Movie Review

 

Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Production Company: Warner Brothers
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Principals: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, Claire Danes
Rating: R (violence and brief nudity)

By Gregg Tubbs

Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines
John Conner knows what the future holds. And he doesn’t like what he sees. Conner (Nick Stahl) is the reluctant hero of Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines. Photo © Copyright Warner Brothers
(UMC.org) -- John Conner knows what the future holds. And he doesn’t like what he sees. Conner (Nick Stahl) is the reluctant hero of Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines, the long-awaited third installment in the ground-breaking Terminator series. It’s been twelve years since Arnold Schwarzenegger last donned black leather and dark glasses as the unrelenting cyborg “terminator” in T2 – Judgment Day. The major question surrounding T3 was not if loyal fans would flock to theatres, or whether the series could survive the defection of creator and director James Cameron, but if 55-year-old Arnold could turn back the clock to reinhabit the role that made him a star, and then an icon. Well, the years have indeed been kind and the big guy is still impressive as the cyborg that’s part machine, part flesh and all muscle.

As we learned from past Terminator films, in the early 21st century, a mysterious military project called Skynet, a lethal network of computers and machines, has developed self-awareness and turned on its creators. Following a nuclear holocaust, called “Judgment Day” most of earth’s cities are destroyed and the remaining humans and machines wage a desperate war for the planet. A daring leader, John Conner rises up to lead the successful human resistance. As T3 begins, Conner already knows his destiny because twice before, the machines of the future have sent back in time robotic “terminators” to eliminate him, first attempting to kill his mother before he is born, and later trying to assassinate him as a boy. In this third attempt, a new shape-shifting terminator, model T-X (Kristanna Loken), appears to finish the job. Standing in her way is the obsolete, but still effective T-101 terminator, Schwarzenegger, who was sent by the human resistance to be Connor’s robotic bodyguard.

Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines
After The Matrix raised the man-versus-machine bar to dizzying visual heights, the well done, but conventional “smash my truck into your truck” mayhem of T3 feels a little retro. Photo © Copyright Warner Brothers
After The Matrix raised the man-versus-machine bar to dizzying visual heights, the well done, but conventional “smash my truck into your truck” mayhem of T3 feels a little retro. Its salvation is a tight script, coherent storyline and a refreshing sense of its own pulp origins. A gentle, self-aware humor runs throughout the film, such as the running gag with Arnold and the illusive, perfect terminator sunglasses.

This is unrepentant summer escapist fare. But between explosions and car chases, T3 reveals depth in the character of John Conner and in the unsettling nature of the two emotionless cyborgs. In all three Terminator films, the theme of the dehumanization of unchecked technology is evident. As T-X and T-101 battle over Conner, it’s easy to see the assassin as evil and the protector as good. But this is misleading. These machines are devoid of malice or virtue and have no feeling about Connor at all. Schwarzenegger’s terminator even admits that he is only obeying his programming. When his programming is changed, he immediately turns on the man he was sent to protect. Both good and evil begin in the heart, and terminators have none. Each terminator’s mindless obedience to their programming are an eerie reflection of all those throughout history who have committed atrocities while “just following orders.” 

Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines
After The Matrix raised the man-versus-machine bar to dizzying visual heights, the well done, but conventional “smash my truck into your truck” mayhem of T3 feels a little retro. Photo © Copyright Warner Brothers
Conner knows he is destined to save mankind, and wants nothing to do with it. He believes that by living on the run, no terminator will find him, no Judgment Day will come and he can dodge the terrible responsibility of his destiny. He lacks faith in himself, saying at one point, “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the future on my shoulders.” 

The Bible is full of reluctant heroes, just like John Connor. Moses had his doubts (Ex. 4) and Jonah, who was charged by the Lord to preach to the sinful city of Nineveh, literally ran from his duty. But God’s plan is never averted that easily. He sent a great fish – not unlike Schwarzenegger’s terminator – to both save Jonah and set him back on the right path. Jesus himself gave us the perfect example of how to respond to human doubts, with faith and obedience. In the garden, he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)  In T3 – Rise of the Machines we see that even reluctant heroes can find the faith and courage to prevail in the end.

Gregg Tubbs is a freelance writer living in Columbia, Maryland.



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