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Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines

Ancient Arnie looks okay in this all-action thrill-a minute attempt to revive his career. The nicest killing machine in the next 50 years makes another appearance, catching up with John Connor once again.

How often, I wonder, have I considered using the phrase 'The terminator is quite fanciable'? I deny that this thought has ever crossed my mind before yesterday morning, but it certainly did when the hot bubble fades and the robobabe comes into focus, her blond hair tumbling with obscuring wisdom, but with loose strands flowing gently in the breeze.

The choice of Kristanna Loken, a former model, reflects the original selection of a non-acting bodybuilder in the original movie, since the only acting required of the woman in question is a slightly mechanical movement of the neck and eyes, and two lines: 'I like your car' and 'I like your gun.' The T1000 was wall-to-wall menace; the TX wasn't because she was too pretty and shapely. Great to watch; eye-candy, some sexists might say; but perhaps this detracted slightly from the role of ultra-hunter.

Apart from these bids for best original screenplay, the Terminatrix has some hefty driving and some hand-to-hand combat scenes. The computer wizardry is excellent and very... well, I was going to say believable, but really what happens is co-operation from the audience in 'suspension of disbelief'. It's hard to tell when the mayhem switches between real destruction and hard drive overdrive

Mentioning the main twists in the plot isn't fair in a review; suffice to say it wouldn't exactly take up a lot of space, either. They seemed to me to be much the same as the justification for T2: Judgement Day - send a machine to stop the machine eliminating the hero human as early as possible. This time the prospect of possible futures is explored very briefly. The future's what you make it, as Sarah taught John from the start.

I was not familiar with the cast list as I went into the cinema, so I was surprised and disappointed that neither Edward Furlong nor the very watchable Linda Hamilton were involved; and I'd only just got over this when John (Nick Stahl) tells us that his mum is dead. But in Pizza Hut afterwards it occurred to me that she may be dead in that timeline, but the future's not set. There was no Cyberdyne this time, just a military SkyNet. Who knows what is possible for the next few sequel(s)?.The justification for using an aging brawn-fest for the T101 is acceptable, but now the door's open for a broader interpretation of the expression 'killing machine'. Since acting isn't required (except someone's got to say 'I'll be back' I suppose), we could move into the whole CGI vs CGI battlezone.

The acting credits go to the beautiful Clare Danes, once she's stopped shreiking and walking into danger as if she was a bit part in a teen slasher flick. She's a vet, but that doesn't come into it much. Her dad's a navy guy, which kind of matters, and she's an old flame of John Connor (I just realised his initials are JC, and he's the saviour of the human race... geddit?) which seems to matter enormously.

There is a lovely cameo from the psychologist who was central to the first film, and a hostage of the slightly mad Sarah in the second.

Many of the personal injuries are inflicted off-camera, and I think on the whole the film is less horrific than T2. The action may not be unrelenting (which provided the suspense and dramatic tension of the first two films), but it's certainly edge-of-the-seat stuff, even if you're so jaded as to wonder 'how do they do that?' rather than allowing yourself to be absorbed in the excitement.

But here's the thing. The Terminator ended with Sarah pregnant by her son's dead friend, with the machine flattened and the possible futures streching out before her like an open road. T2 ended with the family scene, everyone knowing mother and son were safe from the mad-scientists at cyberdyne developing systems based on the fragments of the T101 chip. Once again, we knew they'd be okay, and that they had options.

This story, unlike the other two films, ends with plenty of explorable possibilities for sequels, but in a much more distopian tone. The film may not be darker (after all, the elements of an happy ending are all there), but the sense of hope is gone. The machines could still win.

I was a big fan of The Terminator, despite its violence. It was positive and held both charm and promise. Most of all, it didn't look like there could be a sequel. Yet T2 won me over, and Robert Patrick was perfect casting for the mercurial metal-man. Once again, there were hope and options. There was the thumbs-up from the T101 as he disappeared into the molten metal, and Sarah's comment on how the human race might learn about the value of human life.

This time, however, the promise is mostly of T4, not about the triumph of the human spirit over the stolid, unstoppable power and pitiless mission parameters of the machines. Arnie not required; scriptwriters most definitely need apply.

Question: the T101s cannot self-terminate, but doesn't he at the end of T3? Or do you read that scene another way?

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