Comfortable and Furious

Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines

First, Jonny sez….

I am very happy to report that Terminator 3: Rise of Machines is a very good summer blockbuster. Better than X2 or The Hulk and massively more enjoyable than The Matrix Reloaded. One of the big reasons for T3‘s goodness is that unlike Hulk and Matrix the film never bothers to take itself very seriously. It delivers to us viewers essentially everything we got in the last Terminator installment. Loads and loads of action, a fairly cool evil Terminator (Loken), lots of bad one-liners, and Arnold, Arnold, Arnold. T2 itself was a half sequel/half parody of the original darker (and superior) Terminator. The makers of T3 knew exactly what Joe Public wanted and they delivered big time, plus dessert.

Let me just say that while nearly 100% of the action was right on, 80% of the dialogue was sub-par. The story itself was cool and got all the important elements right. It was just that the narrative used to advance the plot was nearly unwatchable. Never in my life have I witnessed one-liners falling so flat. Even during Timothy Dalton’s Bond films. Let me give you an example. Like in the previous two films, Arnold shows up butt-naked and needs to procure an outfit. This time around he goes into a male strip club. Yeah, I’m sure they talked about making it a gay strip club, but it was loaded with chicks who were just as excited about Schwarzenegger’s cock as they were his pecs. Then he beats up the, for lack of a better word, total faggot who is stripping for the ladies.

However, just before he does so, as is now the norm, Arnold says, “Give me your clothes.” To which the dancer answers, “Talk to the hand.” You can imagine what happens next. [Ed Note: Arnold then bends the guy’s hand backwards and says, “Now.” To the hand.] Later on, Arnold is robbing an AM/PM and the pimply faced teenager says, “Hey, are you going to pay for that?” To which The Terminator replies, “Talk to the hand.” There are actually even worse one-liners (“She’ll be back,” “I told you I’d be back,” “You’re terminated!”), all of which variously rape Arnold’s career. But hey, if he’s happy/too artistically challenged to care, then so be it. But man, if I had directed the movie, Arnold would have grabbed the pimply-faced kid’s head and slammed it through the counter.

I just want to contrast the above with the first Terminator. Remember the scene when Arnold is about to rob the gun store and he starts loading shells into a shotgun and the storeowner is like, “Hey! You can’t do that,” and Arnold shoots him in the face? I know that these scenes have now been replaced by the female Terminator killing folks, but still. A wisecracking android that can’t be killed? Not so cool. Blame James Cameron. The crew this time out was just following Mr. Titanic’s example. Since I’m talking shit, one of the things that bugged me most about T2 (besides the fact that Linda Hamilton never inhaled a single cigarette) was how kid-friendly it was.

I know Cameron wanted to make as much money as possible so he could move on to Titanic, his crappy life’s work. Worst of all was the stupid “don’t kill any humans” rule that the then ten-year-old John Conner foisted upon the Terminator. For no good reason, that protocol is adhered to in T3. At one point Arnold is firing hundreds of bullets at a bunch of cops that have surrounded Arnie and John (Stahl) and Kate Brewster (Danes). After his assault is over, a little readout pops up on his screen that says, “Vehicles Destroyed: 30. Human Causalities: 0.” Worse still, the Terminator seems almost satisfied that the preceding was true.

But really, I am not here to rip on the film. Let’s talk about the action. Totally over the fucking top and I liked it. Very violent. The opening car chase was almost unbelievable. They smashed up so much shit. There is the little shit rag [Ed Note: L.A. Alternative Press – fuck you biz-atches!] here in LA that had a front-page story about how downtown residents are sick and tired of all the studios filming in downtown. I now see why. Dozens and dozens of cars, not to mention quite a few buildings, get pulverized. The streets themselves get demolished. It is probably a twenty minute sequence that absolutely trumps the much ballyhooed freeway sequence in The Matrix Reloaded. Very little CG, at least it seemed so, just dozens of stunt men earning their pay. Honestly, the car part is worth the price of admission alone. Like when the giant crane that the T-X was driving gets pulled down right through the fucking street! So cool! The end fight between Arnold and T-X is butt-kickingly good, too. He not only beats her over the head with a urinal, but he pile drives her into a toilet! And then she rips his head off.

The plot is fairly standard for the series. A Terminator is sent back in time to kill one of the Connors (why the machines keep trying is anybody’s guess). This time it is the new T-X, who is basically identical to the T-2000 (you like how the names change to reflect the times?) in the second film. Only this time around she has some sort of “nanotechnology” power that lets her control other machines. Oh, and tits. That might sound dumb, but it actually works well within the scope of the film. A protector is sent back (guess who) to protect the now grown up John Connor. Though this time the machines aren’t only going after John–they are after all of his future lieutenants, too. As a result T-X kills a few people before she gets to John and Kate. Oh yeah, Kate Brewster is John’s second in command and future wife (duh). As far as Danes and Stahl’s performances go, they are only half-baked. But the beauty of T3 is that pacing is so quick you never have time to sit and ruminate on an awful line that just got delivered (usually from Stahl). And the T-X isn’t nearly as lame as I thought she would be.

