Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003): Feels Like a Made for Television Movie and Misses What Made It’s Predecessors Good

Terminator_3_poster

     This was not a good film, not by any stretch of the imagination. At it’s best it is a forgettable action film that misses the entire point of what made the other 2 films good and at it’s worst it is an example of so many of the things Hollywood and the Studios can get wrong about making films. Where the other films had memorable characters and stylized ways in which scenes were cast this one has forgettable character and cinematography that looks like it came out of a low budget television movie. For an end to a trilogy (an end that wasn’t needed in the first place) this one missed the mark by a long shot.

    The film was directed by Jonathan Mostow and written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris who also did the story with Tedi Sarafian. The film was produced by Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels, Hal Lieberman and Colin Wilson.

    The story involves a T-X being sent back in time to kill all the resistant leaders before they have the chance to join John Connor while John Connor is just trying to survive. When the T-X discovers him her mission changes as she hunts him and his future wife Kate Brewster. From here the story unfolds as Future John has also sent back an updated Model 101 to defend them and prepare John for Judgement Day.

The Pros: Nick Stahl – Nick Stahl does a great job as John Connor, but he is given such a horrible script that nothing can be done with it. This movie is a terrible joke that he is in the middle of and his talent is wasted here, he does a good job with what he has though.

Okay: The Action – Some of the action sequences are decent, like the fight on a moving crane as cars chase Kate and John but some are pretty bad too, especially since the action serves no purpose. We know Arnold is the Terminator and after “T2” we are supposed to root for him I guess? So none of the action serves a purpose, John and Kate also never get the chance to stand on their own, they always need to be saved from the T-X.

The Cons: The Writing – The writing is just bad. It keeps trying to take the one liners from “The Terminator” and “T2” to bring back nostalgia but fails terribly. It also tries to make the new Model 101 literal and not know human nature but know it enough to create awkward jokes about mating…and recycling catch phrases. This script hurts the mind. There was no effort in creating it.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is forgettable. It’s liking watching a SyFy original movie or something made on a really low budget with zero creativity. Nothing is emphasized and characters and moments are forgotten as nothing is focused on…this is an example of what not to do.

T-X – T-X is the sexualized Terminator. She appears and always chooses the partner of whomever she is hunting and it even has her licking blood sexually to recognize who she killed. What a joke. She is meant to be super-powered but she only manages to kill the Model 101 who we all knew was going to die anyway and should have never been in this film in the first place. This is the kind of villain you’d see in a terrible B Movie or an original SyFy movie…basically this villain is an insult and a joke. She feels like a character that was created in a board room where they thought that people like models who are good looking and sex sells so lets put it in a Terminator!

The 2nd Model 101 – The first Model 101 had an arc, this one is just a plot device. If John needs to hook up with Kate the Model 101 will provide the means, if John needs to toughen up the Model 101 will grow his anger…and if someone needs rescueing or the T-X needs to be killed, the Model 101 is here. There is no character and the only reason Arnold was brought back is he is such an iconic part of this Series but he can’t carry it. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese carried the first film and John Connor and Sarah Connor carried the second one. The Model 101 in “T2” was a good supporting character because he changed and was a character, this one is a plot device and a poor one at that. It is a cynical play at nostalgia.

Kate Brewster – Kate is there for John and that’s it. Her whole point is to become his wife so she isn’t given any choice. She is wholly defined by her Father who is in charge of the new Skynet and John who was her first kiss and future husband. She has no agency and is always running. She helps trap the T-X at one point and she traps John when he breaks into her clinic at the beginning and nothing else. She was a wasted character…like most of the characters in this film.

Forgettable Characters – There are a few minor characters who would later join the resistance who all get killed and there are some blank characters like Kate’s father and fiance who die just to advance the plot and get John to the area where he can lead the resistance as the world is ending. They are there and I didn’t feel their deaths at all.

Sexualizing the Terminators – The T-800 steals his clothes from a stripping gigalo but he is never sexualized the one Female Terminator is we see. From licking blood off her finger, to killing the future resistance members by luring them in…there isn’t even an emotionless robot thing going on. This Terminator doesn’t feel like a robot at all and all that is played up is the tech and sex…

Bad Comedy – The Terminator Model 101 doesn’t get sex, he had catch phrases and repeats phrases back like “I cannot each shit and die.” It was going for humor but it feels so forced and no one is in it or cares (and the writing doesn’t help) so it just comes off as fake and stilted.

Inconsistent Tone – Brutal deaths intermixed with terrible jokes and the end of the world and us wanting to feel hope at the end now that John is fulfilling his destiny and leading the resistance for humanity? There is no theme, there is no focus and there is no consistent tone. It is just bad.

James Cameron should have been the one to complete his trilogy. Rarely does trading writers and directors because the studio wishes it…lead to anything good. This film is it’s own special kind of terrible and there is nothing good to say about it beyond it having serviceable action and Nick Stahl doing the best he could with a really crappy script. This film was clearly a cynical cash grab and it shows. There is no soul in this film and it was hoping that attaching “Terminator” to the title and having Arnold make an appearance again that it would be saved…missing the point of the second one that the only reason the T-800 returning as Model 101 worked was due to him being the enemy of the first film and how it’s existence helped Sarah Connor to grow and see a new perspective, and also to show us that Terminator’s could change too. This film has none of that, there is no depth, the character arcs that are there are forgettable and predictable and the end of the world, “Judgment Day” happens and it doesn’t mean thing. This film was a waste and is not worth your time.

