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2003, dir. Jonathan Mostow
109 min. Rated R.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristianna Loken.

Review by Noel Wood
The 2003 Summer Movie season is on like neckbone right now, and in the next week or so, some of the Big Ass Summer Blockbuster Releases™ will be hitting theaters. In the last week or so, three such movies, all sequels, hit the box office: LEGALLY BLONDE 2, CHARLIE'S ANGELS 2, and TERMINATOR 3. I've seen all the predecessors to these sequels, but only one of the three seemed the slightest bit appealing to me: T3.

Now, I gotta tell you: when I first heard there was a third TERMINATOR film plannned, I thought it was a great idea. Eight years ago. This sequel has been in the works for about that long, and the longer it went without coming into fruition, the worse of an idea it sounded like. Ah-nuld ain't getting any younger, and cybernetic organisms aren't supposed to age. I was especially disappointed to hear that James "King of the World" Cameron didn't want to have anything to do with it. Say what you will about Cameron, he's a great action director, and the TERMINATOR series is his baby. Hearing Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong weren't on board either seemed a bit disappointing. Sure, you can recast John Connor, but having a TERMINATOR movie without Sarah is like a Journey concert without Steve Perry singing.


So when I first heard there was really, truly, absolutely gonna be a T3, and even saw a teaser trailer and everything, Three words came out of my mouth, almost as if a pavlovian response: "That's gonna suck." There was no doubt in my mind of that. But as time progressed, and I saw more and more previews for it, I was strangely drawn. Somthing told me otherwise, and it wasn't just the T-X chick wearing tight clothing. This movie was actually starting to look cool. The action sequences looked intriguing, the special effects were nice, and, perhaps more out of curiosity than anything, I was interested to see what a new director could do with Cameron's brainchild.

This Saturday night I filed in to the brand new Landmark Theater in Midtown Atlanta to see T3. Well, actually, it's not so much brand new, as it's the old United Artists theater that, somehow, even while doing tons of business every night of the week, shut down and reopened as a Landmark a few weeks ago. Now, I used to be able to buy tickets online for a show and then head down to the theater, but Landmark doesn't have a place to do this on their web site. Also, Landmark Theaters' websites advertise a bunch of independent and artsy films, while my local landmark's idea of an art film is THE HULK. Also, I am no longer allowed to pay with a credit card at the box office, not that I was planning to, but it's still a potential pain in the arse. The place is suddenly being run by inattentive sixteen year old kids and is cluttered like never before. Sure, they're going through a transitional phase, but this is ridiculous. Oh, and the real fun is the theater itself, which had the lovely aroma of urine about it. Top that off with the two guys sitting behind me chatting like they were in their own living room in some Eastern European language, and you can imagine my sheer delight.


But despite all that, I loved T3.

Yes. I admit it. I enjoyed every single frame of this film, and I'm not afraid to say so. Why? Because T3 is exactly what T3 should be. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the movie that THE HULK and THE MATRIX: RELOADED should have been. Everything that T3 sets out to do, it does. And it does so in a mere 109 minutes, which seems almost like a short film by today's Summer blockbuster standards. This is the best action movie I've seen this year, and one of the best action movies I've seen in a few years.

T3 starts off just as you'd expect. We meet John Connor again, who lives with demons because he knows his destiny and all that so he's a junkie who has nightmares of robots. It's good that they introduce him, because this kid looks about as much like Eddie Furlong as he does his daddy, played by Michael Biehn in the first TERMINATOR film. We also meet Kate, played by Claire Danes, who is a veteranarian who is getting married in the near future. One night Kate goes into the office to find that John has broken in and is stealing petmeds. So she locks him in a kennel and the two wax nostalgic about junior high.


Meanwhile, a disco ball appears in a boutique window, and a naked chick walks out. But this is no ordinary naked chick. She's a T-X, or Terminatrix, sent here to destroy John Connor. After she rounds herself up some garments and a rad ride, she goes to wreak havoc, offing a drive-through employee and some partygoers. But before she can get a hold of her primary target, another disco ball delivers our outdated Ah-nuld based Terminator, who rustles himself a leather ensemble from a male stripper. He swipes Kate and John and shoves them in a truck, and the chase begins.

