Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes

 

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Like Lina Lamont, in Jean Hagen's memorable characterization, at the disastrous premiere of "The Dueling Cavalier" in "Singin' in the Rain," I liked this film. Maybe because Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting visibly old (he's almost 56), as I am; maybe because he or the writers are not afraid to quote good lines from other films (he tells poor Nick Stahl, as the current John Connor, "It is your destiny."); and maybe because the mayhem is better done than it is in "Matrix Reloaded." "T3" even has a plot of sorts, and a surprise ending that is definitely not what we expected.

Once again the Terminator has been sent back in time to protect John (and now Kate Brewster, who is to be his mate), from the machines that will once again try to destroy him before he prevents them from taking over the world. This time the villain is called T-X (Kristanna Loken in mannequin drag, without even a shred of personality). She can become whoever she touches and can analyze anything if she can sample it on her tongue. She's also built with a right arm that turns into a machine gun. As Schwarzenegger says, "She is newer, tougher and smarter than I am."

As it turns out, John and Kate have a brief history together: they made out one night in eighth grade, in someone's basement, though John has forgotten it. However, here in the film they meet when John, who's been living "off the grid" in order to hide from the machines, breaks into Kate's veterinary clinic to get some sleeping pills. Kate's dad is an air force general in charge of North America's defense system, but the machines are trying to convert it to their own use. She's also briefly engaged, though T-X takes care of that by killing the fiancÚ and taking his body, thus freeing Kate to consider John.

The film is a long chase, with close calls and sudden stops, and at various times the chase involves a monster crane, a fire truck, and a hearse whose top is cut off when it is run over by an 18-wheeler. Schwarzenegger is no longer macho man, but plays his age with some grace; no more braying one-liners, just straight delivery of the lines. I always liked him best when he played against his looks and manner, as in "Twins," and here he does not dominate the film, leaving it to Danes and Stahl. Unfortunately, Stahl looks and sounds more like a punk kid whose feelings have been hurt than someone being groomed to save humanity, and he drags the film down whenever he opens his mouth. Danes is fine in an underwritten role (where are the writers from "My So-Called Life" when we need them?), and we may hope that "T4," if and when it comes, will give her more to do.