What's it take to enjoy a big summer movie these days? In the case of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, it took such low expectations, only a picture of a dog turd could conceivably be worse. I'm happy to say there is no turd, no picture of a turd, nobody talking about a turd, not even the whiff of a turd. Instead, we have a good movie with pretty much anything you could want from an action movie: just the right mix of attitude, explosions and crazy robot-on-robot action! Best of all, we get to witness a once and future action hero's return to form.
Summer movies can pretty much be lumped into two categories: sequels or cheese. Sometimes, you get the combination. Every now and then, a small gem slips through, but, for the most part, the studios want the big opening weekend, which means as many butts in as many seats in as many theaters as possible-- and it doesn't last, because another new big giant summer movie will open the following week. Terminator 3, especially after that craptacular Super Bowl trailer, with the groaning "She'll be back" zinger, looked to be the ultimate in summer sequel stinky cheese. Add to that the fact that James Cameron (director and writer of the original Terminator and the amazing T2: Judgment Day) and Linda "Sarah Connor" Hamilton wouldn't be involved, and Terminator 3 was looking doomed from the start and, as I mentioned, poised to be a big, brown turdola.
I was wrong. Yeah, I said it. I was wrong. If anything, I think the negative hype may help Terminator 3 the overblown hype from event movies are leaving some people feeling burned (The Matrix: Reloaded and Hulk anyone?) At the screening last night, there was 25 minutes of trailers and "pre-show entertainment" (which is movie code for bull-jive commercials for crap I don't care about and wouldn't sit through if they were on TV, but guess what? It's a captive audience.) But the trailers were the bigger disappointment, save for Bad Boys II, which utilized random shots from the movie in sync to music. Everything else was empty, vapid, and a complete betrayal to the movies they're supposed to be supporting. I used to think Hollywood was sliding downward, but I think the decline is more in Hollywood's marketing. It simply sucks. The firms, or the marketing departments of the studios, they aren't even trying-- they beat you over the head, they give away everything, they use the same freaking movie voice guy, and they show no sign of letting up.
Crappy trailers and movie advertising aside, Terminator 3 is the bomb, yo -- sorry, I'm trying to broaden my demographics, at least beyond friends and family. Ah-nuld returns, sort of. He hasn't really been the same Terminator in any of the movies. In the first film, he was a relentless killer, in the second, he became a big brother, this time around, he's more or less indifferent. He has a mission, and that's pretty much all he cares about. It's that relentlessness that really makes the film work. It's fast-paced, lean and mean.
Since we last saw him, John Connor (Nick Stahl) gone and got himself all grown up, living in the shadows and "off the grid"; he's a freedom fighter without the battle, a savior without a situation to save. When he meets up Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), it all begins to go boom. Seems a super svelte Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken), more advanced than the last couple Terminators, is sent not only after John, but has a whole hit list of people. Naturally, the big man also shows up, riffing on his famous entrance from "T-2", and he goes about doing that thing he does: blowing stuff up, rescuing people, getting his ass kicked. Say wha??? Yessir, this Terminator has finally met his match and he's in store for a six-pack of whoopass.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines works well, both as a singular entity, and as a chapter in a much larger story arc. Throw in some crazy chase sequences, some computer/technology jibber-jabber, and some sharp surprises, and you have a fairly successful movie. Considering the low expectations the film seems to have garnered, I'm happy to say it is pleasantly-turd free. And after some real stink on the screen his last few go-rounds, it's nice to see Arnold do what he does best.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
4 out of 5: Since the only hype or exposure I had to this movie was in the negatives, I'm more than happy with the end result. Maybe in this hyperactive Hollywood hype machine world we live in, the best hype is the worst hype?
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