Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

He said it and he meant it! “The Terminator” is back in “Rise of the Machines,” and he’s back with a vengeance. Though it’s been 12 years since his last appearance, “The Terminator” is just as formidable. Credit a tongue-in-cheek performance by star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who still looks as menacing as ever, plus a cheeky script and tightly wound direction by Jonathan Mostow (“U- 571”), taking over for creator/co-writer James Cameron.

Any doubt that “The Terminator” franchise would survive without the participation of Cameron is quickly erased as Mostow makes “Rise of the Machines” his own, a fast and frenetic science- fiction adventure featuring engaging performances and some amazing, jaw-dropping action sequences. Mostow has his cake and eats it too, playing to the film’s core audience while introducing new elements that make the film a stand-alone entity.

Schwarzenegger not only looks great twelve years after the fact, but seems to be having a grand old time as another production-line killing machine sent back from an apocalyptic future to protect John Connor, now a young man and humanity’s only hope for survival. The twist here is that “The Terminator” has been sent back to do battle with T-X, an advanced model that is virtually impossible to terminate. The fact that T-X takes on the guise of a woman makes the contest even more fun.

Basically a two-hour demolition derby through the streets of Los Angeles and surrounding communities, “Rise of the Machine” features a smartly conceived script by John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian that never stops long enough for you to catch your breath, yet still manages to flesh out the characters in a believable and satisfying manner.

There’s more humor in “Rise of the Machines,” much needed comic relief from the constant barrage of action, allowing the characters to reflect on their situation without wallowing in self pity. When Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” arrives from the future stark naked, he acquires his trademark leather outfit from a gay dancer in a strip club. Missing in action, however, are the foreboding sunglasses, forcing him to don a pair of glasses that look like they came from Elton John’s closet.

Also missing in action is Sara Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, replaced by Claire Danes as Kate Brewster, a veterinarian who becomes a vital piece in the race to save the world. Danes is quite good as a woman who goes from one extreme to the other, one moment safely tucked in bed with her fiancee, the next outrunning the T-X, whose mission is to assassinate Connor and his future Lieutenants. As the female Terminator, Kristanna Loken is both beautiful and deadly, not just a heartbreaker, but someone capable of ripping out your heart to become the ultimate backseat driver. This lady kicks butt, and more than holds her own against the larger and more imposing Terminator. When these two face off, things get totally out of control. It’s a testament to the structure of the film and Loken’s performance that we never doubt the T-X is capable of matching the Terminator blow for blow.

As the adult John Connor, Nick Stahl commands the screen. Looking like he’s spent a lifetime in hell, Stahl is the human element that holds this showcase of steel and stunts together. The script provides Stahl with a handful of quiet moments where he effectively manages to convey Connor’s sense of loss and doubt.

“Rise of the Machine” is epic entertainment on a grand scale, totally validating its expensive price tag. The film’s calling card, a chase involving a crane, police cars and a fire engine, is unlike anything you have ever seen. Most film car chases incorporate a modicum of collateral damage, but Mostow and his team of visual and special effects artists literally tear up the streets of Los Angeles. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission.


HE’S BACK WITH A VENGEANCESchwarzenegger’s killing machine rises once again


Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Rated R. 108 Minutes.


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