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Terminator 3, Rise of the Machines

With Mr Schwarzenegger throwing his hat into the ring of the California Governorship, I thought it was my aspiring libertarian duty to the spirit of freedom, to take in the Austrian candidate’s latest mega-movie, Terminator 3, Rise of the Machines. So I beat a warm and humid trail from a jet-engine air-conditioned hotel in the salubrious Euston area of London, to the fragrant Leicester Square, home to a million and one interesting smells emanating from the great hoi polloi of old London Town.

I managed to scramble about the last ticket sold, for the early evening performance at the Odeon cinema, and only managed to sit down and switch off my mobile phone ten seconds before the opening credits began.

So, first impressions? If there’s a Terminator 4, I’ll be back. (Come on, we’ve got to get these things out of the way when reviewing Arnie films. I’ll try to get all the others in as soon as I can, to ease the pain.)

Second impressions? To hell with what the literati London critics said about this film. I’m a lowbrow and I need regular jolts of science-fiction-style entertainment to get me through this rollercoaster we know as life. And Arnie films almost always do the trick (except for Twins, of course.)

In Terminator 3, Arnold once again delivers the goods. Can he really be 56 years old? I hope I have pectorals like that when I’m 56. Hell, I wish I’d had pectorals like that when I was 23. The pooh pooh London crowd have been very sniffy about this movie. At best they said, “We wish it hadn’t been made, but given that it has been, I suppose this was as good as it could’ve got”. Oh me, oh my. Seeing as arguably the most entertaining English movie, in the last ten years, was Notting Hill, a virtual remake of the next best film a few years earlier, Four Weddings and a Funeral, you’d think the English film critics would apply a little more humility to their noble opinions. But, it’s every Guardian reader’s human right to slate all things American, I suppose, especially anything involving Arnold. This is because he’s a virtual living symbol of the American dream that anyone can become the world’s greatest success, in their chosen field, if they refuse to sacrifice their personal ambitions to the altar of collective mediocrity.

(If you really want to wind up any English film snob, ask them why in the English Patient, that poor skinless bloke is schlepped up and down the length of Italy near to the war front, when he should’ve spent the whole duration of the war, after he was found, in a British Army hospital in Alexandria, in Egypt? It’ll drive ‘em mad trying to explain that one! They also won’t like the tattered stars and stripes near the start of Rise of the Machines, to represent the whole of mankind. Given the choice of that or a feeble UN one, in my humble opinion, go USA, go!)

So, trying not to spoil it for anyone wanting to go to see it, what does the Terminator 3 movie have? Well, it has car chases. Oh yes, my friends, it has car chases. And plenty of them, the main one vying with The Matrix Reloaded for the should-be-an-Oscar award, for most spectacular car chase of the year. It also has several great plays on Arnie’s penchant for leather, and sunglasses, and you’ll be glad to hear a very large Harley Davidson motorcycle gets a little air time, too. Which is nice.

But what about the plot, I hear you cry? Oh, tish. Don’t worry about the plot. Plots are for Agatha Christie novels, Colombo re-runs, and for growing large vegetables on. We don’t need plots, especially when we can zip backwards and forwards through quantum-time constantly re-changing history to make the latest spear of destiny hit its target, no matter how convoluted the spear’s progression. Suffice it to say that there’s just enough plot, and a few surprises, to hold it all together, given a sufficient suspension of disbelief, with added suspension-of-disbelief steroids required for those who like subsidised French films, you know, the sort which would never be made if they had to rely on actually making a profit.

I won’t say any more on the plot, so as not to spoil it, but watch out for sight-gags, and the in-the-know jokes, which come thick and fast, about every forty seconds, or so. I especially liked the ones with the ladies underwear advertising, the Police psychiatrist, and Arnie’s effective form of anger management which comes on late in the film. And then there’s the Roger Moore style of film-school acting, which seems to have affected Arnie’s eyes. They acquire a life of their own, and it’s worth the entrance fee alone, just to watch these miraculous oracular orbits weave their constant whites-of-their-eyes action.

