Let us now consider the terse greeting-card poetry of the Terminator: “Anger is more useful than despair” (sympathy). “If you were to die, I would become useless” (Valentine’s Day). “Your levity is good. It releases tension and the fear of death” (humorous birthday). “Desire is irrelevant” (50th wedding anniversary).
It's not “Hasta la vista, baby” or “I’ll be back,” but these are some of the best lines (minus the occasions) from “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” uttered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s indefatigable robot with droll charm.
Is there such a thing as fate? Are you still a hero if you stop the disaster that makes you heroic? Are humans actually like machines: hardwired to follow a particular path?
These are a few ideas raised by “T3,” but the main question is: Does the movie blow up stuff real good?
The answer is a solid yes. “T3” takes the Gallagher Sledge-O-Matic approach to storytelling — smashing, crushing, wrecking and pulverizing everything that a reported budget of $175 million can buy.
Schwarzenegger’s return as another old-model Terminator robot covered in a muscleman shell is played with an element of spoof. “She’ll be back,” he declares after dispatching a state-of-the-art female Terminator (the icy Kristanna Loken), who looks like a supermodel, can morph her skin to look like any person she touches, and has range of fierce weapons built into her skeleton.
As in 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Schwarzenegger’s the good guy again, sent back in time to protect hero-of-the-future John Connor (a lively Nick Stahl, taking over for the lethargic Edward Furlong.)
Connor is the leader of a human resistance movement in 2032. What are they resisting? An army of machines and flying gunships that have dominated the world after a computer program “became self-aware” and triggered a nuclear war.
The machines figure, “Kill Connor in the past, and these humans will be easier to stomp out.” The humans figure, “Better send our own robot back, too, and even out the fight.”
Although Connor and his mom (Linda Hamilton, who is absent from “T3”) stopped the Apocalypse in the last movie, they learn that they only postponed the end of the world — it’s “Hasta la vista, civilization” sooner or later.
Armageddon is about to start anew, which is why Connor and his future wife (a veterinarian played by Claire Danes) are under siege by the Terminatrix.
Full of holes
“T3” was made without the cooperation of filmmaker James Cameron, the creator of this man vs. metal tale. At the helm is Jonathan Mostow (best known for the 2000 submarine thriller “U-571”), and his team brings a darker edge that counters the hopeful themes of Cameron’s earlier two movies.
There’s one major paradox the “Terminator” movies have never acknowledged. If the robots kill Connor in the past, how will they know in the future to send a Terminator to kill him? “T3” is full of holes like this, big enough to crash a 100-ton crane through — but as long as the 100-ton crane keeps crashing, most people won’t notice.
A few of the battle sequences borrow too heavily from the earlier films, and the special-effects are good, but no longer unique. Still, the mind-bending story and solid performances in “T-3” make up for those shortcomings.
Will the Terminator be back ... for “T-4”? If Schwarzenegger sets his sights on political office, which seems possible, “T3” would be a good way for his most famous character to go out.