ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  jonathon mostow

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  109 minutes

RELEASED  -  2 july 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  terminator 3

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $170,000,000
terminator 3: rise of the machines - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from terminator 3: rise of the machines at

buy the dvd from terminator 3: rise of the machines at

john connor is now 18, and a female terminator, called t-x, is after him. another t-800 is sent back through time to protect john once again on the verge of the rise of the machines.

john connor is now 18, and a female terminator, called t-x, is after him. another t-800 is sent back through time to protect john once again on the verge of the rise of the machines.


picture from terminator 3: rise of the machines

picture from terminator 3: rise of the machines

picture from terminator 3: rise of the machines


three out of four possible stars

At 170 million dollars, the approved budget for the third installment of the "Terminator" franchise is largest budget ever approved for a film. While a few other productions have run over budget and almost broken the 200 million dollar barrier, it's clear that Warner Bros. has placed much stock in this "tent pole" picture. With the fairly successful "Matrix" sequel already rolling in as one of the highest dollar earners this year, T3 is, like that picture, a gamble for the studio. Before the picture even ventures into profit territory, it's going to have to bank at least a half a billion dollars. But it will be no surprise to this reviewer if this film actually does break 500 million at the box office (international, of course).

As incredible as that number might seem, the creators of this action film deserve every penny. Because Terminator 3 is a kick ass action film that is an incredible theatrical experience that will doubtlessly make you hope Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't wait another twelve years to make the fourth installment. And while fans of the first and second films might try and hold this film up to the same standard, those fans will, much to their surprise, be satisfied with what they see on the screen. There are eye-popping action sequences, spectacular special effects, and several bits of humor bandied about to keep the audience occupied. And though the look of the film is top-notch, one the most important of those elements is the humor.

When an action film takes itself too seriously, it invariably suffers from an overabundance of scowling, frowns, and heavy eye-browed stares. Action stunts usually stretch credibility anyway, so tossing some irreverent or ironic humor into the mix certainly helps the audience "believe" that a giant crane truck, traveling at impossible speeds, can flip over and crash onto a busy city street. When an audience is able to laugh with the characters instead of at them (during highly improbable stunts), it's easier for a viewer to get "sucked in" to the narrative. And because the essential combination of special effects plus humor is played out so smoothly in T3, it's an easy task to sit back and enjoy the view for this film's 110 or so minutes.

The production benefits highly from having been shot on location in Los Angeles. While it might seem obvious that a movie would be filmed in and around Hollywood, as Southern California is the base of operations for American made films, it is quite often the case that Canadian cities are used as "stand-ins" for American locales. Cheaper labor and production costs have led to "runaway productions," with hoards of filmmakers traveling north of the US border to make their films for cheaper sums of money. But Los Angeles is such a known location that using the "real thing" makes the film seem that much more realistic. There is a shot in the beginning showing the character of "John Connor" working at a construction site in downtown Los Angeles. A gray and black building in the background is one of the most recognizable buildings of the downtown Los Angeles skyline. It's like seeing the Empire State Building in a movie based in New York. There's no stand-in in Canada for such recognizable buildings.

And while Los Angeles may not be the most beautiful area in the world (not all of the streets are lined with Beverly Hills size houses), cinematographer Don Burgess knew where to train his camera to create some most impressive looking shots. And he was helped mightily by the talents of co-editors Nicolas De Toth and Neil Travis, who keep the pace of the film running at a rip-roaring speed. The film doesn't tread over the two-hour mark, yet doesn't end the action to soon, cheating the viewer out of needed visceral pleasure.

An element that seems very intelligently used in this film is the philosophy of destiny and how it relates to the characters. While this theme was all but driven via jack hammers into the brains of viewers of The Matrix Reloaded, there is just enough discourse and dialogue on this subject in T3 to make the ideas interesting yet not pedantic. An action film, by its nature, is designed to impress the eyes and ears of the viewer, but when there is the added bonus of "thought" included in the screenplay, the picture becomes richer and fuller because of it. Granted, the thoughts presented in this film won't be labeled genius, but this film is certainly more robust because of them.

While it goes without saying that Arnold Schwarzenegger plays his role as "The Terminator" with the skill that one would expect of the action star, it's refreshing to see him returning to his action-hero roots, as his last few films have seen him stray from the formula that would always guarantee him a large box-office take. Collateral Damage, The 6th Day, and End of Days all performed poorly at the box-office, and it was not since True Lies that Schwarzenegger's appearance in a film made a healthy impression on critics and audiences.

The replacing of Edward Furlong as John Connor with Nick Stahl might seem like an affront to Furlong's talent with the character, but with Furlong's continuing drug problems, his replacement in the series seems to have been inevitable. Though thankfully, Stahl steps into Connor's shoes with ease and is an energetic addition to the cast. And the appearance of Claire Danes as Connor's love interest, "Kate Brewster," makes this film the largest budgeted film thus far in her career. Playing part damsel-in-distress, part damsel-with-gun, Danes, like Stahl, should impress fans in this film and be welcomed for the fourth installment of the film (doubtlessly already on the planning boards over at Warner Bros).

The Terminator's nemesis, the "T-X," played by relative unknown, Kristanna Loken, is a worthy opponent for Schwarzenegger's impressive stature. At nearly six feet tall, Loken gained fifteen pounds of muscle to play the role of the Terminatrix and went so far as to take miming lessons to learn to communicate through facial expressions and gestures, since her character has few lines of dialogue. With David Andrews, playing Danes's father, "Robert," the final member of the principle cast makes his role a memorable one, even though he has but a few scenes.

Terminator 3 is the perfect action film. It leaves the audience breathless from its speedy tempo and doesn't stall between the action sequences. The special effects are usually the most important element of a film like this, but it's clear that the filmmakers made the intelligent decision to make this film an engaging experience for the audience, rather than a simple special effects bonanza. Which, looking back on it, the film definitely has a grip on superior special effects, but James Cameron's well conceived idea (he wrote and directed the first two films but was uninvolved in this movie) was handled with reverence and wit by director, Jonathan Mostow, and his crew. This film will certainly please both die-hard fans of the series and new viewers alike.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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