But there is one thing about going to the cinema which is increasingly beginning to disturb me. What is it with people? Do they really all think they’re at home, watching a digital wide-screen surround-sound DVD player, with their moronic friends? Although, thank God, most switch their phones off these days, there’s the constant checking of white screens, just at the edge of your eye frame, for phone texts, picture messages, and Blackberry emails. Plus the constant crackling of crisp packets, whispering as if nobody can hear, and purely for my personal fun and entertainment, about ten yards away from me some grotty French garcon translating the entire film out loud to his imbecilic girl-friend, until an Anglo-Saxon horde silenced this fatuous descendant of Joan of Arc’s legions. Joy.

A message, to my gallant European friend, if he’s reading. Could your girlfriend learn to speak English please, or go to see the film in a French-speaking cinema, with French dubbing, or just learn to enjoy the car chases? Or could you next time please just ignore her, or grope her amorously, or kiss her to within an inch of her life, without giving the rest of us the chance to brush up on our aural French skills? Merci bien, Monsieur. I mean, after all, this is Arnie. It’s hardly Shakespeare, is it? Bang, bang, hasta la vista.

But it’s not just the French, is it? It’s all of us. We’ve all become too used to sitting at home watching satellite movies, DVDs, or videos, chattering and jabbering away, slipping out to the kitchen for extra wine or strawberries or cream, and generally not concerning ourselves with the people around us. It’s a wonder some people don’t stand up and ask for the film to be stopped, while they go to the bathroom.

Do we really have to get to the point, in cinemas, where each ticket bears the imprint “If you talk during the film, you have broken your silence contract with the cinema management, which will give Mr Andrew Duncan the right, should he be present, to murder you most foul!”. Though maybe it’s just the market’s way of telling me to sell that ol’ 14-inch analogue telly, purchase a 55-inch flat-screen digital monster, for ultimate DVD playback quality, and never go to the cinema again. But that would be a shame.

Where else could I get to see such shameless leopard-skin seats, thousands of them, across such a huge auditorium as at the Leicester Square Odeon, when the lights go up? Priceless.

So were there any bad points, then? One or two. There’s a certain lack of urgency from the two main human characters, in the last reel, when they don’t rush frantically to save the human race, as you would expect, but sort of shuffle, in a nonchalant way. And there’s the way Artificial Intelligence is once again automatically assumed to lead to the near-annihilation of humanity, just as in the other popular film trilogy set closest to the Terminator franchise, the Matrix movie serial. As one who completed a dissertation, at University, on AI, more years ago now than I care to remember, I still think that one day, if and when AI gets commercial, I’ll return to it to make a living from it, and that it will be of considerable use to us.

One fears (no, one is certain) it may be abused by the State, to try to increase their control and vigilance of us, but just like guns which don’t pull their own triggers, it will be the human rulers of the State which will be the evil behind the trigger of AI being used to abuse the rest of us, not AI itself. And where would Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress be without AI?

There seem to be two given ‘facts’ which have emerged from the happy admixture of media and science, in the last ten years. The first is that global warming is a definite process caused by naughty humanity (mostly centred on the North American continent). The other, is that AI always strives to take over the world, and is mostly researched by the evil military (once again, mostly on that beastly North American continent). You Americans, you really are too successful, you know. It drives socialists mad over here, because it makes everyone realise just how economically stupid and feeble their socialism is in comparison, which is why they try to bring you down with their hysterical global warming hypotheses. They demonise you, like little children with voodoo dolls and pins, to make each other feel better about their own stagnant failure. Pathetic, isn’t it?

But these bad points about Terminator 3 are mere quibbles, foisted gratuitously upon this film review in a feeble attempt to make it appear more objective. Go and see the film. It’s a lot better than sitting at home watching Tony Blair’s spin doctors try to get him off the hook, again, over the death of Dr David Kelly. Oh, and you know when I said I would get through all the Arnie cliches as soon as could, earlier on? Well. I lied.

