Terminator 3

Originally reviewed July, 2003

Being a fan of Hollywood, I have learned to accept what summer is all about. We all know summer is about rolling out the big action pieces, the family fare and the sequels. It’s been really nice that, in the past few years, Hollywood has also decided to throw one or two serious and quality films in the mix during the hot months (Saving Private Ryan, Road To Perdition, Seabiscuit), but, for the most part, it’s still action, kids and sequels.

This summer actually contained two sequels I was looking forward to: Charlie’s Angels 2 (see my review) and Terminator 3. Terminator 2 was released twelve years ago—that’s right, TTWELVE years—so I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for the third installment in the machines-taking-over-the-world science fiction saga. Terminator 2 was one of those RARE sequels that surpassed the original, so the third installment had such promise.


Not since Star Wars: Episode I have I been so disappointed with a sequel to a favorite film. Terminator 3 can’t even be called a sequel. It should be called Terminator 2: The Re-Hashing. Seriously, all they’ve done in this new movie is replaced Robert Patrick’s stone-faced Terminator of T2 with Kristanna Loken’s stone-faced Terminator of T3, but without the personality and humor. Humor, you say? Yes, T2 had lots of it, yet T3 just tries to re-use the same jokes. It is truly monumental how many things, ideas, and even lines of dialogue that are recycled in this film. What is so offensive is that they think they can roll out a film, slap the “Terminator” brand onto it and it will make a fortune, so nobody even bothered to write a script for it. I sound angry, don’t I? I am. I am very angry. It’s taken twelve years and this is the best they could come up with?

Now full disclosure: James Cameron, the egotistical genius who was the creative force behind the first two installments, is nowhere to be found on this one. That should explain a lot and it should’ve warned me. But still I had some hope. Well, all hopes were dashed when I realized this film is nothing but a pathetic attempt to recapture past glories and hide the lack of plot and depth behind expensive action scenes and devastating property damage.

Yes, the film is loaded with action sequences, including the obligatory drive-a-large-vehicle-through-city-streets-and-destroy-everything-in-sight segment. But there is a total lack of humor here. There is no energy, no sense of excitement, no heart-pounding thrills or any sense of fun in these action pieces. It feels as if they are merely going through the motions. It’s as if they knew they needed to put a full movie onscreen so people would buy tickets, but they didn’t care what was on that screen. That’s how it feels. That’s how unsatisfying this film is.

The action is the star in this film, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the humans that populate the film. In the first Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator was evil and hell-bent on destruction and murder. In the second one, they brought him back and turned him good, even enabling him to learn and change. So there would naturally be some sort of progression with his character in this installment, right? Sorry, it’s just the same story as T2. Nothing new to tell. They even found a totally stupid way of making sure he even wears the same COSTUME as he did in the second film. I know, this is too unbelievable, but it’s true. And Arnold must’ve been too busy trying to decide whether he was going to run for Governor to notice that he doesn’t say one single original line in this entire film. But I guess he doesn’t care, as long as the check doesn’t bounce.

Claire Danes and Nick Stahl are two young actors who are better than this. I remember Nick Stahl from his very impressive film debut as a twelve year old in Mel Gibson’s underappreciated directorial debut The Man Without a Face, but Stahl really got noticed in the indie drama hit In the Bedroom a couple years ago. Claire Danes is still trying to make her impression on Hollywood, after years of trying to break in. But I still believe her time is coming—she’s a fine actress, she just chooses poorly. But neither Danes nor Stahl do anything of substance in this film. They, like our money, are wasted.

And what about the “hot” new Terminator, Kristanna Loken? I’m at an unusual loss of words here. I guess they thought if the name Terminator 3 didn’t pull in the ticket buyers enough this summer, then they had to MAKE SURE the teenage boys pulled out their hard-earned cash by product-placing a hot blonde actress in a role where she gets to look mean. Yawn. That’s all I can muster. Pathetic, just pathetic.

Stepping into James Cameron’s shoes must be difficult, but director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) still should’ve known that he had the most un-original script ever written in his hands when he started shooting. Why he still put his name on the thing is beyond me.

You know, it says a lot about a film when you go to their website and look up the Crew/People Behind the Scenes information and you can find out all about the Director, the Producers, the Director of Photography, the Costume Designer, the Production Designer, the Makeup Artist, the Special Effects Supervisor, the Prop Designer and the Editor. Think there’s something missing? I’m telling you, I’ve searched their whole site, and I can’t find a listing for a WRITER!! Is this disturbing to anyone else? I have to say it explains a lot, but come on, people! Is the American public really this gullible? Well, as someone who plunked down $9 for this garbage, I guess the answer is yes.

On the official website for the film (www.Terminator3.com and I want you to see if you can find the writer’s name for me) they call this film an “homage to its predecessors.” Why don’t they just come right out and say it: “We couldn’t think of anything new but we needed to buy new houses, so we hope you won’t notice.”

We noticed.