While far from perfect, Terminator 3 works. The ending is, dare I say it, almost Dr. Strangelove-like in its horrid, bleak absurdity. I would have loved for the movie to have been darker overall, but Cameron nipped that possibility in the bud with the original sequel. T3 succeeds because in a summer filled with nothing but computerized action, we see some honest to goodness ass-kicking and wanton demolition. The whole, “The future isn’t written” plot line gets riffed on nicely at the end. Most importantly, the movie never slows down for a second. If you blink, you’ll miss something.

Probably something like a helicopter crashing into another helicopter. Yeah, Arnold looked a little old, but remember, Terminators are covered in living tissue so conceivably they could age, maybe. He’s still pretty menacing, even as a leather daddy. Yeah, there are some glaring plot holes (like when T-X gets stuck to a super magnet that John and Kate are standing next to with their metal guns, explosives, belt buckles, earings, cockrings, etc.) and some plain bad acting. But so what? T3 delivered what it set out to. If you are looking for something compelling, look elsewhere. If you want to be mindlessly entertained for two hours and enjoy free air-conditioning, T3 is your best bet. So, congratulations Mr. Schwartzenegger, you’ve done well. Now hurry up with all this governor shit and make a third Conan.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Overall: 7
  • Direction: 7
  • Acting: 5
  • Action: 10+ (You got to see the toilet scene)
  • Story: 6
  • Re-watchability: 9

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of times you realized that you can’t wait to be able to say that you’ve seen your governor’s ass: 27
  • Number of times your girlfriend caught you grinning like a moron during the film: 18
  • Number of times she gave you shit for it, so far: 2
  • Number of times you thought the film was going to awful based on the previews: 12
  • Number of times you thought that T3 was a fine coda to a good movie series: 5
  • Number of times you wished they would have taken the “R” rating a little more seriously: 30
  • Does Arnold look pretty good for a 53-year-old man: You bet your ass he does

Erich’s got a whole different opinion…

Flag! Jonny, insufficient Ruthlessness, fifteen yards.

Jonny acknowledges that the dialog is bad, but let’s get to some specifics. The government tech geeks actually refer to the virus they are combating as a “computer virus.” As in, “Bob, we’re having a hell of a time combating this new computer virus here in our underground, United States military instillation.” And implausibility… how about the fact that Claire Daines is able to penetrate that instillation by merely… well, I don’t even know how she does it, except that she doesn’t act her way in. One scene is Arnold saying that they have 45 minutes to find Claire’s dad, the general in control of the AI system that controls national defense. The next scene is of Claire running up to her dad in the heart of Area 51 during a national crisis. And what’s Claire Danes doing in a movie anyway?

I don’t deny liking T3 — the scene with Arnold carrying a coffin full of weapons and blowing up a bunch of police cars was great (except for the fact that, as Jonny points out, he doesn’t kill anyone.). I recommend T3. It’s just that so many flaws are there for no reason. When She-T, (Kristianna Loken [oh my fucking God!]) appears in our time, it’s in a store window and a bunch of stuff melts from the effects of the time warp. The annoying thing is that they use CGI to melt the stuff. I hate this! You do not need to use computer effects to simulate the melting of the head of a plastic mannequin! Just fucking melt it! That way it will look real instead of fake because it will be real instead of fake. After that scene though, Kristianna is naked so I forgot about the stupid effects. In fact, I forgot my name.

But there were more stupid CGI effects latter, and no more naked Kristianna to make me forget them. Some of the car chase is CGI, and it makes extensive abuse of quick editing. The combined effect is a fakeness in what could have been the greatest car chase ever, and what is still a great scene. However, this is another case where the film would have been greatly improved by a straightforward approach. You’ve got a truck with a crane hanging off, speeding down the street and smashing everything in site. You don’t need CGI. You don’t need Michael Bay style editing. Just let us get a good look at the crane tearing all the way through a real building.

I could catalog many more flaws. Why does She-T have to open her moth to make modem sounds? It looks stupid. If her hand can turn into any weapon she wants (which is cool), why does she steal some cop’s crappy pistol? Why do movie characters with telekinetic powers always have to use the same goofy head motion to show us they are using those powers? We know they have the powers, we see shit flying around! We would get it without them tilting their heads to the side. Also, if T-She can transmute herself into anything, why does she have to steal clothes?

My suggestion for T4 is a short film in which the computers finally wise up and send a terminator (played by Loken) back into 14th century to effortlessly kill John Conner’s totally helpless ancestors. The Connors would try to escape by mule.

Oh yeah, how’s this for Ruthless? Cameron not only keeps his ex-wife, Linda Hamilton out of the film. He has her character die of prolonged case of leukemia! In Mexico!

Ruthles Ratings:

  • Film Overall: 6.5
  • Direction: 5
  • Story: 6.5
  • Acting: 7 for the terminators, 4 for the humans.

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of times you wished that you got to program the girl terminator: How do you do scientific notation on Microsoft Word?
  • What would you program her to do: A lot of things. The first would be to have a threesome with me and my girlfriend in a jacuzzi filled with the blood of my enemies