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I don't know why, a combination of loyalty and boredom sent me to the multiplex to see "Terminator 3", although I did feel a bit guilty about it since all this talk started the week of the film's premiere about Ah-nold running for Governor of California.  From one of the trailers it looked like they were going for that whole "Lord of the Rings" feeling with a shot of the crowd resisting the Machines.  Truly a man of the people, but as it turns out it was only a small part of the final film; perhaps we need to wait for the director's cut?

The credits began and the title card came up that said "A Jonathan Mostow Film" and I quietly said "Who?".  A couple people in front of me turned around and threw me a look.  They seemed like normal movie-goers, but were probably thinking "How dare you set foot in this theater not knowing what great entertainments this man, this great king of men, has given us... U-571 saved our marriage!"  They did look a little trucker-ish, maybe they were just really enthusiastic fans of "Breakdown".  But this is no "Jurassic Park 3".  That's the gist of the review if you want to save yourself some heartache now and stop reading.

Or perhaps it's best James Cameron handed over the franchise to someone else, now that it's finally found a stable home in Warner Bros.  At least there was no big showdown on the deck of the Titanic.

Just so this qualifies as a review, the plot is basically this: we meet again for the first time John Connor who is a little older, a little wiser, and a little farther along the path to the outskirts of society, but occasionally revisits the scene of the chase.  "Come with me if you want to live" has become "It is time" as he is revisited by the Ghost of Christmas ... by two Terminators, Ah-nold and the latest model which we all should know by now is called the T-X.  Ah-nold is once again dispatched as a protector cyborg.  Why couldn't they send a T-X as the protector instead?  It's clearly the more powerful of the two, and of course leaves open the possibility of a steamy sex scene for all the readers of 'Maxim' out there. (Robotic Sex!!)

The introduction of the Terminator this time was a hoot, no question.  A good spoof on the previous films.  This is still the role of a lifetime for Ah-nold.  He is still the man.  Well, as long as you don't count his last 5 movies.  There's enough here in the screenplay for your average Computer Science major to get a slight smile out of.  As a whole, however, the story just seems like a typical day in the life of a Terminator.

Which brings us to the special effects.  The first big chase sequence was certainly bizarre.  I'm sure I wasn't alone in feeling some schadenfreude for the manager-type dude whose SUV got totaled at the prologue of the chase sequence.  This chase sequence may go down in cinema history as having the largest vehicle ever involved in one.  However, I did notice that every 5th frame or so was snipped out, a practice which I'm not yet conditioned to accept, but that's just me; I was also a little disoriented by the big CG camera swoops in "The Fast and the Furious".  One more thought on the chase sequence: according to the IMDb "T3" cost a whopping 170 million dollars and, like "Lethal Weapon 4" which supposedly cost 140 million dollars, one couldn't help but wonder if most of that cost went to the local Chamber of Commerce for the extensive use of the roads involved.

I wasn't one of the ones holding my breath waiting for the Terminator sequel, and I've already got too many DVDs as it is.  Before everyone was saying "CG!  CG!" we had T2, and it represented the revolution in special effects.  And they were actually cool, too!  Better than "Total Recall", believe it or not.  T3 just seems ho-hum after all that has transpired in between, and that's just between Pixar and Big Idea.  The envelope is just getting harder and harder to push.  No eyebrows seemed to be raised at the film's budget, for example, except for the heads of AOL Time Warner, especially after they saw the film for the first time.  Short of being filmed entirely in space, the Terminator franchise has simply been overtaken by the general state-of-the-art it helped create.

Furthermore, at some point the film got campy.  I believe it was about the time when the machines started 'taking over', starting with the 20 or so Machine Gun Robots working their way down the halls.  And when Arnold shows up at the vet's office his truck takes a couple big bounces that didn't seem real.  The first one, okay, but that second one smacked of wire crew.  On the other side of the spectrum, Claire Danes' character spends the whole first chase sequence in the back of that vet truck, getting more thrashed around than a strawberry in a blender.  A thankless scene more suited to an 80s action flick, but she kinda looks like Linda Hamilton, doesn't she?  Besides, she emerges without a bruise or a scratch!  It's all good.

Also the scene when Ah-nold takes the kids to the cemetery to stock up on weapons, saying "We'll be safe here."  Boy, was he wrong about that!  But to be fair, safe is a relative term.  A couple dozen bullet holes in a Terminator is pretty safe.  Earl Boen shows up only for that scene in a scene-stealing cameo, and escapes just in time before getting sucked into further madness.

Terminator 3's attitude about Armageddon / Judgment Day is rather depressing, yet cheerfully so as the Terminator insists that, without going into too many details, Judgment Day was "inevitable" and that it was merely "delayed" after the second movie.  It is a far cry from 'Dr. Strangelove', for example.  The music here seemed to support the flying missiles.  Tapping into the isolationism of the internet age, we're left with the feeling that as long as the two main characters survive the destruction of Earth in the underground bunker, maybe being the new Adam and Eve won't be so bad.  However, that Terminator's still out there, and that ain't good.

**

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

(c)2003 Bulk Entertainment

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