Reviewing The Third Film Of a Kick Ass Franchise That Came From a Cult Film – Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)

12 years go by and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is released on July 2, 2003. This is where things start to go wrong in terms of film making. Let me just point out that by no means do I think T3 is a bad film. This is just how trilogies go.

The news of Terminator 3 had been floating around ever since T2 was released which is mostly thanks to James Cameron. He had announced the film even before he had finished a script. But in 1997, the studio that developed T2, Carolco Pictures, went bankrupt and its assets were sold at auction. 50% of the franchise rights to Terminator hung in the air as the other 50% stayed with Cameron’s former wife and the producer of the first film, Gale Anne Hurd (who is best known now for being the producer of The Walking Dead) who initially bought the rights from Cameron for $1. Both James Cameron and 20th Century Fox were interested in purchasing the rights and developing the third film but Cameron’s pre-occupation with the post-production of his 1997 blockbuster ‘Titanic’ and worries over the budget for T3 meant that he was forced to back out of the bid. The rights were eventually bought by the founder of Carolco Pictures, Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vanja for $7.5 Million plus Gale Anne Hurd’s half of the rights that were obtained the following year. Now with full ownership of the rights to the Terminator franchise and a new studio (C2 Pictures) all they needed now, was a script. After a few scrapped versions, the final draft was completed by John Brancato and Michael Ferris.

First off, there are some notable changes. John Connor is now played by Nick Stahl rather than Edward Furlong. Although Edward Furlong would have been the right age to play John Connor, he was not considered because at the time of shooting, he was suffering from a problem with substance abuse. By getting another actor to play the pivotal role in this series, I think the production made a mistake. Once again, I don’t think that Nick Stahl is a bad actor, I just think that he wasn’t right for the role. Come to that, I don’t think that anyone other than Edward Furlong would have been right for the role. Edward Furlong’s performance in T2 was of such gravitas that it seems impossible to
think of anyone else playing him. He made the character so much his own to the point that when Nick Stahl came in, it didn’t feel like we were watching John Connor. The first two films were written so solidly that a break in that kind of continuity can be enough to break the film.

Another change in the casting was that of Linda Hamilton’s part of Sarah Connor. In the original script, Sarah Connor did appear but she was killed off halfway through. In an interview, Linda Hamilton stated that she had achieved everything that she wanted too with Sarah in the first two films and her character in the third film seemed ‘negligible’ and ‘disposable’. I can see where she is coming from here. In the first two films, Sarah Connor had such a huge part to play in those films and if she was to have appeared in T3, then she would have been put to one side as John and Kate (Claire Danes) carried the story. Sarah Connor was such a huge part of the series that the audience either needed ample time with her on-screen, or to have a moment to mourn her loss. The production did the right thing by not re-casting her and instead, wrote in a scene in which it is revealed that Sarah Connor died from Leukemia. She fought long enough to make sure that Judgement Day didn’t happen and that her son would be free. When John is taken to her grave, he is told that Sarah’s body was cremated and a lot of weapons
were stored inside her coffin just in case she was wrong. Which just goes to show that even in death, Sarah was still planning for the future.

The ever faithful Arnold Schwarzenegger returned for the sequel, as did Earl Boen who appeared in one scene as Dr Pete Silberman.

One change that was welcome in my view was the appearance of the first female Terminator or the TX as she is known. The TX is played by Kristanna Loken and the design of the TX has been pushed one step up from the T-1000. Possibly inspired by the popularity of the T-1000, The TX is also a shape-shifter but whilst the T-1000 used his shape-shifting to turn his arms into blades, the right arm of the TX initially is some kind of plasma rifle but after its damaged, becomes a flamethrower. The TX also doubles as a DNA reader. The robot is in search of Kate Brewster and shows up at her job, a veterinary hospital, in the middle of the night to find her because it has no concept of the 9 to 5. The TX must be a fortune teller because Kate is there. Whilst it has a sample of her DNA on record, it has no idea what she looks like as it shoots one of her customers. To confirm, she takes a little of the blood on her finger and savours. But the TX is in luck as two of the people on her hit list are in the same place at the same time. When John’s leg is injured in a motorcycle accident, he stops off in a veterinary hospital to treat himself. He leaves a bloody bandage on the floor and the TX licks it only to be shocked to discover that its the blood of John Connor. Another ability the TX owns is the ability to control other machines. It demonstrates this early on by taking control of a number of police cars to intercept John. The TX later controls a number of ‘kill-droids’ and even the Terminator. It tries to make the Terminator kill John but the Terminator shuts itself down.

I mentioned comedic elements earlier. Most of them in the first act and they’re not so much cringe worthy, more eye brow raising in a ‘Why is this in here?’ sort of a fashion. When the Terminator arrives in the present day, he goes on a clothing scout and ends up in a strip club. He scans all the women and naturally finds nothing, even after scanning a heavy set woman and coming up with the reading ‘INAPPROPRIATE’. He scans the male stripper and finds a match. The stripper is clearly used to large, naked men asking him to take his clothes off as well as screaming women because when the Terminator tells the stripper to take his clothes off, the Terminator get the response ‘talk to the hand’.
The stripper must be a time traveller aswell because that response came right from the 70’s. The ‘talk to the hand’ line is used again by the Terminator when a shop clerk tries to stop him from walking out with a load of food that he hasn’t paid for.

One of the things that I do praise this film for is the attempt to push the series forward. You know what I’m talking about. John is told the very day that the Terminator showed up, is the day that the bombs will fall and the world will end. The Terminator was send to rescue John and Kate then take them to a safe place where they can ride out the apocalypse. John is still in denial about his fate and refuses to believe that everything he knows is about to come to an end. By incredible coincidence (something that does plague this film), Kate’s father is the man who has developed Skynet and he’s about to turn it on in order to beat a computer virus that is sweeping across the US. From that point on, the plan was to destroy the system core that runs Skynet and therefore it will not be able to initiate the apocalypse. It could have been really easy for them to find the system core and destroy and have the series be over and I think that’s where the script was heading, until the twist. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the Terminator was not wrong. He knew that Skynet had invaded every computer system in the world and there was no ‘system core’. He knew there was no stopping it and he didn’t think to tell John this information. He stopped just short of that.

T3 had a bigger budget than T2, reaching $187.3 Million. Unfortunately, whilst the budget was bigger than T2, the box office takings were not. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines took in $433.4 Million. It may not be as big as T2 but it’s still enough to warrant a sequel. But where can the series go from here? The world has ended. The war has begun. Is there anyone who can save us? Oh dear.

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