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Summer of Schwarzenegger - "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)



Seriously, it's not that bad, you guys.

I know, promising opener there, but I'm not kidding. Terminator 3 is arguably the most hated of the Arnold-led movies in the franchise, and for the life of me, I've never been able to figure out why. Like, critically, it actually fared pretty decently, and when it came out, I really enjoyed it, and I've had fun with it every other time I've watched it since. Sure, it's not as good as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but I mean, what fucking is? That's one of the actual best films ever created, and until Dredd and Mad Max: Fury Road came out, I'd argue no other sci-fi actioner even came close to it in terms of quality. I mean, shit, James Cameron hasn't even made anything as good as it since, and he directed and wrote the damn thing. Even that shitty movie he won an Oscar for wasn't as good. Yeah, I just said Titanic was shitty, fight me.

What are we talking about? Right, Terminator 3. It's really fucking stupid, but I really like it, and don't get why people can't just let their guard down and have some fun. Because that's what this movie ultimately is: fun. I mean, watch this:


And this:


Those are two action sequences that are better than the entirety of most action movies, especially in the early 2000's, and they're in the same damn movie. And there are plenty more where that came from, too. The whole flick, from beginning to end, is just a giant amusement park ride of a thing, and you're just being yanked along for the ride. Exposition? Fuck it, we'll do it in the middle of a chase scene or something, we barely have time for that shit! We need more explosions, more shootouts, more chases! Remember all those big set pieces from Terminator 2? Double 'em! Triple 'em! Make it big! Make it dumb!

I guess, by now, you're probably seeing the reason most people complain about this movie, then. If not, let me spell it out for you: it's really, really, really fucking stupid. And really, what else would you expect from the two brain trusts that brought you such classics as Mindwarp and Catwoman? Something on the level of a Cameron film. Please. But see, unlike those movies, Terminator 3 is so outrageously boneheaded that it's somehow elevated to being a pretty decent movie overall. It's essentially 109 of big, silly Terminator fan service, complete with fun little references and jokes, and filled to the brim with Michael Bay-level explosions. Did it really need to be made? Nah. But is it fun. Hell yes.

Oh, yeah, and the ending is probably the best ending in the entire franchise.

No, no, I'm being entirely serious here. In the last fifteen minutes or so, there's an almost jarring tonal shift that leads into a bleak, surprisingly profound ending that sets into motion a sequence of events that bring the entire franchise full-circle. For dedicated series diehards, it's possibly the best closure that the original trilogy of movies could have received. Loose ends are wrapped up while simultaneously leaving the door open to various interpretations and theories. Personally, I think it even has a better ending than the first two movies with how much it unpacks.

It's interesting, then, looking at this in context of two things: it being Arnold's last movie until his career was rebooted, and  it being (sort of) retconned by the events of the most recent entry, Terminator Genisys. With that first one, I'm glad it was this and not Collateral Damage that Arnold went out on. Because, fuck, that was one hell of an unremarkable movie. This is, in a way, the most Arnold-y movie he could have wrapped up his first run of movies with. Big, dumb action. Big, dumb comedy. Big, dumb one-liners. It's just big and dumb, through and through, and when you think of a typical movie starring the guy, this is the type you think of. It's a strong finish, I'd say, and it left audiences wanting more instead of being glad he went away.

And in terms of Genisys, well, without giving too much away for those who haven't seen it (but please do, it's pretty damn good,) I'm not of the opinion that this has been totally retconned. See, some people are saying that this whole movie is undone by the events of that one, but that's kind of not true. Because, and light spoilers here, but the stuff that happens in Genisys actually allow for this original trilogy to stand on its own. It's one outcome, one parallel timeline, that leads to Judgement Day, not a timeline that's just magically erased. Sure, Sarah says that the old timeline "doesn't exist anymore," but if you pay attention during Genisys (which I'll admit is sort of hard sometimes,) other timelines don't just go away. They still happened. They still matter to all involved parties. So, yeah. Not really retconned, just retconned for the purposes of this current series.

Anyway. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is fucking stupid but I love it, and if you don't, I... I don't understand.

Next Time: Arnold's career gets a reboot with The Last Stand!

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