Film Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Also known as: T3 (promotional abbreviation), York Square (fake working title)
Release Date: June 30th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, Tedi Sarafian
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, Earl Boen, M.C. Gainey, Chris Hardwick, Matt Gerald

Intermedia Films, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3. Produktions KG, C-2 Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes


“[raises palm to cashier] Talk to the hand.” – Terminator

I saw this the night it came out, back in 2003. It was a massive disappointment and thus, I’ve never gone back and watched it again until now. But this film is really where the Terminator franchise completely went off the rails and honestly, it has never recovered, except for the too brief television show that ended on a cliffhanger.

Out of all the sequels, I think that this one is the worst. Genisys actually had a worse story but Schwarzenegger was really enjoyable in that one and kind of saved it from being complete and utter shit. In this one, however, his humor and attempts at one-liners are so fucking cringe that it drags a somewhat better story way down into the mud.

For positives, I think there’s really just one: Nick Stahl. I’m not sure what the critical and fan consensus is on his performance as John Connor (I’d assume it’s not good) but I actually thought he did fairly well for having a terrible script to work with and being a last minute replacement for Edward Furlong, who couldn’t return due to his drug abuse issues at the time.

Beyond that, Claire Danes is terrible in this and Kristanna Loken looked great but was so boring she pulls you out of the film.

One could say, “Well, Robert Patrick wasn’t exciting in T2.” But those people would be wrong. Just because an actor has to play an emotional robot of a character, doesn’t mean that they have to be a generic blank slate, tilting their head like a dog that heard a high pitch sound. Patrick in T2 and Schwarzenegger in T1 both knew how to move and how to act in order to come across as a soulless predator. It was in their body language, their facial expressions and the way they hunted their targets. To be fair, I don’t necessarily blame Loken, I blame the director for not seeing this and fine tuning her performance to live up to the standard set before her.

While I like the idea that Armageddon is inevitable, as this film strongly implies throughout the entirety of its story, I want to know why. It never tells us why. It just has Schwarzenegger randomly say, “You just delayed Armageddon; Armageddon is inevitable.” Well, why does he say that or think that? What does he know that makes this a fact? There’s a story there that could’ve enriched the bigger picture here but it’s just a repeated throwaway line that we just have to accept and go, “M’kay, sure… that makes sense.”

The most important thing working against this film isn’t any of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, it’s the fact that this is just really fucking boring. It doesn’t matter that the Terminator uses one-liners that were already out of date by 2003 or that the Loken Terminator doesn’t make a lot of sense and she’s overpowered for the sake of being overpowered. This is just a dreadfully boring piece of shit.

It’s not competent, it feels incredibly generic and there’s nothing in the film that is memorable. There’s no great action sequence that you will care to remember like many of the great sequences from the first two films. I guess the biggest one I remember is the car chase with the crane truck and remote control police cars but I was more annoyed by it than impressed.

The whole film felt as soulless as Loken’s Terminator.

But at least it’s less than two hours.

Side note: I thought the closing moments in the underground bunker were actually kind of good and somewhat chilling.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other shitty Terminator movies that followed.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

  1. I’m going to have to re-watch this one because…I didn’t think it was too bad! Obviously doesn’t come close to the first two Terminators in any way, shape or form BUT I thought it was okay. It did at least continue the “chase” structure, unlike the films that came after this one. Salvation wasn’t a “proper” Terminator movie for this reason (in my mind at least) and Genisys was one of the most awful, messiest, nonsensical pieces of disappointing garbage that I have ever paid to see. Seriously, fuck that film.

    I liked the crane chase scene in T3 and the graveyard shootout with that psychologist from T2. The scene where the T-X inflates her boobs for the cop always got a bit of a rise out of me as well!

    As for Judgment Day being inevitable, I just saw it as a commentary on the idea that humans will always find a way to kill each other and anybody saving the day by stopping it is only postponing the act, because somebody else will facilitate it in the end. They stopped it in T2 with Dyson but somebody else just continues with the concept in T3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t disagree with most of your points. The crane truck chase was the best action sequence in the film and I liked the graveyard scene for the most part. As far as the “inevitable” thing, to me I just wanted to know more and how the Terminator is so sure of that point, as he repeats it multiple times. I get annoyed when something just seems like a throwaway line for the sake of plot convenience. I just rewatched ‘Salvation’ and checked out ‘Dark Fate’ for the first time. Those reviews are coming but they’re not going to be very favorable. Ultimately, I still think the TV show was the best version of a ‘T3’. Sadly, it ended on a cliffhanger.

      Having rewatched ‘Salvation’, I think it’s the worse than this. ‘Genesys’ was dog shit other than Arnold, although I liked the first 1984 scene a lot. With ‘Dark Fate’ I have to put my thoughts to paper (or digital paper in this case) but it was just kind of dull and wrecked the mythos just for the hell of it. I did enjoy some of the advancements of the Terminator technology though.

      Liked by 1 person

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