A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 480 – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – June 23rd, 2011

So we’ve gotten past the first two movies which means we’re out of the ones I knew and into the ones I never got around to bothering with. I remember when this one came out and I fully intended on seeing it because I do like Claire Danes and all. And then I didn’t. Largely because I heard the word “Terminatrix” and hit the brakes so hard I gave myself metaphorical whiplash. What a downright ridiculous term. And I had hoped, as the movie began and no one said it, that it would turn out that I was remembering something wrong and it was more a term used by people who’d seen the movie than something used in the movie. Alas, I was wrong. Oh, movie.

The really sad part here is that I can see a good deal of potential in this movie. It continues on with some of the paradox stuff from the last movie and the whole thing is a direct lead-up to the very war that’s been hanging over each movie since we first saw Arnold’s bare butt. And I’ll say it right now: I liked the ending. I liked it a lot. It’s just a damn shame that almost everything leading up to it is sloppy and pointless and poorly pieced together. Because if the rest of the movie had actually led up to the ending in a more meaningful way it could have been a far more interesting story to watch. As it was, I was tempted to pull out my DS and work on that last level of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn’t, but I was tempted and there were wide swaths of this movie that I could have played a video game through and not had my experience lessened.

The problem, I think, lies in that the end is the whole point of the movie. When the new Terminator shows up and our old pal, the T-800, shows up, we know pretty much how this movie is going to go. T-X is going to hunt down John Connor or someone important to him and T-800 is going to try and protect him. There will be explosions and car chases and people shooting big guns and fancy special effects for the robo-characters. It’s all pretty predictable and standard.

But what’s the plot here? Is it at all different from either of the others? Only by a few degrees, really. Where the second one introduced John Connor and had the twist of showing just how much knowledge of the future had changed Sarah, this one can’t play that card as a surprise. John’s been on his own for a while, living off the grid since even though they seemed to have averted the war he just can’t settle down. And I get that and I like it, but it’s not unexpected. And the movie spends relatively little time on it and he doesn’t get to show it off. This isn’t a transformation like his mother’s. He went from being a pubescent punk who could hack ATMs to being a 20-something punk who can wire explosives that never go off. I’m ever so impressed. And the same goes for pretty much everything here. New Terminator is smaller, sneakier, with more tools at her disposal than the T-800 but she’s really just a T-1000 with a built-in gun and breasts that she can inflate on command. The only real change here is the introduction of the character of Kate Brewster.

Now, Kate is played by Claire Danes, and I do like Claire Danes so I was willing to give her a chance. And the fact of the matter is that she’s not a bad character. She’s just given very little to do or work with. And this is part of the grander problem with the whole movie, which is that it’s trying very hard to set the stage for something epic that is never going to happen, while never going quite far enough in that stage setting because it’s mired in rehashing the basic premise of the previous movies. Kate is a young woman who went to junior high with John and who, in the future, is is wife and second in command. That’s pretty cool, except that in the present she barely remembers him and is engaged to another guy. And I kind of like the idea that John’s off-the-grid lifestyle threw the T-X and Skynet for a loop in the future, so they went with the Plan B of killing off his associates. The T-X tracking down an assortment of teens and taking them out without warning? That’s some unpleasant and grim stuff right there and it could have been so much better if the movie had given it more time. But she only gets to take out three people before going after Kate and those people get about two minutes of screen time, tops. So it turns into a non-event. Kate then gets grabbed by the T-800 and John and off they go on a road trip to visit Sarah Connor’s grave/armory.

This is how the whole movie feels. There’s something interesting presented, like the whole idea that the war is inevitable and that mucking around in the past has changed how the future will occur but not the larger events in it, and then it’s promptly ignored for lots of explosions and the T-X showing up to set people on fire. I like the new ideas here! I like Kate and I like seeing someone who’s never heard of all this Terminator stuff seeing it and coming to realize that it’s real. And like I said, I like the ending. I like John and Kate figuring out where they are and what that means. But it’s that ending that’s the point. It’s the war and what happens after that’s the grand and epic purpose for the movie. And set against that, no amount of T-X vs. T-800 was going to really matter. There’s no tension here, even when John is pulling a Shinji and getting cold feet about being the savior of mankind. What I wanted here was maybe the T-800 showing up to “get the band back together” as it were. Collecting the fragmented members of John’s future inner circle and insuring their survival. Or hell, they could have sent one of them back to round everyone up and made the T-800 the bad guy again. It just feels like there are a lot of cool ideas here buried under the safety and security of an action movie and that’s horribly disappointing.

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June 23, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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