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Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

A naked man. A naked woman. A slithering snake. A burning bush.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Photo: Warner Bros.

A naked man. A naked woman. A slithering snake. A burning bush. No one scene in Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines comes close to approximating the feral apocalyptic swell of James Cameron’s Judgment Day but it’s certainly drunk on bibilical allegory. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator returns to save John Connor (Nick Stahl) and his future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) from the wrath of a sexy, seemingly indestructible T-X (Kristanna Loken). Because the film’s ruminations on destiny and time travel are by now redundant and certainly not without their paradoxical blind spots, screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (responsible for David Fincher’s undervalued paranoiac nightmare fantasy The Game) choose to call attention to the unbending nature of fate. Not that the filmmakers spend all that much time justifying the film’s existence, but it’s a relief that they’ve acknowledged the inevitability of the war between man and machine. And if there’s a cumbersome been-there-done-that quality to the film, the filmmakers choose to poke fun at rather than deliberately trump Judgment Day. From the leather-clad Terminator’s penchant for sunglasses and cornball one-liners to Connor’s wounded-dog routine, no shtick is immune. Because Loken’s T-X is less liquid-based than Robert Patrick’s T-1000, her tricks are arguably nowhere near as cool. But Mostow more than compensates with a series of exciting and ridiculously over-the-top set pieces, none better than an elongated road chase that pits T-X, a crane, and a horde of unmanned police cars against Kate and John inside an animal hospital van. Both T-X and Brewster are very much in control of the film’s chaos, and the combination of Loken’s deadly catwalk strut and Danes’s gut-busting one-liners (my favorite: “Just die, you bitch!”) almost makes up for the fact that neither woman is remotely as ferocious as Linda Hamilton. When the shit hits the fan, the dust settles in a somber art deco purgatory. Predicated on all sorts of chance encounters and somber resignations, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines reimagines the Adam and Eve myth but with a post-industrial edge and a distinctly feminist slant.

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Mark Famiglietti, Moira Harris, Earl Boen, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews Director: Jonathan Mostow Screenwriter: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris Distributor: Warner Bros. Running Time: 109 min Rating: R Year: 2003 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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