Terminator: Dark Fate opens this week. It’s the sixth movie in the Terminator franchise. However, it is the official sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day…which basically invalidates Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, one of my favorite entries in the entire franchise.
Billy Crystal once joked that Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on to make Terminator 3 in exchange for everything west of the Rockies. Terminator 2 was so popular that such an outrageous payday almost seemed feasible at the time. Expectations for the third film were extremely high.
Unfortunately, lightning usually doesn’t strike twice. I’m the first to admit that T3 isn’t is as good as T2. However, it’s still a movie I enjoy and I feel like it doesn’t deserve its poor reputation. So here is my defense of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
Before we begin…
Yes, it’s a flawed film and I understand the problems people may have with it. James Cameron didn’t direct. Edward Furlong was replaced by Nick Stahl. And Linda Hamilton turned down the offer to reprise her role as Sarah Conner, and was subsequently written out of the series. Setting those things aside, can we enjoy what there is to enjoy? Because there’s a lot.
Nick Stahl makes a decent John Connor.
Christian Bale’s portrayal of an adult John Connor in Terminator: Salvation is too moody for my taste and turns the character into a jerk. I honestly don’t remember how Jason Clarke played the role in Terminator: Genisys. (I mainly remember a good movie being ruined halfway through by an unnecessary plot twist.) Stahl is a good choice to play the disillusioned young man who is uncertain of the future and his place in it. I buy into his character enough that when the final scene comes, I’m ready for another hour.
It has a strong prologue.
The movie has a great opening prologue that builds audience sympathy for John Connor. He is saddled with the burden of knowledge, the burden of leadership, the burden of greatness, and the burden of unfulfilled prophecy hanging over his head.
The first female terminator.
Kristanna Loken plays the T-X, the first female terminator in the series. She also plays a newer model than Ahnuld, so she’s extremely powerful and gets to show off some badass moves. Plus she looks good in leather.
Although Kristanna Loken didn’t come out as bi until she did interviews with Curve in 2006 and The Advocate in 2007 (years after T3 came out), it’s still inspiring to myself (and others) that one of the terminators is bisexual.
You have to love Claire Danes.
Claire Danes adds humor and a dash of romance to the film as Kate Brewster, John’s future wife and a key figure in the resistance. Any excuse to watch Claire Danes for two hours is a good one, but this performance is especially worthwhile.
It has a great twist.
The movie has a great twist. SPOILER ALERT: It’s actually Judgment Day! What could be more exciting than that?! You get to watch history in the making. The long rumored apocalypse is finally here and you have a front row seat.
The showdowns are so satisfying.
The action scenes between Loken and Schwarzenegger, from the car chase to the final battle, are all so satisfying. The sheer amount of destruction in this film is amazing. So is the fight choreography. Rewatching the movie this week, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to defend it. Instead, I was thoroughly entertained.
The ending is a great set-up.
The ending to this movie is a wonderful set-up to a fourth film that never happened and perhaps never will. It’s Infinity War with no Endgame. It’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One left hanging. John and Kate are in a fallout shelter on Judgment Day. How do you not want to know everything that happens from there? It’s such a great set-up for a fourth film, a perfect place to resume the story, but no one ever picked up the ball and ran with it. Not even in the comic books. No one has gone back to the fallout shelter and told the story of how the resistance was born from there, how John Connor became a leader starting on Judgment Day. (Terminator: Salvation shifts the storyline back to Kyle Reese.) I’m still hungry for that promised-but-never-delivered movie.
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