Whimsically playful. Gracefully self-aware. Sentimentally lighthearted at its core. What movie am I talking about? No, not Legally Blonde 2 (although I have yet to see it). I’m talking about T3. That’s right–the third Terminator movie.
This movie is full of one-liners and self-referential puns, at all times self-conscious of its past. It’s a kind of Scream for the action genre. And it works.
I was afraid of watching T3 for several reasons. James Cameron’s T2, its masterful predecessor, is a hard act to follow. Plus, the Terminator movies have become such an ingrained part of our popular culture, that making another one is risking an unintentional distortion of that image that we have of the other two movies, and thereby jeopardizing our respect for them. And most importantly, I was afraid to watch because Arnold is approaching senior-citizen-discount status.
But T3 manages to pull it off for one very simple reason: it is conscious of these concerns, and hence adapts itself to them. Instead of being an overtly serious movie a la T1 and T2, it pokes fun at itself and its predecessors. Indeed, T1 and T2 are decidedly darker, more “adult” films. While the original two films sought to establish an impending sense of doom with a tension-laden atmosphere, T3 concerns itself much more with character development and interaction. A lot of it focuses on the friendship between John Connor (Nick Stahl) and the Terminator, and the budding romantic relationship between Kate (Claire Danes) and John Connor. This was a welcome change in style, for there was a danger of simply repeating what the first two movies had already accomplished quite successfully. I think that was the problem with The Matrix: Reloaded. It took itself way too seriously after having established an iconoclastic style that just didn’t seem very iconoclastic the second time around.
One of my favorite scenes is when Kate reveals to John that his was her first kiss. It’s a very touching moment, and it is cleverly interrupted by a very dry and sardonic comment by the Terminator. These little, subtle interactions that are so full of heart make the movie a worthwhile follow-up to what is perhaps the best action movie of the 1990s.
I’d give Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines a B+.
[See more reviews by this author at Unfashionable Observations.]