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Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines (****)
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Written by John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian
Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines
Principal Cast
Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Terminator
Nick Stahl -- John Connor
Claire Danes -- Kate Brewster
Kristanna Loken -- T-X
David Andrews -- Robert Brewster
Mark Famiglietti -- Scott Petersen
Earl Boen -- Dr. Peter Silberman
Moira Harris -- Betsy
Chopper Bernet -- Chief Engineer
Chris Lawford -- Brewster's Aide
Carolyn Hennesy -- Rich Woman
Jay Acovone -- Cop - Westside Street
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The Terminator series has always been a reliable entertainment machine, and I am happy to report that Terminator 3 holds up better than Alien 3, Hannibal Lecter 3, or Jurassic Park 3, despite James Cameron's absence. Would it have been better with James Cameron directing? Certainly. But except for one BDM (Big Dumb Moment), it is very well done. The main writers, John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who also wrote a clever thriller, The Game, know you have to give the audience a reason to care about characters before you start throwing helicopters at them.

I suppose, eventually, special effects films will have rung all the changes possible on big things going boom, but that hasn't happened yet. It helps to see T3 at a theater where the base speakers make the floor shake. I was a little bothered that Arnold's pecs are as clearly CGI as the Hulk's. But, as with the Hulk, I quickly got used to it.

Now, about the BDM. One reason James Cameron films are so effective is his attention to detail. When Titanic was already so far over budget that people were saying it would be Cameron's Heaven's Gate, Cameron insisted on reshooting the sinking of the Titanic because the effects department had the screws turning as the great ship went down, and everybody knows that the engines were stopped when the Titanic sank. That kind of attention to detail pays off.

Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffant were discussing the art of directing, and agreed that if you are filming a man and a woman, you always want the camera to move toward them. If the camera moves away, all the tension drains out of the scene. The audience does not know why they stop caring, but they do, and dislike the movie. All professional directors know that now, and avoid moving the camera away in a romantic scene.

Someday, all directors will know that one BDM has the same effect. Audiences stop caring. Today, directors like James Cameron know, directors like Jonathan Mostow do not. (Steven Spielberg figured it out after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.) What a BDM says to the audience is, "I think you are too stupid to notice how dumb this is, and I also think you are too stupid to care how stupid I think you are." Yes indeed we care.

spoiler warning

The BDM in T3 comes when John Conner and Kate Brewster run through a "linear accelerator". In the original script, I would be willing to bet that they escape from the end of a long straight tunnel with a pipe running down it. But in the film, the set designer or somebody decided that it would look better to show a cyclotron (round) instead of a linear accelerator (straight). So they changed the image without bothering to change the script. Why not change the script? Because the audience is too stupid to notice, right? What happens next is the moment that really jarred me out of involvement in the action and into a bad mood that lasted for about ten minutes. This was almost certainly a decision by Jonathan Mostow, a decision James Cameron would not have made. Instead of exiting the corridor as fast as they can, Conner and Brewster stand around and watch as the "linear" accelerator's humongous magnetic field comes on and smears T-X all over the pipe. We are looking over the shoulder of two people standing in a tunnel where there is a humongous magnetic field. And we can clearly see a metal clasp on Conner's backpack. Then we begin to think about zippers. And, for a while, ten million dollars worth of special effects are not enough to distract us from the BDM.

Aside from that, it's a very good film. Go see it.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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