It was another long wait between Terminator films after Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a box office success in 1991. The fan base remained hopeful and vigilant even as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star in Hollywood began to slowly diminish. In the summer of 2003, we all were sent back into the world of Skynet with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
Once again, rights issues were the primary cause for the long gap between films. Carolco Pictures went bankrupt in 1997, resulting in their 50% ownership of the franchise to go up for sale in a liquidation auction. Carolco founders Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna would purchase the rights and then acquired the remaining 50% from original producer Gale Ann Hurd. However, by this time, James Cameron had little interest in returning as he had moved on to other projects. This would cause Arnold Schwarzenegger to initially turn down the offer to return in the third film. But once James Cameron convinced him to return for a significant salary, Arnold agreed.
Once Arnold was secured, the main issue became the script. A series of rewrites and other pre-production woes kept the film from becoming a reality until 2002. By this time, Arnold was beginning to have political aspirations as governor of California. He would set those aside until post-production. He would ultimately run and be elected in October 2003, making Terminator 3 his last starring role until 2013 saw him headline The Last Stand.
With this being his leading man swan song for a decade, Arnold was back as a Terminator, this time a model T-850. He is once again reprogrammed and sent back in time to save not only John Connor (Nick Stahl, Sin City) but his future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, Homeland). A new and more deadly female Terminator, the T-X, has arrived in Los Angeles and kills all of John’s future lieutenants before targeting John and Kate. John has been living off the grid following the death of his mother Sarah from leukemia in 1997. He inadvertently runs into Kate just as the T-X arrives to kill her. Luckily, the T-850 has arrived also.
John is initially confused as the T-850 looks like the T-800 from the previous film but has no memories and does not possess the humor he once had. Its then than John realizes that not only is this a new Terminator but that they never really stopped the creation of Skynet. The timeline has been changed but Skynet’s rise to power is inevitable. Skynet has become the governments answer to a virus affecting all of the computers all over the world. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that Skynet is the virus and the rise of the machines is becoming a reality.
Unlike its predecessors, Terminator 3 doesn’t seem to stand the test of time. The film suffers from seeming repetitive when viewed back-to-back with Terminator 2. The T-X is a little different but not much more than what we already saw the T-1000 do. Schwarzenegger isn’t as fun as he was in the previous film, even feeling like he was going through the motions at times. Nick Stahl assumed the role of John after producers had concerns over Edward Furlong’s sobriety. This would result in some confusion over John’s age that viewers need to simply overlook as a plot inconsistency. Linda Hamilton would not return as John’s mother Sarah due to what was a reduced and essentially unnecessary role in the original script. Kristanna Loken (Bloodrayne) is fun as the new T-X but never seems as deadly as the T-1000. Earl Boen is back one more time in a cameo role as Dr. Silberman, once again finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Terminator 3 was a huge success at the box office and seemingly guaranteed a fourth film. Most critics were not kind to the film and it didn’t quite have the lasting appeal as the first two films. Personally, I found the movie heavy on action and light on character and story, ultimately making the film a little less appealing and turning it into a throwaway popcorn matinee at best.
Next time, we return to the Terminator universe not for a fourth film but for a television series that takes the already confused timeline and just throws it out the window.