I can’t express in words how much I love Terminator 2: Judgment Day, nor do I wish to bore you with such intimate details. What I can and will tell you though, is that this film that got me so interested in film, even more than The Empire Strikes Back did.
A couple of years ago, however, I had my heart crushed. Just like I did a year prior when Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones came out. I am a big Star Wars fan, a real one if you will, as I do not yet own the original trilogy on DVD because they are in fact not the original trilogy no matter what you keep telling yourself. But I digress.
In 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was unleashed on the world. There was a part of me that was kind of pumped. From what I read, and what the trailer told me, this new Terminator villan would have the power to give our hero Terminator a virus. That’s a pretty cool concept. Then I thought of all the possible negatives. No Hamilton, no Cameron, no William Wisher, and no Brad Fiedel. The only things this film had in common with the others were Arnold and Earl Boen.
I remember the day I finally saw Terminator 3 like it was yesterday. It was one of the worst days of my life. It wasn’t as bad as the day I saw Attack of the Clones but almost as bad as when I saw War of the Worlds. This film was bad from start to finish. “Talk to that hand.” Were they kidding me? That line wasn’t even funny in 1989, when it first became popular. In 2003? It’s even more unfunny. But the writers of T3 found it funny enough to put in the film twice. Then, John Connor narrates how he was 13 when the Terminator saved his life. What? Did these screenwriters not watch part two? Check out the screen in the police car when the T-1000 looks Connor up in the computer. It says he is 10 years-old, how can you f**k that up?
The following excerpt is from a review I had written to submit to Film Threat for consideration to be a writer. You can obviously figure out the outcome.
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES – *
By Michael Ferraro
Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines starts off as a bad joke and ends up as a nuclear bomb. This movie makes a mockery of everything the first two films did right. The subtle humor and wit of James Cameron’s (The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day) films turn into dim-witted and obsolete one-liners. The awe-inspiring special effects and incredible action of the previous efforts turn into cheap looking computer generated effects and loud, yet simplistic action set pieces.
Nick Stahl (who was wonderful in In the Bedroom) plays a wimpy version of Edward Furlong’s John Connor, the victim of previous assassination attempts by the terminators. In T2, Furlong played John Connor with a sense of sincerity and determination – Stahl’s John Conner doesn’t seem like he could run your local chapter of the Boy Scouts, let alone lead the human resistance to survival.
This time, first-timer Kirstanna Loken plays the evil Terminator. Her mission is to destroy John Connor and 21 other individuals who are instrumental in fighting against the man-made, yet self-aware computer defense system, “”Skynet.” Arnold Schwarzenegger is yet again sent by the resistance to “”ensure the survival” of John Conner. Arnold must also protect a newfound veterinarian friend Kate Brewster, played by Claire Danes.
While Terminator 3 suffers on just about every conceivable level of what is considered decent entertainment, the worst aspect is the writing. Cameron’s movies left you with little, if any, questions about the logic of the characters. With this latest installment, directed by Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) and written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (The Game), logic gets tossed out the window. In the first two movies, the Terminator did anything he could to stay out of the hands of the authorities. Terminator 3 has Arnold doing things that leave him very susceptible to anyone with two eyes and ears. The irrationality of a scene where Arnold shoplifts beef jerky seems to only fuel a wisecrack at the end of the scene that would cause the most devoted Terminator fans to shake their head in shame.
Considering the company (Industrial Light and Magic) and the huge budget ($175 million), the effects of this movie seem dated. The first sequel was made over a decade ago and yet ILM’s computer effects looked seemingly fresh compared to T3 (and most other effects-heavy films, even to this day). For example, instead of using prosthetic face makeup to add some metal and texture to Arnold’s mug, the filmmakers decided to use digital effects instead, making the Terminator’s battle-scared face look even more fake than it should be.
The big question: should the Terminator series have continued without James Cameron? As of right now, the answer is no. Cameron crafted both The Terminator and T2 with a serious yet sincere touch toward his material which allowed the series to stand up on it’s own despite its typical sci-fi reality-bending sensibilities. Terminator 3 seems more like a spoof of the original films, removing all of the excitement and surprise of the series and resorting to formulas of a typical sequel. If human beings keep making films like this, maybe the machines should rise against us.
Now I hear they are working on Terminator 4. Same screenwriters (who also wrote Catwoman) are working on it too. How utterly excited I am.
I had a dream last night. It sort of went like this: