Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) – A Look Back

John Connor lives in a world where Judgement Day hasn’t yet happened. He’s still afraid it might. His mother Sarah is dead – and he lives alone. Off the grid. No address, no phone. Trying to leave no record of himself. 

When trying to steal drugs from a veterinary surgery – he’s imprisoned by employee Kate Brewster who wants to keep him there until the authorities arrive.

Meanwhile – two Terminators have arrived from the future. One of them – a T-800 model, again charged to assist Connor.

The other is the T-X. A combat model which looks like a human female. Since there is no record of Connor anywhere her mission is to track down and assassinate his Lieutenants – and him should he show up on her travels at all.

The T-800 finds John and Kate. Kate is stunned to find out she is destined to be married to John and she herself reprogrammed this T-800 in the future and sent him back.  His mission is to get them both to safety and away from the pursuing T-X.

Judgement Day was never prevented – it was just postponed. There is only three hours until the end of the world. Time is running out.

After Carolco went bankrupt Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna managed to retain the rights to The Terminator franchise. They formed C2 Pictures in 1999 and needed a big tent-pole movie to launch it. They actively pursued development on a new chapter.

James Cameron declined involvement as he felt he’d wrapped the story up in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger was reluctant to commit to the project at first – as he only wanted to do the movie with Cameron.

Cameron however gave Schwarzenegger his blessing to do the movie as the character belonged just as much to him. He also famously advised him to “not do it for any less than $30 Million”.

With a screenplay by Tedi Sarafian, John Brancato and Michael Ferris – Jonathan Mostow signed on to direct the movie.

Nick Stahl was hired to replace Edward Furlong as John Connor. Also joining the cast were Claire Danes as Kate Brewster and Kristiana Loken as the deadly T-X.

The film was released in 2003 and was popular with audiences and critics.

Nick Stahl does well as John Connor effectively portraying a young man with the weight of terrible knowledge on his shoulders.

Linda Hamilton turned down the movie so her character was written out. In wanting to keep the thematic thread of strong female character central to the story the character of Kate Brewster was created. Claire Danes does well with the part and has a satisfying character arc not unlike Sarah Connor’s in the original film.

The absence of Sarah Connor is actually a good thing for the film as it really helps the character of John Connor come into his own. He finally takes centre stage.

Kristiana Loken does well as the T-X but her performance feels a bit cheesy at times.

It may surprise my readers to hear this – but I actually really like this movie. When a franchise is continued without the involvement of it’s creator – there’s a danger that the replacement creative powers will be governed by committee and lose sight of the property’s heart and soul. Not unlike the recent concern around Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise.

Luckily Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines has it’s own distinct identity – even if the plot does somewhat crib from the previous instalment. Jonathan Mostow and his team do a really good job.

This movie perhaps surprisingly is largely played for laughs. It has a very twisted sense of humour to it. A streak of black comedy. That given the subject matter makes this movie strangely reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The BombEspecially with the bold ending when the apocalypse ACTUALLY occurs. A bleak ending it may be – but it means that John Connor is finally ready to face his destiny.

It’s fitting that this would be Schwarzenegger’s last film before temporarily retiring from acting to take political office.

He puts in a very knowing performance as this latest incarnation of his most iconic character. He’s obviously very aware that there is an element of parody to the proceedings and alters his performance accordingly. He’s a hoot here, delivering his trademark one liners with a never before seen hint of gallows humour.

So there you have it people. My final word on these movies. Terminator Salvation isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen but I don’t think I would ever be able to find interesting to say about it.

The less said about Terminator Genisys the better.

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines however is a different story. It may not have the guiding hand of James Cameron – but Jonathan Mostow is a more than adequate substitute.

The Man Who Saved Movies. Desire is irrelevant. I am… a MACHINE!!! 


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  • Even though more than a decade had passed since T2, my almost annual viewing of that movie on VHS and then DVD had kept me more than primed for T3. I was pumped and I went in, even knowing that JC wasn’t working on it, with a huge sense of anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed. The action scenes in this movie, particularly the TX driving that giant crane vehicle, are a sight to see. I didn’t care too much for Nick Stahl as John Connor but he did well and the rest of the cast, especially Arnold, delivered performances with a believability that made the whole movie work. There are some dull and uninteresting bits, especially Kate’s backstory and the TX as a whole, and the cinematography doesn’t feel as rich as T2, but this story moves with a purpose and there is never any let up once things get rolling. I love this movie, warts and all. Stu as I was reading your review I had already thought that T3 was akin to how Disney has handled the Star Wars saga, and bang, your very next paragraph took the words right out of my head. You really need to stop reading my mind. 😉

    • The Magic Hunter

      This one was where I stepped away from the franchise, but you and Stu have convinced me to give it a try. I’d forgotten that Mostow directed it; I liked his submarine movie.

