"Terminator 3": The Fall of a Franchise

by Eric Melin on July 4, 2003

in Print Reviews

So Bill brought his DVDs of the first two Terminator movies in the van on this tour, knowing that we would see this one while we were out.

I hadn’t seen them in a long time, and liked them both a lot. Sure, they are both basically just escapist fun, but they make sense and there is a real consistency in vibe to them. Seeing them so close to watching “T3” was an eye-opener, because it made the obvious even more obvious. “Terminator 3” is not a Terminator movie.

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The first two movies were written and directed by James Cameron (“Titanic”), and he chose not to return to the helm, with good reason. So now we have no Cameron, no Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, and no Edward Furlong as John Connor. All we have to connect this film to the last one is Arnold Schwarzenegger. And new director Jonathan Mostow, the man responsible for that crappy, third-rate submarine movie U-571, can’t even get Arnold to act even similar to the same T-101 machine he’s played twice before!

Of course, Arnold has his cheesy variations on his old catch phrase “I’ll be back,” but they are so bad that I was laughing at the lameness of it all rather than because the lines are actually funny and/or cleverly used. And then, the Terminator’s rare and dramatic moment of indecision near the end of the movie, (Arnold’s acting?) had me howling in laughter! I hope he’s ready for Travolta to ask him to co-star in “Battlefield Earth 2,” because I’d be first in line for that hokey hamfest!

I’m already thinking up drinking games for “BE2,” but actually having Arnold in there would take it to a whole new Mr. Freeze-ish level of hilarity.

Another big problem with “T3” is that it never needed to happen, story-wise. John and Sarah Connor averted Judgement Day, the apocalypse that was supposed to happen in 1997, in “T2” already. There couldn’t possibly be another impending apocalypse, could there? Well, as long as there are suckers like me willing to shell out my cash to see retread material, you bet your ass there’s another apocalypse on the way!

The plot seems like an exact recycle of “T2.” There are two more terminators, a seemingly unstoppable new model sent from the future to kill John Connor (Kristanna Loken) and an older, outdated T-101 sent to protect him (Schwartenegger). Once they arrive and begin wreaking havoc, Connor (now played by doe-eyed Nick Stahl) and new gal-pal Katherine Brewster (Claire Danes), divert the T-101 from his original mission of protecting them into saving the world from the current nuclear holocaust, which is only hours away.

If this all seems familiar, that’s because it’s the virtually the exact same set-up as “T2.” Once the movie gets going, it varies ever so slightly, but with no heart or wit. There is a lot of killing along the way, and Arnold dies not once, but three times! It’s almost as if the writers truly thought that the audience would be concerned every time it looks like Arnold has cashed in his chips. Instead, I was so beyond caring about this ridiculous Terminator that I was annoyed every time he got back up.

On the plus side, there’s one sprawling devastation-style action scene that kicked some ass, and a nifty twist at the end. What got us to that twist was pretty silly, though, something about a computer virus creating itself and spreading to every computer in the world, I think? With the obvious exception of “2001:A Space Odyssey,” evil computers have never been a good dramatic device. And at least HAL 9000 talked!

But what are big action scenes without characters and a story you care about? Ten minutes of fun in a two-hour shit sandwich. If that’s enough for you, go to a big theater with good, loud sound and enjoy the explosions. My expectations for “Terminator 3” were low, but this let me down even more than I thought it could.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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