There's a special place in my heart for Terminator sequels (see this entry for why). And Lord knows there's a special place in my heart for Claire Danes. She would definitely be on my freebie list. So, these two loves brought me to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
What can I say? It offered thrills, spills and few surprises (except for the ending--enough said). All of the action was very, I don't know, Eighties. You know, a massive crane truck being chased by a fire engine running into an 18-wheeler. That sort of thing. Lots of things being destroyed and a truly impressive mess made of several blocks of L.A. Arnold wields big guns and the antagonist just refuses to die.
This is the role that Mr. (soon to be governor?) Schwarzenegger was made for: a laconic, emotionless killer robot. He really fits the bill. There's less shlock than the second film, and more camp. That said, this is a sad imitation of Terminator 2 (which, of course, was a lousy imitation of the first one) in all other respects. Kristanna Loken, who plays this film's killerest Terminatrix, has maybe three lines in the whole film. I assume this is all the former supermodel could remember.
Let us return for a moment to the glory that is Claire Danes. I was hooked from the first time I saw her in the short-lived but excellent My So-Called Life. She's got that rarest quality among young actors: the ability to listen. Back in Grade 8, between toilet-reference-filled improv games, my drama teacher explained what I think is the most important rule of acting: 'acting is reacting.' Nobody in her age group reacts better than Claire Danes. That said, she has made some bizarre (and strikingly few) movie choices. I do look forward to what promises to be a welter-weight romantic comedy adapted from Steve Martin's whimsical Shopgirl.
So, despite Ms. Danes' presence, Terminator 3 is pretty mediocre. There was one cool thing, which is a minor spoiler. I've put it below in white text. Highlight it with your mouse cursor if you want to read it:
We get to see the very first terminator robots, the T1. It's best described as an Aibo on tank treads with gatling guns. Or the bastard cousin of ED-209. I think the filmmakers recognized this similarity, because they included an Aibo in an earlier, incedental shot.
In some small way, this film is an unintentional cautionary tale about privatization in the military. As we know from previous films, the malevolent artificial intelligence at the heart of the rise of the machines is called SkyNet. What we learn in this film is that it's run by a private company overseen by a military officer.
I'm also a sucker for any film with apocalyptic aspirations, so I kind of enjoyed it. Here's what the other critics thought.