Arts & Entertainment
A cybernetic organism for all seasons
‘T3’ is the Schwarzenegger we know and love
Published Thursday, 10-Jul-2003 in issue 811
Does Arnold Schwarzenegger still have what it takes to be an action hero?
It’s been 12 years since the 55-year-old Austrian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor promised (in T2: Judgment Day) “I’ll be back,” and as Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner and Sean Connery can attest, movie audiences tend to have short memories. Schwarzenegger’s past three films have crashed and burned at the box-office, his formidable physique has begun to lose its elasticity, and his command of the English language remains slippery (“gid doubt” translates to “get out”). With James Cameron having moved on after the series’ second installment, the profitable franchise seemed to be on its last legs.
Schwarzenegger will never win an Oscar, but give him a decent vehicle (Eraser, Predator) and he’ll literally run with it. The aspiring politician will once again have the last laugh on his detractors when the receipts are tallied for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, hands-down the best popcorn movie of the summer. While there’s nothing new thematically going on here, the film’s emphasis on action and welcome lack of psychological mumbo-jumbo make its recent competitors — X2: X-Men United, The Matrix Reloaded and Hulk — seem all the more pretentious and fussed-over by comparison.
Arnold returns in the role he was born to play: a monosyllabic cybernetic organism who, like the actor himself, has all but become obsolete. He’s a different model Terminator than he played in the last outing, but his mission is still the same: to protect John Connor (Nick Stahl, replacing Edward Furlong) from being assassinated — this time by a state-of-the-art Terminatrix (gorgeous Kristanna Loken, sexy and sleek as a new car), sent back in time to ensure John doesn’t live to become the leader of the world-wide resistance against the machines.
With Judgment Day rapidly upon them, T-101, Connor and Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), find themselves on the run from the shape-shifting T-X cyborg, a veritable walking Swiss army knife. Director John Mostow (U-571), working from a script written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (from a story they wrote with Tedi Sarafian), is hip to the fact that action-packed set pieces are what truly define the Terminator series, and he finds several inventive ways to spend the $175 million allotted for T3’s budget.
From a cleverly staged gunfight at the amusingly named Valley of Peace cemetery, to a mind-blowing chase sequence involving a 100-ton Champion crane, this is a fast-moving , dynamically executed, FX-filled movie with nothing more on its uncomplicated mind than slam-bang mayhem. Deep thoughts in a Terminator film, are, after all, about as welcome as red ants at a company picnic.
Mostow’s actors are all good in roles of varying difficulty, but it is Schwarzenegger, in superb shape for this assignment (how many actors his age would dare show their ass on camera?), who authoritatively holds down the fort. Whether casually spitting out a bullet pumped into his head, smashing the T-X head-first into a urinal (a bit of misogyny?), or spouting one-liners with deadpan aplomb (would “I require a cutting tool” be as funny coming from another performer?), Arnold makes the most of what could well be his last hurrah before he tosses his hat into the race for governor of California. No matter what the outcome of Schwarzenegger’s political ambitions, he can always think back and bask in the glory days of his 33-year film career. Think about it: not even the Godfather series lasted for three rounds.
T3: Rise of the Machines is currently playing citywide.
— Kyle Counts is film critic for the Gay and Lesbian Times