      • Shit, I just spoiled the fucking ending in my other post. Sorry man, I’ll edit it now in case you didn’t read it. If you did, my apologies.

      • Never saw that submarine film ?, but I can recommend Breakdown. Great performance from Kurt Russell there.

        • The Magic Hunter

          Oh, yeah, I caught half of that on HBO and always meant to restart it! It’ll be good training for the summer family trip to the Southwest…

      • KGrimes

        He did Breakdown as well, a nice little Hitchcockian thriller starring Kurt Russell.

        Edit: Should’ve scrolled down first, I see that Breakdown’s already been mentioned!

    • Great minds think alike ?!

    • You know, Stahl’s not that bad. A bit too gen x, but a realistic portrayal of a formerly brattish kid that’s living with paranoia no one should have to live with.

  • I_am_better

    I’ve often wondered what this movie could’ve been if Furlong didn’t end up taking the Usual Child Star Route(tm); drugs, alcohol, restraining orders etc.
    I just never bought Stahl as that character.

    That being said, I like the action scenes a lot – even though that squeaky sound the inflatable whatever makes when it gets hit during the car chase is something that makes my cry “WTF?”. Some humor in this film is just too juvenile.

    Love the ending. It’s perfect

    • The downer ending was excellent. I went in spoiler-free and I loved it. The shot of the bombs dropping was heartbreaking and brilliant at the same time.

      • Absolutely

      • Yes; quite unpredictable too. The realisation dawns on the audience at about the same time it does the hero. It’s well done.

      • President of what?

        Definately ballsy!

        • In a way that very few movies are these days. I hope Disney shows some balls and has Rey turn to the Dark Side.

          • President of what?

            Did you think Han being killed off was ballsy, or just a gimmick for shock value’s sake?

          • Gimmick, coupled with Harrison Ford’s desire to end the character. It does make things interesting for Kylo Ren, I mean at this point he’s the ultimate anti-Luke, but it still felt like a gimmick. Han was doing something noble, trying to save his boy, but I think the writers needed to do more work.

          • President of what?

            Well fucking said!! Han’s death scene was not ambitious and did not have any emotional weight. Here’s me going into further detail.

          • Thanks! Please know that I do love TFA but as with anything I love, MANY things about it frustrate me, especially the way Han was handled. He says to Leia, “I went back to the only thing I was ever any good at.” yet throughout the movie he fucks up too egregiously to ignore. He knows BB-8 is being hunted, yet he lets the droid sit between his feet when the Guavians show up. THEN he takes the FUCKING THING RIGHT THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR OF MAZ’S CASTLE!! Dipshit! Han, you’re NOT any good at this anymore! Then, even though he’s trying to reach his son, he walks straight into a trap on that walkway bridge. Fuck’s sake, Han, you’re better than that.

          • President of what?

            LMMFAO This wasn’t the suave badass pilot who “shot first” that i grew up with. I facepalmed myself the minute he asked Chewie for his Crossbow and said “I like this”! WTFF??!!?? I can see why Lucas wasn’t happy with the end result. I felt that there were scenes in TFA that couldv’e been handled much better.

          • The script definitely could’ve used one, maybe two, more drafts.

            edit: and I like your write-up. All valid points!

          • President of what?

            Thanks!! Have a great weekend, I’m outta hea! (0=

          • Thanks, you do the same! Later, homes.

          • President of what?

            LMMFAO@”Homes”. Okay,esse. (:’

          • Erm… err… I have no argument against any of this. Shit. Still love the film though!

          • Me, too! That’s how I know it’s real love, that I can embrace the things that bug me along with the fun stuff.