18 comments to Terminator 3, Rise of the Machines

  • Crazy old paleo-conservative commentator Peter Hitchens was on the BBC’s Newsnight Review (joined by sneering Germain Greer and whinging Mark Kermode) and thought it was great. What higher endorsement can there be?

  • Nice review!

    A few points then.

    1. What about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels?

    2. I believe the bike was an Indian, not a Harley. Same difference, many would say.

    3. I generally avoid theaters these days IN FAVOR of watching the film at home. This is due to poor quality theaters, rude people, and the rise of awesome and affordable home theater technology. I wrote about this HERE

    4. It’s not the Artificial Intelligence that’ll get ya, it’s the Artificial Life. Or that’s the impression I’ve somehow acquired over the years.

    AL takes a “bottom-up” approach by defining very simple parameters and then letting the program, robot, death machine, whatever take it from there and “learn” its own way, gradually acquiring ever more complex and proven patterns of “thought” and behavior.

    AI takes the “top-down” approach by trying to account for every eventuality ahead of time with such precision and comprehensiveness and complexity that it appears as if it is functioning as a human brain might.

    So AI is still mostly under the control of the programmers, while with AL that control gives way to a sort of natural selection.

    Singer/songwriter Scott Miller (of now-defunct band The Loud Family) “does” AI/AL for a “living,” and has written about these concepts from time to time.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    The whole construction crane chase scene was gnarly. I actually preferred it to the chase in The Matrix Reloaded, because it was more “realistic”. Bullets pass through car doors, folks. Even wussy underpowered 9mm rounds. And besides, The Matrix Reloaded was a fucking horrible piece of shit.

  • S. Weasel

    I was slightly underwhelmed, frankly. I thought it was roughly on par with the second one – which was a cool enough movie, but I expected the third to be as much better than the second than the second was than the first, if you know what I mean. Remember the giant leap special effects had taken between the first two? How astonishing those quicksilver effects were?

    This was just more quicksilver effects, longer car chases, heavier showers of bullets. Cool enough, but nothing new.

    And I wouldn’t be too sure Arnold’s pecs look like that. After all, they somehow got rid of the giant cardiac surgical scar he must surely have.

  • David Brown

    I’ve found people’s reactions to this movies interesting in that their seems to be a divide. Some people like Andy and my father and some others i’ve talked to really really REALLY liked the movie. Then other people like me and a lot of my other friends saw it as just an average movie. (I personally view it as a whole lot like T2, except not as good in almost everyway – the bad guys less scary, the random people killed are less interesting (i.e. the step-parents versus drive-thru Bob) etc.) Not a bad movie. Just not as entertaining as Bad Boys II and Pirates of the Carribean were

  • Tony H

    Nah, Arnie films are utter crap – though “Predator” had its moments I admit. They’re too embarrassingly naff, and Arnie’s “acting” fails to match even Clint Eastwood’s level of eye-twitching-as-emoting.
    If you want a dumb movie that’s eminently watchable, I vote for “Tremors”, that thing in which Kevin Bacon & sidekick defeat the giant man-eating worms: check out the firearms and handloading kit (Dillon!) wielded by the survivalistas…

  • Andy Duncan

    Kit Taylor writes:

    What higher endorsement can there be?

    It’s gotta be up there. But I think Mark Steyn still has the edge! :-)

    Kevin White writes:

    What about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels?

    Top quality. Especially ‘Arry. Talk to the hand, the face ain’t listening. Did Arnie ‘borrow’ this line for T3? And what would be the shame in that, if he had? :-)

    I believe the bike was an Indian, not a Harley. Same difference, many would say.

    Whoops, sorry, if it was. From this side of the Atlantic all large American bikes look like Harleys (at least, they do in this neck of the woods). It was pretty damn big, whatever the heck it was. I suppose the Harley product advertisers are pleased they didn’t pay for the placement, if ignoramuses like me didn’t notice the difference. Ever since my wife made me give up my Honda CBR 600, I’ve hankered for something a little more relaxed, and one of those big monsters, or even a Ducatti Monster, would do the trick just nicely! :)

  • Malcolm

    Likes: Quips, sight gags, self-referencing

    Dislikes: The two main protagonists throwing each other through so many walls that it just stops looking like it hurts and starts looking like it’s a film

    Likes: The nice balance of mood, avoiding both saccharine optimism and depressing art-house despair without resorting to “depressing art-house despair with a bit of saccharine optimism unconvincingly tacked on the end”, like they did in the otherwise-excellent original Matrix.