And this is why T3 kicks ass. After a few minutes to establish basic characters, it kicks in with the action. And for the next half hour or so, T3 acts like what is should: a popcorn flick. One of the coolest car chase scenes in recent memory (and yes, better than the one in THE MATRIX: RELOADED, thank you very much) ensues, involving a crane truck and automated police cars. Yes, this scene rules muchly. Sure, it's far-fetched, as all car chase scenes tend to be, but it's still a whole lotta fun and will keep you on the edge of your seat.


From there, we get into the meat of our story. If you've seen either of the previous TERMINATOR movies, you already get the basic gist. We've been given a new arc to the story this time, involving the fact that Kate is the eventual mother of John's children and that she helps in the resistance. Turns out that Judgment Day, the day that the machines take over the world, is today. Oh, and it will begin in a few hours, and the Ah-nuld Terminator's job is merely to make sure the not-yet-happy couple get to shelter. John and Kate aren't satisfied with this, and they order Ah-nuld to take them to her father, the man who's about to deploy SkyNet, and eventually doom the human race.

The TERMINATOR movies in general are so cool because they take a simple science fiction storyline and make it entertaining by adding lots of action and a splash of humor. T1 and T2 both met those standards, and neither of them took themselves too seriously. T3 is no exception to the rule. The movie is funny and exciting. Sure, it doesn't have a whole lot of substance, but that's the idea. We're not witnessing a grand drama unfold here, we're watching a really basic story and having a whole lot of fun in the process. It's not overlong like THE HULK, and it's not ponderous and overambitious like THE MATRIX RELOADED. T3 lays out a pretty simple plan of what it wants to do, then it goes out and does exactly that.

You see, this is what cheeses me off about movies lately. It's a rarity when a movie goes out and does what its primary intention should be: to entertain. Yes, there's plenty of room for big historical dramas and complex psychological thrillers, but if they don't keep the audience entertained, then they're not doing their job. Just because a movie is longer than two hours doesn't mean it's good. Most stories can be told within two hours or less. There are exceptions to the rule, and there are great movies that reach the three hour mark, but Robin Williams also is in a decent movie now and again, so I guess there's an exception to every rule. THE HULK was an entertaining movie trapped in the body of a 2-and-a-half-hour, average-at-best final product. THE MATRIX: RELOADED would have been a lot better had it cut out a lot of the unnecessary redundancy. T3 is just as long as it needs to be, gets its story told, and moves on.


And then it ends. Oh, and how it ends. It ends so well. Forget the stupid Hollywood formulaic bullshit, this movie's ending actually suprised me. And it didn't do it with intricate plot twists or nonlinear storytelling, it just did it by providing the type of closure that one doesn't expect from a big ass Hollywood blockbuster. I don't want to completely blow the ending, but I'll just say that the Ah-nuld Terminator succeeded in his mission, even if the good guys don't always win.

I walked out of the theater with my friends, and except for one (who I think tends to disagree with me on just about everything just as a general rule and just to do it) everyone was pleasantly suprised. Even the two guys who were dragged kicking and screaming into the theater because they figured it was gonna suck. Everyone pretty much agreed that they were entertained by the movie, and that's all they really cared about at 10PM on a Saturday night.

You see, that's all we ask, Hollywood. Before you worry about challenging our minds or pushing an agenda or coming up with the most clever plot twist, worry about making your audience happy. I mean, it's nice if you can make a mind-challenging agenda-pushing plot-twisting movie, but if it's not fun to watch, what's the point? Merchant Ivory has been putting out grandiose period pieces for decades, and they're all boring as piss, yet critics all over act like they're worthy of all kinds of praise just because the stars wear corsets and talk funny. There's a flipside to it, too, and that's the shit that's so asinine and stupid (read: Vin Diesel films) that it just insults the intelligence. You see, it is possible to make a fun movie that's not too ambitious and yet is not so stupid it created brainrot. Maybe Kevin Smith should pay attention to that, because he did it once with CLERKS.

Like a late Seattle-based musician once said, "Here we are now, entertain us." Well, Mr. Cobain would have probably enjoyed the hell out of T3.


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