Retro review–Terminator III, Revisit the last time Arnold was the Terminator

T3 Arnold & Co

Review by C.J. Bunce

You have Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day committed to memory.  The fourth Terminator movie, Terminator Salvation, nearly turned you off on the franchise for good.  But what you don’t remember is the last time Arnold Schwarzenegger really played the Terminator.  That was the third film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.  Back in 2003, our expectations were pretty high, just as they are for this week’s release of Terminator Genisys.  Twelve years later and after the truly bad Terminator Salvation, you might find it better than you remember.  If you want to get in prime Terminator mode with something different this week as you gear up for the latest effort, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines deserves a second look.

The story connects the dots between the past and future of the first two films.  After Skynet failed to kill Sarah and John, it sends back yet another Terminator, the T-X, played by Kristanna Loken, to eliminate all of John Connor’s Resistance leaders, including his wife Kate, played by Claire Danes–who will one day be his second in command.  The Resistance sends its own counter-attack into the past in the form of an outdated tech T-850, played by Schwarzenegger, and as with Terminator 2, Arnold is again the hero/protector.  John Connor, played by the strangely cast Nick Stahl (he doesn’t look anything like John in T2), is living off the grid, but still the prize target, which the T-X encounters in a fated, self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts where John and Kate’s lives converge with the arrival of both the T-X and T-850.

Loken Terminatrix

We learn that Kate’s dad is a general in the military who is preparing to activate Skynet–and finally learn the reason why it was created, and how it all goes wrong–on the Judgment Day of the first sequel’s title.

So why is it a good Terminator movie?

Arnold was still in prime physical and acting form for the Terminator.  Although we’re all waiting to see if the real Arnold and the CGI Arnold can pull off a fifth Terminator story, in 2003 Arnold looked like he did in the first two films.  His dialogue is solidly written, and he gives the part his all.  If you didn’t like Terminator 3 in 2003, it was likely not because Arnold disappointed.

Arnold casket

After Homeland, you can believe Kate Brewster could be second in command in the Resistance.  Back in 2003 we really only knew Claire Danes from My So-Called Life and Romeo + Juliet.  She was cute and just establishing her acting chops, but not nearly as recognized as she’d be after Shopgirl, Stardust, and Showtime’s series Homeland, where she played a determined, tough, and crazed government operative.  Now it’s not much of a stretch to see her as the successor to Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in T2–maybe Kate could really help save the world when all hell breaks loose.

The T-X, which John Connor called the Terminatrix, is a great borg, every way you look at her.  Let’s face it–casting Kristanna Loken is about sex appeal.  But she also is not just a copy of Robert Patrick’s supercool chromium T-1000 from T2.  She’s got some honest-to-goodness borg circuitry, and she knows how to use it.  The action scenes aren’t the stuff of T2, but up against most movies featuring cyborgs, Terminator 3 offers up some great sci-fi tech.  She also has bits and pieces of the T-1000’s chrome recovery system, which makes her that much more fun to watch.  And her focused, robotic stare, coupled with the red leathers to contrast with Arnold’s black, is just a bonus.

Terminator 3 Kristanna Loken

The look and feel of Skynet fits the original films.  Unlike Terminator Salvation, where everything went wrong in every way, Terminator 3 has the look and feel of the original two movies.  Skynet’s ships look believable and images of The End are full of the WWIII horror everyone who lived through the Cold War dreaded.  And those electrified, time travel bubbles transporting the naked borg to and fro just never gets old.

Pick up Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD here at for the discounted price of only $7.50 at press time.  Terminator Genisys hits theaters this weekend.




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