    Dislikes: I wanted to see more of the Rise of the Machines, and less of “a bit more of the last bit before the Rise of the Machines”.

    Likes: Arnie’s character is dripping with personality, even though he’s playing a robot, robotically…

    Dislikes: …shame about the human characters, who have no such excuse.

    But then I liked The Terminator better than T2, because I can’t buy into quicksilver as a complex machine, so what do I know?

  • Always enjoyed Arnie films, except for Twins, natch. My question is did they make any plot-continuity errors as with T2 vs T1? I am looking forward to seeing it on DVD. I, for one, loath sharing a darkened room with 40 other strangers. Never liked going to the movies.

  • T3 is a remake of T2. Sequelitis crawling out of its backside.

    It’s on a par with Aliens 3 for film franchises that deserved no more than a second outing. If you like a walk down memory lane, then this film’s okay.

    Hardly worth gushing over, though.

  • [Slight spoilers coming]

    I thought T3 was well made, and as Philip says it was a remake of T2, although it had different ending that ensures that T4 (if made) will not be another remake of T2. However, it was clearly the worse for the absence of James Cameron behind the scenes. There is a certain humanism that comes out in his films (except for True Lies, which is curiously misogenistic, given that his other films aren’t that way in the slightest) and that was largely absent.

    Still, I did enjoy the film.

  • FeloniousPunk

    I thoroughly enjoyed the mayhem and gizmos of T3, but I felt like it was a remake of T2, only less good. First of all, although Kristanna Loken was very easy on the eyes, as a Terminator she was much less scary than Robert Patrick’s terrifying T-1000 in T2 (I thought he was the scariest of all Terminators, Arnie from the first movie included). Secondly, Skynet as a distributed internet gestalt intelligence didn’t work for me, and the time travel thing is starting to get stretched. The main criticism, though, was that it seemed to me that none of the actors really played their roles with much conviction, unlike the other Terminator movies.

    Nevertheless, it was a fun movie and a good way to spend $8. I’ll probably get the DVD when it comes out.

    And yeah, Arnie at 56 is amazing. But then again, his powercell is designed to last 120 years…

  • FeloniousPunk

    Oh wait, one last thing: Arnie’s tiny little power cells pack more explosive power than a Daisy Cutter, apparently. That was too much. With that force, all a terminator would have to do is get within 100 meters of the target and self destruct.

  • Joe

    Felonius Punk wrote“all a terminator would have to do is get within 100 meters of the target and self destruct.

    But if did that how would it know if it had succeeded!!! ;)

  • Jaakko

    Am I the only Arnie fan who liked “Twins?”

  • Andy Duncan

    Jaakko writes:

    Am I the only Arnie fan who liked “Twins?”

    Yes.

    :-)

  • Richard Garner

    I thought T3 was good. I was expecting it not to be, being a sequel, and not having James Cameron. It wasn’t as good as the others (the first is still the best – interesting tangent, a Democrat recently said on TV that it is ludicrous for Arnie to be running for Governor with no experience in politics, as that would be like expecting to make a “Terminator” without having first done any B movies. Well, bad analogy, because “Terminator” was a low-budget B movie that turned out to be a brilliant and phenomenal success!).

    Those I have spoken to who didn’t like it generally complain about the end. I think, however, that it shows that, unlike most people who write about thime travel, the writers had actually thought about it, because the inevitability of judgement day and rise of the machines is the only logical position.

  • Tom

    Am I the only Arnie fan who liked “Twins?”

    No. Not only did I like it, but my wife (who is a big Arnie fan) thinks it was good, and for the last several years has been saying that Arnie “needs to do another movie with Danny Devito.” But, then I liked Kindergarten Cop.