July 3, 2003
I saw Terminator 3 this evening, and I have a somewhat mixed review to give. This is certainly going to contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t yet seen it, and you’re one of those people who thinks movies could be spoiled by knowing about parts before hand, ya might want to wait on this one. I don’t believe I give away the ending (but, again, I might).
The movie was certainly enjoyable. I laughed. The car chases were good, and there were definitely some cool effects, pretty seamlessly integrated, too. Yet, it seems like so many things were half-assed. It could have been a capstone movie, to finish off the series, yet I was left feeling that so many things didn’t quite fit.
Let’s start with the obvious: The terminator. The new one, of course. It seems that the corporate penchant for eschewing a numbering scheme has made its way to the post-apocalypse, and, in the tradition of Windows XP, OS X, the X-box, and countless others, our villain is the T-X. They should have just gone all the way, and called it Terminator 3: Titanium. Added to that, it’s not totally clear what this thing is capable of. The first movie had a simple mechanical structure, the second a very comprehendable techy-cool construct, with rigidly defined abilities. This one has some sort of solid core… with a liquid-metal exterior. Or maybe it doesn’t really. It has weapons that protrude when needed, and they seem to be firmly attached and relegated to certain appendages. And, yet, it twists and turns just like the liquid-metal one did, dislocating and rearranging body parts. (It doesn’t, by the way, help at all that I have Domo Arigato (Mister Roboto) running through my head right now).
Continuity was bizarrely dealt with. They managed to break many of the established rules and, yet, not introduce any new ones. So we have a world, a future and past, that doesn’t really fit together. Fate is equally deterministic and malleable, we are led to believe at once that, like in the other movies, things can be changed, but that the events in this movie are somehow coming about because people’s interactions are fated. The other movies nicely sidestepped issues of time travel paradox by involving the audience with compelling plot lines; this one is foolish enough to actually bring them up (and then, of course, leave them unresolved).
And that’s the real problem with this movie: they painted themselves into a corner. The entire plot resolves around the question of stopping the war. Will they manage to shut down SkyNet in time? Will our heroes be unsung because the world never ends, or will they take their place in the future we’ve been expecting. The problem is that neither conclusion leaves the audience happy. When they save the day and ride off into the sunset, the audience is overcome with smarmyness and a tendency to retch, independent of the crap stuck to the underside of the armrests. When they fail, to live out the rest of their lives alone and fighting bitterly against the machines, we pale at the prospect of a further sequel and feel betrayed by the anti-climax.
They really had nowhere to go.