          • I love it for different reasons than I love the old ones though. Those wonderful originals are “my” Star Wars films. These new ones are Star Wars for my kids. Not me. And since I’ve got girls, I’m pleased that the big new Star Wars hero is this young woman Rey.
            My daughters respond really well to positive female role models (this is why I’ve been showing my oldest girl some James Cameron films) – so to me Force Awakens was a GREAT way to get them into Star Wars and make it something I can share with them… if that makes sense.

          • Makes complete sense. My daughter is only 2 so understandably she’s drawn to the funny characters like Chewie and R2 but in time I know she’ll grasp the hero aspect, as yours do.

          • Totally. Christmas 2015 was the best Christmas I’ve ever had as an adult. Taking my kids to The Force Awakens. Seeing their faces on Christmas Day when they opened up all their new Star Wars goodies.
            It was very meaningful to me. It’s theirs now. And I’m cool with that!

          • That’s what it’s all about!

          • Absolutely! Check out this Toys R Us commercial. It’ll strike a chord. At the end of it – you’ll pump your fists in the air! 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRfIcd-fQeo

          • Man, right in the heart!

          • Absolutely!

          • I enjoyed that read and tweeted a link to it!

          • President of what?

            Thanks Stu. Unfortunately, I disabled my Twitter account due to the social media becoming too anti social as of late. Long story, friend.

          • Make it short! What happened?

          • President of what?


          • How so?

          • President of what?

            You know how you guys had that Brexit vote, well…now we have Trump!
            Because of my anti-Trump stance, i have lost friends both online and offline. Twitter has gotten too ugly and I got a bit weary of almost every tweet that is Trump related. This country has now become more of a joke than ever because of all that is going on. At the same time, I get a good chuckle from this fool “President Joffrey” who is walking comedy fodder. X) X)
            What isn’t funny is how Trump’s cabinet is highly suspect and batshit legislation i.e. Mentally challenged individuals may now have the right to purchase Firearms.
            And don’t get me started on the Putin scandals among other questionable actions from administration.

          • Here in the UK we’re watching all of this unfold in utter disbelief – believe me. As a country we’re trying to have your back in any way possible.
            Scores of people have signed a protest against Trump’s planned state visit to our shores, and there has been protests about it outside Westminster too.
            It’s led to us being disgruntled with our own Prime Minister Theresa May who has been backwards in coming forwards about condemning this man’s deplorable behaviour. She can’t get her tongue out of his ass – it’s horrible to see.
            Luckily – the Head Speaker at the House of Commons – John Bercow has made it clear he doesn’t want Trump addressing Parliament. An action that has garnered him both praise and criticism from every side. I for one am glad he did it. Make me proud to be British.
            I hope good sense prevails and this nightmare for America reaches a peaceful and satisfying resolution.

          • President of what?

            Well said, friend and thanks!??

          • No worries dude.

          • I don’t really think it was a gimmick. Ford wanted the character killed off – and to be honest I don’t really see what place there is for him in future Star Wars films. To me it made sense on a narrative level.
            But yeah – the scene could’ve been done better.

          • I think it was Harrison Ford only wanting to do one movie ?

          • President of what?

            Well, he finally got his wish.

          • And oodles of money too.

          • Indrid Cold

            I’d LOVE if they went with the rumored Brett Hart/Stone Cold double turn….
            if you were never into wrestling you probably wouldn’t know what that means.

          • I was into wrestling but not a true hardcore fan. Still, what 80’s kid hadn’t heard of the Hulkster and Andre the Giant? By the time Stone Cold was around I had checked out, though.

          • Indrid Cold

            Got ya. Short version is that when the match started Bret Hart was the “good” guy and Stone Cold was the villain. By the end of the match Bret had turned heel and Austin was the hero. It was pretty epic.. as far as two guys in tights fake fighting goes.

          • Nice. I would like to see that, too! Rey turns, Kylo re-turns, Luke has to sort out the mess. I just hope Rian Johnson hasn’t shit the bed; he doesn’t need to exceed TESB but we need a step up in the game.

          • Indrid Cold

            plus, an evil Rey would be hot as hell.

          • HELL YES. Red eyes, gritting her teeth, dressed in black, seducing fools to bend them to her will…

          • Indrid Cold

            I want evil Rey to wear Mia Sara’s outfit from Legend.


          • Niiiiiiiiiice.

          • Video not available?

          • Indrid Cold

            eh…I’m at work right now and the firewall blocks everything. I copied and pasted the link but I can’t see from here if it works or not.

