'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' tells the simple yet compelling story of a very old piece of equipment that refuses to go away. Its name is Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, as famously promised, he's back, and some would say at his anticharismatic best, too

Writer-director James Cameron, who expertly fashioned the first two 'Terminator' movies and co-created the characters, had nothing to do with 'T3'. You can tell. The first two conveyed a clear understanding of pacing (Cameron may be the best in the business at mixing slow motion with normal movement), timing of humour and editing

'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' is the perfect kind of light entertainment which Hollywood excels at.
It is familiar, with a good pedigree, slick, well crafted and has a decent script

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Director: Jonathan Mostow
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, Mark Famiglietti, Nick Stahl
Duration: 108 minutes

For more than a decade, the prospect of seeing another Terminator movie was about as likely as hearing a new song by The Beatles. After the first two films grossed more than £400 million worldwide, writer-director James Cameron had a major falling out with T2 producers Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna and swore that he would never work with them again. Since Kassar and Vajna also owned the rights for a third film, it didn’t seem like it would ever happen without Cameron calling the shots.

Well, if the mop-tops can get back to where they once belonged to finish two songs left behind by their former bandmate (as they did in 1995 for The Beatles Anthology), then why can’t Arnold Schwarzenegger do a new Terminator movie without the filmmaker who created the franchise? That’s what happened when Kassar and Vajna offered him almost £20 million to reprise his role and move forward without Cameron on T3, which was green-lit with a staggering budget of £120 million.

Jonathan Mostow, the capable director behind potboilers like 1998’s Breakdown and 2000’s U-571, took over the reigns, and the results are (thankfully) a lot better than you’d expect given the circumstances. While Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines may not be as innovative as the first two films in terms of visionary wonderment, sheer emotional power and groundbreaking special effects, it is still an amazing film in its own right that serves as an excellent addition to the franchise.

It’s been a decade since John Connor (Nick Stahl) helped prevent Judgement Day — when technologically advanced machines threatened to take over the world. Despite surviving two attempts made on his life by machines from the future, Connor faces death once again when the advanced, curvaceous and beautiful T-X (Kristanna Loken) travels back in time to complete the job left undone by its predecessors. This time around, Connor’s future associates are also on the hit list, including Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), a veterinarian who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a fight to save humanity. Help arrives in the form of another futuristic cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger), but can they all act fast enough to prevent Judgement Day from happening once and for all?

Where 1984’s The Terminator made Schwarzenegger a star and coined one of the best catch-phrases of all time ("I’ll be back!"), the second film, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, was a groundbreaking hit that was (and still is) way ahead of its time. Budgeted at more than £60 million (a ridiculous amount of money back in 1991), the exciting, visionary action thriller broke new ground in digital effects—most of which are still impressive even by today’s standards.

The advances made by T2 have grown in leaps and bounds over the years (as evidenced by recent films like The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man), but the effects in T3, as impressive as they are, don’t feel quite as groundbreaking as they did in 1991. On the other hand, the stunts and action pieces are an absolute thrill to behold, especially a high-speed truck chase on the back streets of Los Angeles that gives the motorway chase in The Matrix Reloaded a run for its money. It’s also exciting to see Schwarzenegger’s tough Terminator get the crap kicked out of it by a bodacious babe from the future who never so much as messes up a hair on her pretty little head.

As thrilling as the action scenes are, it’s safe to say that T3 covers much of the same ground that was covered in the second film. Once again, the Terminator bonds with the person he is programmed to protect, and in the process, he develops some human characteristics that are warm and humorous. There’s also the now-mandatory catchphrase, and it won’t be long before people start saying "talk to the hand!" as much as they said "hasta la vista, baby!" after the last film. Most importantly, the story once again examines the prospect of changing your destiny, but where the ending of T2 was optimistic and hopeful, the ending of T3 is much more downbeat and depressing.

The whole prospect of making T3 seemed like an act of desperation to revive Schwarzenegger’s career (his last three films — End of Days, The Sixth Day and Collateral Damage — all tanked at the box office), but there’s no doubt that it will put the 55-year-old icon back on top. What could easily have been an embarrassment is quite exciting and even funny at times, as Schwarzenegger looks better than ever and seems to be enjoying himself with one-liners that are even cornier than usual.

Schwarzenegger may be the only holdover from the franchise, but the supporting characters are also very strong. Though he’s usually found in more independent fare (like 2001’s Best Picture-nominee In the Bedroom), Nick Stahl takes over the part of John Conner from T2’s Edward Furlong with more than adequate skill. Claire Danes also rises to the occasion after jumping on board the project at the last minute, and it’s fun to see her in a role that’s more physical than what she normally does.

Even Kristanna Loken, who plays the menacing T-X who goes head-to-head with Schwarzenegger, comes off surprisingly well. She plays her advanced Terminator much like the way Robert Patrick played his T-1000 in T2, with very little dialogue and a non-expressive face.

Director Jonathan Mostow may have had the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of the self-imposed King of the World, but he deserves a lot of credit for delivering a film that will please fans and non-fans alike (and maybe even James Cameron himself). Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has not lived up to the ground-breaking standards of its two predecessors, but it’s still a decent flick in its own right. You know, kind of like how the two "new" Beatles songs were good, but not better than anything the fab four did in their heyday.

DVD Extras: Cast And Crew Commentary; Deleted Scenes; Outtakes; An Introduction By Arnold Schwarzenegger Featurette; Documentary; Dressed To Kill Featurette; Making Of The Video Game Featurette; Storyboards; Toys In Action Featurette; Visual Effects Featurettes; Photo Galleries; Weblink; T3 Video Game Trailer; Blooper Reel; Filmographies; 7 Easter Eggs.

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