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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Entry updated 24 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2003). An Intermedia and IMF production in association with C2 Pictures and Mostow/Lieberman Productions. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris from a story they developed with Tedi Sarafian using characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd. Cast includes David Andrews, Clare Danes, Kristanna Loken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nick Stahl. 109 minutes. Colour.

Time-travelling (see Time Travel) Android "T-850 Model 101" (Schwarzenegger) returns from a Post-Holocaust future to rescue the Messiah-like young man (Stahl) whom he was programmed to assassinate in The Terminator (1984) and then reprogrammed to protect in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

Announced and postponed several times throughout the 1990s due to the bankruptcy of Carolco Pictures and the resulting renegotiations over rights and who would direct – star Schwarzenegger wanted James Cameron back on board despite Cameron's growing reputation for running over budget – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was eventually refined down from a script about a female Terminator surprising protagonist John Connor at a dot-com company to an elongated version of the chase sequence from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A high-octane pursuit across California to a Sierra Nevada military base built to withstand the forthcoming nuclear Holocaust is punctuated by the knowing modification of a few of the more famous bon mots from The Terminator – "I'm back" and "No, John Connor, I'm programmed to obey her commands" and so on.

Where newer model "T-X" (Loken) embodies Technology and all it has done to alienate human beings from their environment, reprogrammed-by-humans "T-850" resists the Future War foretold by the coming of AIs accidentally created by Lieutenant General Robert Brewster (Andrews), director of "Skynet" and father of Kate Brewster (Danes). Both opposition between the male and female Terminators and connection between the younger Brewster and John Connor is underpinned by basic Adam and Eve symbolism, the reignition of the latter's brief teenage flirtation being necessary to the future resistance of the human race. This is a family film about how no-one can control human technological progress.

Newly self-aware defence system Skynet instigates a virus to trick the American military into granting it autonomy, just as the time-travelling T-X locates John Connor living "off-the-grid" in present day Los Angeles: the Computer must be turned on and the Connors-not-yet-married turned off in order for Skynet to avoid the Time Loop created by their future success, eventualities explored by the subsequent films in the franchise Terminator: Salvation (2009) and Terminator Genisys (2015). Connor, Brewster and the intermittently malfunctioning T-850 model flee first to the grave of John's freedom-fighting mother, Sarah (see Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) for more) and find it filled with Weapons rather than bones – a reference, it would seem, to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Some of the Satiric intent of Sarafian's original screenplay – there are passing references to dead-end jobs and the black box passivity of modern living – survives here as allusion and mise en scène, but this is quickly sacrificed to the juggernaut of computer generated imagery more effective at depicting the scrunch and whine of collateral damage than the movement of people. A dying Lieutenant General Brewster filled with Oppenheimer-like regrets tells the young couple possible salvation awaits them at the Sierra Nevada nuclear bunker but they arrive to find the father has lied. The equipment there is too basic to engage with Skynet and its Robot minions and all they may is hunker down and face the End of the World. Find your significant other and hide, the film says: the Machines are in charge now.

The novelization is Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (New York: Tor, 2003) by David Hagberg. [MD]

see also: Cybernetics; Disaster; Nuclear Energy; World War Two.


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