          • Ah. I don’t think I ever watched Legend. Good?

          • Indrid Cold

            It’s a polarizing movie.. I personally love it. The cinematography and dream like atmosphere blow me away. There are two different versions of the film, one with the Tangerine Dream soundtrack and one with a score from James Horner. I grew up on the one with Tangerine Dream… and to me it’s one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever (if not a tad on the cheesy side).
            Tim Curry plays Darkness.. which is the most kick ass version of Satan ever put on film.

          • I may have to take a look at it someday. I LOVE Tangerine Dream! I’ve got two CD sets of their stuff. I also love their music for another Tom Cruise movie. Risky Business. Now that is a GREAT film. Very clever too,

          • Indrid Cold

            For sure.. Ricky business is great.

            please watch it and then dedicate your review to MEEEEEEE!!!!

            But seriously, I’d love to hear what you think about it.

          • Hmm… We’ll see ?

          • Dude. Step away from the computer and don’t come back until you’ve had a cold shower.

          • You underestimate my POWERRR!

          • Ugh… thanks for reminding me of Fuckball there… ugh – I HATE Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker!

          • Yeah, me too. LOOKS great but sounds like a whiny punk.

          • The action figures made of him had more acting talent than he did.

          • Genuine laugh out loud. And with only 5 points of articulation!

          • At least they had some kind of monetary value.

          • OOOOUCH!

          • Yeah – maybe I went a bit too far there…

          • No, I love it. 🙂

          • He’s probably a real nice guy…

          • I wish him all the best.

          • Hmm…

          • Nothing could possibly exceed TESB. It really doesn’t come any better than that one.

          • NOTHING!

          • It’s almost supernatural how good that film is.

          • I do NOT want to see that happen. Sorry Dude, totally disagree on that one.

          • I would feature your comment but I do not have a talkback. 😉
            Really? You don’t think it would be a classic “HOLY SHIT” moment to see her fall? She can then be redeemed in X, XI, and XII.

          • I want her to be to my girls what Luke Skywalker was to me. A hero they can emulate and look up to.
            Besides – we’ve seen that “hero falls” story done in the prequel trilogy. And I think we ALL know how that turned out! 😉
            btw – sometime pretty soon I’m going back to Star Wars and doing something pretty big about it. Maybe for May the 4th.
            I’ll also be doing a big thing about how I think the prequels went wrong and how they could’ve been better.
            Watch this space!
            In the meantime – things are going a bit comic book tomorrow! 😉

          • Well, yeah, no one wants another prequel trilogy. Except maybe Rick McCallum.
            Brother, you KNOW I will be here!

          • Wouldn’t have it any other way my friend! 🙂

    • Yeah, the ending is great!

      • I_am_better

        Another pure WTF-moment is when the T-X makes that O-face when she discovers John Connors’ blood. Totally bizarre storytelling choice there. Aren’t these supposed to be emotionless killing machines?

    • President of what?

      “I just never bought Stahl as that character.”

    • I think it’s more the stark contrast between the fun kid and the fucked up adult. which is kind of understandable. After all, he’s living with the same knowledge that had his mum locked up.

      • Yeah… good insight there. I know there was a deleted scene from the movie’s beginning where he was contemplating suicide. The lack Judgement Day made him feel like he had nothing to live for. When he realises it is still going to happen it gives him a new lease of life in a perverse kind of way. Something could’ve been done a bit more with his conflicting emotions on the subject.

  • KGrimes

    I like this one as well. It’s a blast counting how many walls the terminators throw each other through and that ending was, at the time, a genuinely unexpected punch to the gut. The kind of nihilism and helplessness not often seen in films (and usually criticized when it happens).

    I do think the humour does a disservice to the film, and is the weakest point–especially considering how poorly the gags have aged (talk about cringe!). But I would take this Terminator installment over the McG wreck. Terminator Genisys plays for humour as well, but most of it was unintentional :).

    PS I have to admit that I went into Genisys with the prefect frame of mind/expectations and ended up really enjoying the experience. I knew the days of T1/T2 were far, far behind us, and the action and effects were really impressive. Acting? Meh. Story? I can’t even try to care anymore. Entertainment? Yup!

