Directed by Jonathan Mostow. USA. 2003.

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Ever since Star Wars returned the Jedi there has existed this mantra among the studio executives: ďYou canít call it a franchise until itís got three parts.Ē Certainly, there is a base aesthetic pleasure to be had in this; I like the look of my Back To The Future boxed set, I envy my friendís Indiana Jones boxed set just as he will envy mine when I buy it on DVD, but never-the-less this mantra seems to out-wit reason when it comes to a franchise. Lord Of The Rings is derivative of a trilogy of novels so this can be forgiven, but The Matrix was a superb film on its own, so leave it alone. Actors now sign on for three films before the second script has even had a chance to be crap; even the trilogy that started it all has felt the need to unleash another. This isnít necessarily bad cinema- although itís certainly great business- because as long as the sequels are preconceived, rather than tagged on, they stand a decent chance of having a story to tell. The Matrix Reloaded suffered terribly from being a mere Ďtag-oní; the first film was complete and so naturally its sequel fails to ever convince of its own necessity. Terminator 2 was a perfect sequel, making a smooth transition from the first film without ever being dependent on it, and in fact existed as a great science-fiction film in its own right. It also offered a definite conclusion to the series, which, considering the lucrative potential of a third terminator from James Cameron, was quite a bold move. Twelve years later though and some studio-exec realised either one of two errors with the series: Itís not even a trilogy - this means that it could barely call itself a commercial, let alone a franchise. More importantly, Arnie said heíd be
back and he wasnít. Yet.

If sequels are a 100m sprint to a 200 million dollar finish line, then T3 started with a fifty-metre disadvantage and a pair of crutches. James Cameron had refused to be associated with it, Linda Hamilton thought it was a bad idea and even the mighty Michael Biehn decided that he was too big a star for the revival. This was added to the fact that there hadnít been a Terminator movie for twelve years and its big Austrian star was only a couple more bombs away from being a weapon of mass destruction. Even when this had all been solved by attaching well respected, although little known, action director Jonathan Mostow and releasing a truly awesome marketing campaign, there was still the problem of how to actually resurrect a well concluded narrative. But nothing was going to stand in the way of pre-election Arnieís final bout with the box-office, and the resurrection is explained by simply stating that the apocalyptic virus Skynet was always going to rear its ugly head, no matter what the first two films said. When the hope of existentialism fails - blame it on determinism.

Just as Terminator 2 was Terminator with a bigger budget, T3 is, give or take the odd female killing machine, Terminator 2 with an even bigger budget. Thereís nothing wrong with this, or indeed, anything particularly right with this, but it does breed a nice feeling of familiarity. Like when Mars release a new and improved version of the same chocolate bar. There is comfort to be taken in the simple chase narrative, and to Mostowís credit, the action throws and explodes its way along in a neat and polished fashion, rarely giving you time to consider the occasionally bumpy plot. As far as special effects are concerned, you get what you pay for, and it isnít hard to see why this is the most expensive movie ever made. Whilst never as groundbreaking as its predecessor, T3 does offer the most superbly rendered CGI creations of the summer, with each harbinger of the apocalypse clunking and whirring with a menacing reality. Apart from the surprisingly brave ending (determinists will cheer) though, there are few, if any, innovative scenes in the film. Mostow delivers his action with confidence, but you canít help but wonder if there would have been more memorable set pieces if the film was in the hands of a less conservative director.

Kristanna Loken plays the villain sent from the future to destroy John Connor and his deputies-to-be, and she does a decent enough impression of Robert Patrick to seem threatening. Nick Stahl, who perhaps, considering this is the future leader of the world, should have played the role more Batman than Robin, plays her prey and generally goes through the motions as smoothly as castor oil through an engine. Claire Danes lends him a hand, but she is understandably distracted with trying to create a character out of, what has to be, one of the poorest roles ever written. There is, however, only one name above the title. Heís back, just like he said he would be, and Schwarzenegger plays the role he was created to play. The Austrian Oak does so with an undeniable presence and an unnatural talent for looking great in leather trousers. Itís fair to say that the T-101 has a malfunctioning sense of humour chip as some of the jokes really do miss the mark by a giant time leap, but there are few things that make more sense than a terminator holding a milli-gun.

T3 never really recovers from the fact that it wasnít a necessary sequel, and the awkward humour does send the mood of the film in the wrong direction, but, like its hero, T3 works as any perfect machine should: it gets the job done.

Aaron Asadi


For news, information, links and anything else you might imagine go to this unofficial T3 site:

A review of the T3 premiere in London is given in Nigel Watson's article Arnie In The Flesh.

Futura Comics: Rise of the Machines! is a send up of T3.
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