So I watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines…
The first time I watched this movie, a few years ago, I performed a cardinal sin because this was actually the first Terminator movie I ever watched. Now obviously when you start watching a series of movies, you can’t start with the third in the series because there’s tons of backstory that you’ll be missing. That’s probably one of the main reasons I didn’t like this movie as much as I could have the first time I watched it; but now that I’ve watched the first two Terminator movies, I see there’s a million other reasons why I don’t like this movie. It isn’t a horrible movie, it just isn’t amazing – which the first two were.
Okay, basic plot: So once again, Skynet sends a terminator back to the past but this time it isn’t just trying to kill John Connor – it’s after other influential members of the human resistance. Speaking of the resistance, they also send back a terminator to once again protect John. So yes, it’s the exact same plot as T2, which I know had the exact same plot as the first Terminator movie but Rise of the Machines doesn’t have any of the heart or soul of T2 and doesn’t really improve on anything.
A change in directors and writers in franchise movies isn’t a strange thing, some franchises go on and maintain their quality even with such changes; but when the idea of the story is the brainchild and the personal creation of a director/writer it can really hurt the quality of the movie, which is what happens in Terminator 3. Could you imagine an Indiana Jones movie without Spielberg? A Star Wars movie without George Lucas? These guys take these ideas, nurture them and mold them into the epic films we know and love today. Their spirit is in the movie and this is most evident with James Cameron because not only does he direct but he also writes his movies. This is why great directors and filmmakers cannot be simply replaced by anybody because of their influence to the quality of the film, both on and off screen. Look, Terminator 3 is not a bad movie, it’s just a bad movie by comparison.
The main problem in this movie is the characters aren’t memorable. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes put in average performances but I don’t think the strength of the first two Terminator movies necessarily rested on the talent of the actors. With the exception of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the cast of the first two just do an alright job. Their acting doesn’t blow you away but because the characters and story are so well written, they don’t necessarily have to be amazing. Now in this movie, I felt there was a dip in quality of the writing and overall story so I didn’t really care about the characters and because I wasn’t as emotionally invested, the action meant less to me.
Which is a shame because the action in this movie is actually quite decent. Once again, like everything else in this movie, when you compare it to the previous two, it’s not as impressive. This whole movie feels far too safe. It’s a by-the-numbers action movie that doesn’t make the innovative leaps that the first two did. Even the special effects in this movie – which do look amazing – feel conservative. The effects look great because the technology used to make them was improved not because the people who made them were challenging themselves like in the first two movies.
I know this review has mainly been criticism but only because the movies that preceded this were so amazing. They took bold steps, they had icon status. This movie is a plateau – it doesn’t improve nor does it worsen the quality of the franchise. It just exists and nothing more. As a standalone movie it’s quite watchable but like most younger siblings, it pales in comparison to its older brothers. 7/10