Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines deals with another robot sent in the past to make the future better. It's a concept that should've been applied when they began working on this third installment. The film had a lot to surpass and following in James Cameron's footsteps is not an easy task to do. Fortunately, Jonathan Mostow does a good job recreating the mood of the previous two films. Unfortunately, the problem lies in the structure of the film. What could've been one of the most important films out of the three made so far (so far, considering 'he' might be back) is instead what seems to be the weakest one of all, too short and not developped enough.
As said before, while Mostow succeeded in giving this film a bit of a James Cameron vibe, the foundation on which the it was built is somewhat weak. Visually, it's close to Cameron's Terminators but on paper, it's a different story... literally. The writing gives the impression of a story thrown together for a quick cash-in at the box-office. Disappointing considering it was written by the same people who brought us the Hitchcock-esque 'The Game'. T3: Rise of the Machines suffers from bad structure and therfore is really more like a film cut in two parts. If the second half really gives us an insight of that the future holds for the characters, the first is filled with too much action and comedic relief. Terminator was always more than just an action film, it had a story that kept the other movies of the franchise balanced. In this case, the viewer is bombarded with car chases and confrontations right from the start which unfortunately means the omission to include any real interactions (other than fights) between the main characters. The dialogue is kept to a strict minimum throughout the first half (referring to meaningful dialogue that is) and the viewer is left with a sense of emptiness. It's as though they decided to throw everything they had right at the start and afterwards the audience is left with barely anything to chew on.
Another weakness is the comedic relief. When viewing a movie like T3: Rise of the Machines, no one expects to be laughing every few minutes. If the jokes are meant to be entertaining, they instead distract the viewer from what the purpose of a character like the Terminator has. If the character is not supposed to understand the feelings that a human might go through, he shouldn't have to be a running gag either. That's something James Cameron understood while filming T2: Judgment Day. While those kinds of scenes were left on the cutting room floor by Cameron, they remained in T3: Rise of the Machines. Maybe it's because James Cameron had enough material to work with therefore being able to take the liberty of doing just that. Running at a mere 109 Minutes, this latest installment fails to deliver barely enough juicy material to keep the people's interest awake.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is not all that bad though. While the first half is nothing more than a B-movie filled with cheap gags and too much action, the second half is where the movie really begins. At this point, it gets into a good pace where action shares the scene (no pun intended) with a slower, more dramatic feel. That's why the movie is so weak, it is unbalanced. T2: Judgment Day kept the ball rolling and took the time to tell a story. It's not normal that anyone should wait over 40-45 Minutes to find out what happened to the second most important character of all the Terminator films, Sarah Connor. Instead of filling the beginning with their entire arsenal of special effects, they should have dispersed them throughout the film, in between the scenes that occupies the second half, a second half where characters like John Connor (Nick Stahl) and Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) finally have a chance to evolve. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is unable to give 3 dimensions to his character. If the character is supposed to be another version of the one seen in T2: Judgment Day, it instead ressembles more the one portrayed in the first Terminator film, a killer on a mission. Never once is there a chance for the viewer to believe in this Terminator character. In the end, he appears just as cold and uninteresting, very much like the steel it was built on.
Would've T3: Rise of the Machines been a better movie with James Cameron on board... probably. James Cameron, besides being a good director, knew the characters like no one else. For sure, the film would have been shot based on a better structure and filmed more evenly. As mentionned earlier, the movie is about going into the past to make the future better. That's something they should've paid more attention to, taking more notice of the franchise past to make a better future or in this case, delivering a better present. In the end, Terminator falls into the stereotype of all the other action films it follows. Not the type of movie that really drives you to watch the first two if you're new to the franchise.
Rating: *** Nothing more than a B-movie with a big budget. Could've been better.
(The second half really is what saved this film. Hopefully if there is going to be another installment, they will learn from their mistake and balance the story more, James Cameron style).