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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew commentary from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jonathan Mostow, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken and Claire Danes; Deleted scenes; Outtakes; Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Documentary; 'Dressed To Kill' featurette; Making of the video game featurette; Storyboards; 'Toys In Action' featurette; Visual effects featurettes; Photo galleries; Terminator timeline; Weblink - Rom link into web/game demo; T3 video game trailer; Blooper reel; Filmographies; Skynet database. Weapons/actor profiles; 7 Easter eggs.

IT’S been over a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger promised audiences that he’d be back - and while much has changed since then, some things remain the same.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is virtually a re-run of its predecessors, albeit with grander special effects, louder explosions and a little more humour.

Yet while the spectacle remains intact, the plot and, dare I say, character development, which helped to make the first two movies so innovative, has sadly not come back with it.

T3 is symptomatic of the current trend for placing action and special effects above all else, remaining a visual feast throughout, without really challenging viewers to think.

In set piece terms, it is almost as unrelenting as the machines which drive proceedings, while the sub-head, Rise of the Machines, could quite easily be replaced with Rise of the SFX. For, on a technical scale, it is right up there with The Matrix and Lord of the Rings.

Yet while James Cameron’s original played up the emotional torment of Linda Hamilton’s heroine, Sarah Connor, and challenged audiences to think about man’s growing dependence on computers, and its sequel, Judgement Day, succeeded in portraying a genuinely affecting emotional bond between Edward Furlong’s John Connor and Schwarzenegger’s protector, T3 seems merely content to blow stuff up.

Not that this is a bad thing, of course (and, to be fair, there is more plot than most blockbusters we have recently had to endure of late), it’s just a shame that one of the genre-definers has succumbed to the ‘dumbing down’ theory that places visual trickery above everything else.

It is in this department that the absence of Cameron, Hamilton and co is most sorely felt.

But to dismiss T3 out of hand would be foolhardly, for there is still plenty to enjoy for fans of the series - beginning with the return of Arnie in that black outfit and shades.

While recent attempts to extend his range have proved disastrous, Schwarzenegger is on much surer footing here, and seems to revel in the opportunity to get back into the limelight, showing a nice line in self-deprecating humour, while dispensing the cheesy one-liners almost as frequently as the bullets.

His adversary, this time, is the TX (played by shapely model, Kristanna Loken), the latest of Skynet’s sophisticated cyborg killing machines, sent back in time to complete the job left unfinished by her predecessor, the T-1000 - and she, too, delivers the required thrills, proving very nimble when it comes to the fight sequences.

For while Mr Connor (Nick Stahl) may have thought he had triumphed against the machines at the end of T2, he had only delayed the inevitable, and, 10 years on, the latest threat to mankind is just hours away, as the military struggles to contain a computer virus that could leave America’s defence systems vulnerable to attack.

Hence, the Terminator is not only charged with trying to protect John once more, but also his soon-to-be second-in-command, Kate (Claire Danes), whose father holds the key to Skynet’s future.

Director, Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown/U-571), does a decent job of furthering the story, throwing in a couple of neat twists, while also paying homage to the first films in the series, and even daring to end things on a sombre note (possibly, with his eye on a fourth film in the lucrative franchise).

But it is during the audacious action sequences that he really excels, with an opening chase involving a lorry and a fire truck, and the inevitable brawl between Arnie and Loken, likely to have audiences cheering.

He also coaxes a strong performance out of Stahl (the child star of Mel Gibson’s Man without A Face, who has since appeared in The Thin Red Line and In The Bedroom), who does more than anyone to play up the emotion.

Yet this is mostly about the spectacle and, in spite of its failings, you can’t help but feel a tingle of excitement when a worn-out Arnie promises Stahl that they will meet again. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 12 years!

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