Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the third installment, and the fourth reviewed by The Legionnaire, in the strange franchise that is the Terminator series. I feel the haphazard approach to the series by this blog is somehow appropriate given the progressively sillier tenor of the movies since The Terminator debuted in 1984. Along with Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), it seemed like whoever was making these films felt contractually obligated to make one every decade or so. Despite my assertion that they have gotten more nonsensical since the beginning, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is an often overlooked and solid iteration of the killer robot from the future theme, and the last one where Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like it still made sense for him to be playing the cybernetic assassin turned protector.
If you have been keeping up with the plots of the Terminator films, you will know that the second one seemingly put to rest the notion that machines set in motion a nuclear war that nearly wipes out mankind. That is the referred to “Judgment Day” in the title. Thus Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines should not happen, right? Well, as the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) remarks at one point, they did not prevent Judgment Day, they only delayed it, and that it is inevitable. So much for the notion that there is no fate save for that which we make. We pick up with John Connor (Nick Stahl) explaining what he has been doing for the past dozen years or so: laying low and staying off the radar since he never truly believed that he was safe from another attempt on his life sent from the future. Of course, we then start seeing the classic shiny bubbles heralding the arrival of robotic time travelers sent to murder (or protect) humanity’s hope for tomorrow. The first one we see first is the T-X (Kristanna Loken), an automaton that combines the liquid metal of the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) from the previous film, and the familiar metal frame of the other Terminators. Because John had done such a good job of hiding himself, they could no longer find him so she (the T-X is a woman in this one) goes around murdering all of his associates. Eventually the T-X comes to the woman who is to become John’s second-in-command and wife, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). Kate is a veterinarian of some kind, and she is called into her clinic where she finds John who had broken in to steal medicine to treat his injuries from a motorcycle accident. It is at this moment that the T-X shows up, followed shortly thereafter by the Terminator sent to protect Kate and John. They manage to barely escape, and the Terminator admits to John that they need to get some place safe quickly because he will not be able to stop the far more advanced T-X. However, it so happens that Kate’s father, Robert Brewster (David Andrews), is the military person in charge of Skynet’s development, the computer program responsible for triggering Judgment Day. John believes that by getting to Robert, they can once more stop the end of the world from occurring. Unfortunately, Skynet had been busy basically crashing the entire internet under the guise of a virus, and John, Kate, and the Terminator (band name!) arrive at the base on the heels of the launching of Skynet in order to deal with this perceived threat. Getting there at the same time is the T-X, who manages to shoot Robert. With his dying breath, he gives John and Kate access to a hardened facility deep underground not far from the base. The Terminator sacrifices himself to ensure that they safely enter the bunker and slam the doors behind them. They believe they are going to blow up Skynet’s system core, but it was actually meant to protect John and Kate all along and nothing more because Robert knew there was no stopping Skynet. Thus our tale closes with nuclear missiles filling the skies and our heroes helpless to stop it.
While Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines does not have the happiest of endings, it does contain some important lessons on fate. God granted us all free will, but for centuries philosophers have wrestled with the notion that God knows every decision we will ever make before we make it. Thus if He knows what we are going to do already, is there really such a thing as free will? You can twist yourself in circles thinking about it. Yet such things are ultimately beyond the understanding of even the most erudite thinker God ever created. There is one basic, simple command we are left with to do, and that is to love. It might seem an odd concept to mention in light of a Terminator movie, and one can doubt that a machine is capable of such a feeling. Still, it is love that motivates us to fight for the things about which we care passionately. Life is definitely worth any struggle you can think of, and that is what drives humanity to keep sending back protectors to hopefully ensure their own survival. Yet there are certain things that will inevitably happen in life over which we have no control. Does God cause them? Who knows? He does have a purpose for all things, and we also will not and cannot always know it. That is why Faith is a mystery, but a worthy one. The important thing in all such situations, even in the midst of nuclear holocaust, is to not lose hope and to continue to strive for what is important.
If you have not seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, it is currently available on Netflix. Despite its R rating, it is not too over-the-top unlike some of its cousins. There are some exciting moments in it in keeping with proper Terminator fashion. How do you contend with a relentless robot that just keeps coming despite taking an incredible amount of damage? While watching these thrilling scenes, try not to think about them too much either. After all, if time travel is a possibility, why do the machines seem to limit themselves in so many ways? But if you can get over that little bump, the rest is a surprisingly good action film.