    • Terminator Genisys is an abortion

      • KGrimes

        LOL! It was bad, but it was schlocky bad, which I expected. I ended up just laughing and enjoying the ride/lengths the writers went to in order to try and explain the mess they’d made. Honestly, I rate it higher than Salvation simply b/c Salvation took itself waaaaay too seriously. At least Genisys kinda had an idea it was terrible and tried to be fun instead.

        Although I doubt I’ll ever rewatch either of them.

        • I agree with that last part…

        • This helped me understand Genisys:


          • Does this make it a good film?

          • I don’t know but I laughed my ass off. 🙂

          • I’ll watch it when I’m back at the big computer.

          • KGrimes

            yrs ago they did a hilarious mashup of them watching the Resident Evil franchise where Rich is wearing that very same vest and I left a comment asking why he was wearing a life vest to watch a buncha movies.

            Part of me hopes I inspired that joke as a result.

          • Nice! We know they do read and take comments to heart, so that is very likely.

          • When I was seeing John Wick 2 with the wife the other night – I noticed “Resident Evil 7” on the marquee – and I said to my wife “Why are they still making those films? Who’s actually watching them?!?!”
            I know I’m not.

          • KGrimes

            Saw the first one in theaters b/c I was a die hard fan of the games. That’s about it.

          • The only game I played right through was Resident Evil 2 when it came out on the Nintendo 64. I really got into it. I’ve tried other RE games but I just get bored and give up.
            I only saw the first movie and like you I decided not to bother with the rest. Can barely remember it.

          • President of what?

            The other Resident Evil games bored you?? (Even Code Veronica???) That’s a first.!

          • To be honest dude… it feels to me like when you’ve played one of those you’ve played them all.

          • President of what?

            Then you haven’t played RE4 nor the latest installment which is now a game changer in the franchise! 😛

          • Maybe one day

  • President of what?

    Question: What does both Terminator 3 and Alien 3 have in common?
    Answer: Aside from being no.3 from a highly acclaimed sci fi franchise, both were fairly entertaining and both shat over James Cameron’s “legacy”. Terminator 2 wrapped up perfectly (Especially in regard to the hokey but optimistic director’s cut ending.) but I guess it wasn’t enough so the nuclear war happened regardless of Sarah’s heroic efforts and to kill her off via cancer left a bad taste.as in too moribund. Then again, Ripley’s fate was the worse when it came tol science fiction heroines in cinema. Sure T3 was ballsy for going that route in the end, but the cynical part within me, saw it as an continutation for Kassar and Vajina. (Oops, did I pronounce that name right? LOL)

    • yeah, but T3 is more like a good film than Alien 3 is.

      • President of what?

        I’ll give ya that! (;’

        • Not hard though! ?

          • President of what?

            There was more emotional impact in Alien 3 than T3 especially during the final scene involving Ripley’s fate.
            At the end of T3, I didn’t feel that sense of loss and Sarah being written off like that was kinda as if she never realy existed. It felt cheap IMO. But yes, T3 is better than Alien 3 although that may be debatable so some.

          • None of Alien 3 moved me emotionally. Just thought it was overwrought and dumb. Stupid, dull fucking movie.

          • President of what?

            I disagree. Ripley’s pain, loss and death had an emotional impact to the extent that I loathed Fincher and Fox for throwing so much melancholy toward this sequel. As much as i was disappointed in Alien 3, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was stupid. Unnecessary, fuck yes but not stupid.

          • Pfft… Well…

          • President of what?


  • This whole film is spoiled by the female terminator, who is sort of what the ‘back burster’ is to the new Alien film: unnecessary, illogical and tokenistic. If, instead of trying to ‘one-up’ the T-1000, they’d just reverted to a T-800 (hell, even Arnie fighting himself!) the film would have been on much stronger footing. The Terminatrix made the whole thing feel made for TV.

  • jackcolton

    there are parts of this film I really like, the truck chase comes to mind, the ending, but the whole series had softened by this stage. gone was the relentless violent dark nature of the first and to a lesser degree the second, and instead we have the terminator wearing Elton John Sunglasses and barking ‘quiet’ like some disgruntled grandpa. the female terminator, While a good idea in theory, is a let down due to being too similar in movement to Robert Patricks and with her endless weaponry, smirks and gazes, the terminatrix comes off too cheap and cheesy to be scary. nice arse though.