Final Score: 2 / 10

Carnivale Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Milfay” – Of Good, Evil and Outsiders

Carnivale      If you’ve been reading the blog for a while now you’ve probably found that I do love shows or movies that incorporate mythology into them, and do it well. Be it Heaven, Hell and the Apocalypse in shows like “Supernatural” and “Sleepy Holow” (and this show), or shows that play off Greek and Christian Mythologies like “Battlestar Galactica.” For me these myths have the potential to teach us about ourselves, as any good story can. It was discussing this with my Grandfather when he suggested this show, and he got me hooked.

I’ll be reviewing episodes of “Carnival” sporadically, but I do plan on going through the entire season since the show itself isn’t that long. The show was created by Daniel Knauf who served as Producer along with Ronald Moore (one of my favorite directors and producers) and Howard Klein. Daniel Knauf wrote the first episode while Rodrigo Garcia directed.

The premise begins with the mythology of the show as one of the Carnies, a Dwarf named Samson who has power says,

“Before the beginning, after the great war between Heaven and Hell, God created the Earth and gave dominion over it to the crafty ape he called Man. And to each generation was born a creature of light and a creature of darkness, and great armies would clash by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then, nobility, and unimaginable cruelty. And so it was, until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason.”

From here the story unfolds following an ex-con named Ben Hawkins who is haunted by dreams of being hunted by a tattooed man. He awakes and we are in the time of the Great Depression as he is watching his mother die as she is scared of him. From here the story unfolds as two people from the Carnival stand up for him leaving him with the dilemma of recognizing his power and to join or not join the Carnival, fully leaving his past behind to start again.

Here is the assessment of the pilot:

The Pros: The Cinematography – The Cinematography is fantastic! The scenes that catch the desperation are beautiful as the dust shows how desolate Ben and other characters feel. We also see some spectacular visions that are done to give us glimpses into the minds of the characters.

The Writing – From Samson (Michael J. Anderson of “Twin Peaks” fame) being the co-manager and guy who isn’t fully trustworthy but has good intentions, to Ben’s mysterious past and the mysterious present of Pastor Justin Crowe. The elements of supernatural pervade the themes and the dreams while never fully integrating themselves except for a scene where Pastor Crowe makes a woman throw up money after she stole and Ben resurrects a kitten and makes a little girl walk again.

The Music – The music is amazing! It keeps the mysterious feel and strange of what makes the Carnival and the Carnival while keeping religious themes in it too the way “Battlestar Galactica” did. Wendy Molvoin and Lisa Coleman were perfect composers for the theme and music.

The Characters – All the characters who have scene get great exploration that shows them to be more complex than they first appear to be. This is an ensemble show even though Ben and Justin are the primary drivers of the story.

Samson – I really like Michael J. Anderson, his being co-manager with the mysterious Management makes for an interesting situation as he is the one who is practical but also can be cruel and kind. He offers himself as a mentor figure to Ben but is rejected. I’m curious to see what his relationship to Management is like, as well as the rest of the carnival.

Brother Justin Crowe – He is set up as the powerful and possible antagonist as it is left open if he made the lady who stole throw up quarters since she stole one…and he later has a vision outside an erotic dance bar of a red cross over it in neon after it snows and rains blood upon him…and we see Ben have a vision of him with black eyes jumping out. So he’s probably the well meaning antagonist when the story gets deeper in. Clancy Brown is great for this role.

Jonesy – Works the Ferris Wheel, has a kind heart towards children but is contrasted with his looking down on women. After Sofia is nearly raped in town he tells her she shouldn’t have gone out. She smacks him thankfully but internalizes what he says later. We do see him help a crippled girl ride the Ferris Wheel for free though and gives her and the boy she’s with an extra ticket.

Sofia – Sofia is the one who reminds Ben of his past by reading his guards, which reveal his past and the kitten he brought back to life that his mother killed and caused him to suppress his powers. She stands up for herself against Jonesey’s sexism and fights the rapists but is contrasted by her saying Jonesey was right to Ben showing the growth she still has to go through in regards to respecting herself. She lives with her mother who is in a coma and talks to her through her mind. They are an act at the Carnival. Clea Duvall was good for this role.

Lila – Is the bearded lady who has compassion for Ben. She is the most experienced of the Carnies as far as how comfortable she is in her face. I can’t wait to learn more about her character. Debra Christofferson plays the character.

Ben Hawkins – The primary character haunted by dreams and the protagonist of the series. We don’t know fully what put him in prison or why he is so guarded about his past but we know he can perform miracles as he resurrected a cat and made a girl walk again at the end of the pilot. I’m curious about this character even though the Carnies are at time more compelling. Nick Stahl was chosen for the role and it is a good fit at this point.

The Themes – Good and Evil, Heaven and Hell, Wealthy and Poor, Privileged and Victimized, Corrupt and Good. These themes are captured really well and I expect they’ll be throughout given Samson’s opening speech.

Okay: Slow Start – The pilot is slow at times which is good for building tension and setting tone but I would have liked more drama between characters. It’s not bad but can’t put it as a pro either.

So far I really like this series and I was glad my Grandfather got me into it. I like how the Supernatural element is subtle unlike “Supernatural” or “Sleepy Hollow,” which are both shows I really like, but are both strongest when we are being teased by the mythology and discover it over time. This is what makes this show really great, besides the amazing producers, the fact it’s on HBO (giving it more flexibility in what it can do) and working the mythology into the ensemble cast and covering the fascinating era of the Great Depression. The choosing of a Carnival as the main area of drama with Crowe’s town on the other side of the story. It gives a  nice contrast of the poor and outcast versus the wealthy and privileged.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10. A great start to the series.