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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Produced by Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels, Hal Lieberman, and Colin Wilson. Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris. Release date: July 2, 2003.
Despite Terminator 2: Judgment Day making a ton of money, it took 12 years for the next entry in the franchise to be released. Production problems and an unwilling James Cameron delayed production much longer than probably anyone hoped, but in 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was finally released, this time, thankfully, with an adult John Connor.
The Terminator/T-850 (Arnold Schwarzenegger): A robot sent back in time in the first film, disguised as a human, to assassinate Sarah Connor. In the second film, he was sent back to protect John Connor, a task he performs once again in Terminator 3. Upgraded from the T-800 to the T-850 in this film.
John Connor (Nick Stahl): The protagonist. The son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Nick Stahl takes over from Edward Furlong in the role. John has now dedicated his life to stopping Judgment Day from happening.
T-X (Kristanna Loken): The villain. An incredibly advanced Terminator sent back in time to kill members of the Resistance.
Kate Brewster (Claire Danes): John's love interest, and in the future becomes his wife and second-in-command.
Lieutenant General Robert Brewster (David Andrews): Kate's father, and a weapons programmer.
Dr. Peter Silberman (Earl Boen): A psychologist who has both talked with Kyle Reese and monitored Sarah Connor. Has a cameo in Terminator 3, talking with Kate Brewster.
Living off the grid, a now-adult John Connor is living in Los Angeles. Judgment Day hasn't yet happened, even though it's now 2004, a full seven years after it was predicted. Skynet has now sent back a T-X, a highly advanced Terminator, to eliminate several soon-to-be high-profile members of the Resistance. Coincidentally, he robs the veterinarian clinic of Kate Brewster, with whom he went to high school, right as the T-X showed up to murder her. They are saved by the T-850. After a long chase scene, John, Kate, and the T-850 escape from their pursuer.
The T-850 informs John that he did not stop Judgment Day; he only postponed it. Meanwhile, the T-X kills Kate's fiancé and tracks down the trio. They once again escape. John and Kate force the T-850 to take them to the birthplace of Skynet, which is run by Kate's father, Robert, hoping to delay it further. They don't arrive in time, and Skynet gains control of all of the military's systems. This is how Judgment Day begins.
John and Kate fly to the core of Skynet - or at least what they believe to be the core - with hopes of shutting it down. What they find is a bunker. As the nuclear bombs begin to fall, John and Kate are safe inside the bunker. The T-850 detonates its nuclear core to blow up the T-X, and John and Kate begin to assume the leadership positions they will carry forward into the future.
Is It Any Good?
My answer to the big question right above is a resounding "maybe." While I don't think it comes close to being as good as the first two Terminator films, I do somewhat enjoy it in a "brainless action movie" kind of way. With that said, this is a franchise that has both brains and brawn, and when one of those is missing, it's going to feel disappointing. There's also a defeatist attitude in the film. If the last two films were about preventing or postponing Judgment Day, this one is about how inevitable the fall of man is. That's not exactly screaming "fun." But its action scenes are enjoyable, the jokes are more effective than they were in previous installments, so it's not like it's a complete waste.