the whole thing is getting just a little too self aware at this point. A little too jokey I guess. Some of the best scenes in these killer robots from the future movies have always been their arrival scenes. You know, an electro-magnetic ball appears out of nowhere, attracting lightning, causing wind and other weather anomolies. Then a naked Terminator appears with his first order of business being to acquire some sort of clothing or what have you. Well, in this one, The T-X appears in a store front window next to an attractive mannequin. I don't know what the likelihood of this is but I guess I won't really argue. We later learn that the T-X can take the form of whatever she comes into contact with, so I guess that makes a little more sense now. She's just like the T-1000 in that regards. We can only assume, at this point, that the mannequin is probably dead.

The T-101's appearence is even more ridiculous. He stumbles into a bar out in the middle of the desert. I think something else we can infer is that the robots are pretty damned proficient in operating these time traveling machines, always placing their subjects close to their objective. The human operators aren't quite as good. Anyway, the T-101 walks into a bar, on ladies night. His targeting system clicks on and searches for a clothing match. He looks at one overweight scantily clad woman and the words "inappropriate" flash on his screen. Turns out, the only man in the place is the erotic dancer - in full "macho macho man" get-up - who tells Arnold to "talk to the hand" when he asks nicely for his clothes. Arnold does. Maybe this isn't as funny as I think it's supposed to be. I guess the point is that T-101s take everything literally. Sarcasm has no meaning to them. It totally makes sense now and, later, when he tells a store clerk he's robbing to "talk to the hand" I read that as more than just a lame attempt at humor. Shit, I feel better.

This picture is just one damned action scene after another intermingled with scenes or the T-101 explaining some things. After the first encounter with the T-X, the T-101 loads John and Kate into a truck and then begins explaining everything to them. Things like judgement day wasn't stopped (the supposed end result of T2) it was just postponed. His mission is to ensure that they survive it. In the future, John and Kate are married, etc. I don't know, what would I do if a robot from the future shoved me in a truck with Claire Danes and told me she was my future wife? Would I try to force things with her? Would I make awkward attempts at humor like "yeah, well you're not exactly my type either". Ok, what if it wasn't Claire Danes in that truck but, someone like, say, Roseanne Barr? I don't know about you, but this judgement day thing I keep hearing about doesn't sound so bad. Might even try to get a closer view, maybe swing the doors to our fallout shelter open for a moment or two.

We also learned, via John Connor, that his mother, Sarah Connor, died of leukimia a few years earlier. That explains her absence I guess. Apparently, Linda Hamilton was asked to reprise her role but she refused since she was supposed to unceremoniously die about halfway through. So, leukimia seems like a good alternative.

So, yeah, we have a chase movie with the T-X in constant pursuit. It's a superior model to the T-1000. She can do the voices, appear as anyone she touches and shit like that. She can also wire herself into networks, control cop cars, ambulances, even those giant crane trucks. This is like some serious Lawnmower Man or Ghost in the Machine type shit. Her fights with the T-101 sorta give you the feeling that she's just toying with him. She can usually end the fight whenever she wants, and, in fact, she does. This broad can take a urinal upside the fucking head and it barely even phases her.

Thankfully, amidst some of the silliness, there are several standout action scenes. The best one is probably the first one where John and Kate flee from the T-X in a little pickup truck while the T-X controls several cop cars, ambulances, etc and sends them in pursuit. She follows along in the crane truck. The T-101 follows in a motorcycle and eventually latches onto the crane. Several buildings are leveled, innocents are killed, the T-X is made angry, etc. The CGI in the scene isn't too awful.

I don't know, it's better than I remembered it being. Still, the ending is by far the best thing about this picture. Spoilers will commense now. So, that whole judgement day thing? Turns out it couldn't be avoided. The whole point of the second movie was to stop it. Turns out they just postponed it. Something about Kate's father, an air force big wig, being the key. Apologies to Joe Morton is the point of the story I suppose. He died in the last picture but none of that really mattered. Humanity was always fucked regardless. I won't go into too many details since I suppose it's possible you still haven't seen it.

Anyway, 9 out of 10 reviews of Salvation pointed out how retarded it was that the machines didn't just kill Kyle Reese (Connor's father for all you newbies) when they had him. Well, if we learned anything about fate from T3, we learned that it doesn't fucking matter. Also, we're not talking about Back to the Future rules of time travel here. What the fuck did they expect? For Connor to just disappear if they killed Reese? That's ridiculous. No, the only sure way to get rid of Connor is to kill him themselves. So, I hope I've convinced you that the gaping plot hole from Salvation isn't really a plot hole at all.

I enjoyed this one more now than I did the first time. There's still a ridiculously funny scene where the T-101, Kate, and John show up at Sarah Connor's grave and take a bunch of weapons out of her coffin. Then, the T-101 starts blowing away a bunch of cops and shit while holding the coffin on his shoulder (I don't think he actually killed any, killing cops is solely the province of the T-X). One of the cops yells on a blowhorn for Arnold to "put down your gun....and the coffin!" I'm pretty sure that's the first time that line's been said in a motion picture. The ending is perfectly apocalyptic but it doesn't really fit in with the comedy of what we've seen before. Oh well, Jonathan Mostow (the director of this and U-571) did a solid job. The action scenes, for the most part are terrific. Unfortunately, overall, it just seemed like too much of a spoof. It was time for a reboot. McG did his best, but I guess his best wasn't good enough. Should have set his picture in 2030 right before the death of John Connor. Maybe then we'd actually act surprised when Connor survived, had a heart transplant, and still had another 14 fucking years to live. Oh well. T3 is no masterpiece, but it's no piece of shit either.


elmo said...

I don't know... the machines up the ante by sending something that can make complex weapons and not blend in at all. Then why not send a friggin' HK? A lack of even the slightest lipservice to logic pisses me off. From a scriptorial standpoint, it's a whole different realm of thinking, as in, "This is going to be painful, so let's just O.D. on eyecandy until it's over with."

I dunno... T2 is too dear to me.

brian said...

I think I shared your sentiment back when I first saw it. Years later, I was able to appreciate it more for what it did well, than what it messed up. One of my favorite moments was when the T-101 interrupts a light hearted exchange between Kate and John by saying "that's good. levity eases tension and the fear of death" or something like that.

Anyway, it's far from perfect, not really good, but still watchable.

brian said...

Also, maybe I'm being a nerd here, but would a HK (hunter killer, I'm assuming?) be able to go back in time? Wouldn't they have to put flesh over it's endoskeleton? Don't think purely metal objects can go through. I seem to remember that from the first movie.

I liked that you pointed out how the T-X can make "complex weapons". I just watched T2 last night and it never occured to me until Arnold mentioned that the T-1000 can only make solid, non complex, weapons, like "knives and stabbing things".

Dave said...

Something I appreciate about this film a lot more now (in these dark times of Michael Bay quick cuts and Bourne-style shaky cams) are the solid, well-directed action scenes. That bathroom fight between T-101 and the T-X is just spectacular, as is as the crane chase.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the crane chase. This movie came out at the same time as The Matrix Reloaded and all anyone could talk about was the highway chase. The crane chase puts that one to shame.