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


     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

The Good Son (1993): Why Child Actors Can’t Drive a Story or An Unintended Comedy

The Good Son

“The  Good Son,” is a movie I chose because it was one of the bad movies requested to be reviewed on my facebook…and suffice to say it is bad. The movie stars a young Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin in a screenplay that was written by Ian McEwan (one of my favorite authors) and directed by Joseph Ruben.

The premise is a young boy named Mark is taken in by his Aunt and Uncle after his Father goes abroad on a business trip (literally right after his wife has died) after his mother’s death and from there has to deal with his psychopathic cousin named Henry.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The unintended Comedy – One of the few good things I can say about this film is that it has some funny moments…these are largely because both the kids and adults can’t act so serious moments end up coming off as strange and outlandish. For example, Henry shooting a dog, Henry’s threats to his sister, Mom and Mark and others. “Home Alone,” Culkin just isn’t scary. This is one reason I think putting kids in leading roles is a bad idea, most cannot act and it just comes off as funny when attempts at drama are made.

Okay: The Music – The music tries, but it is still standard early 90’s fair. It isn’t bad (there are a lot of other bad things), but the music isn’t one of them. It is just forgettable.

The Cinematography – There are some moments that are good, such long shots over a cemetery, but there are some bad ones too (every forest running shot) so in the end it just ends up being okay. It doesn’t lend itself to creating tension…the actors don’t either.

Cons: The acting – The acting is absolutely terrible in this. From the Aunt and Uncle who make Keanu in the “Matrix” look and sound expressive…to Elijah Wood and Culkin who come off as trying way too hard. They don’t seem believable and all they have is the music to help them to look as if they are believable. The other issue is the script…which doesn’t help them.

The Writing – Ian McEwan is a great writer, this is not great writing. It is a shame that they chose to make the kids so young, the idea would have worked better with the creepy cousin thing with one being older (High School looking actors), instead we have little kids trying their best and flailing. Most of the script is telling us and not showing us…though we get a few moments of showing, it just isn’t enough since it doesn’t go anywhere. Ian McEwan has had some stories that were okay, and at best this screenplay would have been that…but because of the presentation, it becomes a con.

The Ending – In the end the mother makes a choice of choosing her new adopted son Mark (who has creepily imprinted on his Aunt as being his new Mother since his Father just left him) or Henry. She obviously chooses Mark since Henry had tried to kill her seconds before and even gloated about it. It doesn’t lead anywhere and doesn’t feel like a choice. So Mark finds a new family? That wouldn’t have happened if his father had been an actual father and stuck around. Plus his adopted family isn’t much better, what with all the negligence in this movie.

This movie is funny in how it tries to be a tense horror film. There was no tension and no horror. If you are looking for a movie that misses the point of it’s premise and want to see a young Elijah Wood, check it out. But if you are looking for quality, avoid this like the plague. Joseph Ruben did not know how to cast or direct horror films or thrillers based off this movie.

My Score for this film is 3 / 10, and those points only exist because of unintended hilarity of this entire film which was the only thing keeping it from becoming boring.