Directed by Jonathan Mostow
June 30, 2003 (Westwood, Los Angeles) / July 2, 2003 (United States)
John Connor (Nick Stahl) is in hiding and living off the grid in an effort to keep as low of a profile as possible. But an accident puts him on a collision course with his destiny and the inevitability of Judgment Day. Now John must flee Skynet’s newest assassin, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), and survive Judgement Day.
I admit to liking this one. Not as good as the original but way better than Genesys or Dark Fate. Unlike those two, it at least takes the Terminator mythology and expands upon it without trying to dump or completely alter it. It continues the story rather try to create something that is little better than a “what if?” scenario.
John is weighed down by probable future events. Even though the date has come and gone without the bombs falling or the machines taking over he is still afraid. And justifiably so because it appears Judgment Day will happen regardless.
The basic idea that makes this movie possible is that some events are inevitable. You can delay them and put them off but some things no matter how terrible will happen and ultimately you cannot walk away from your destiny. I found that a very interesting concept. Terminator 2 was all about changing the future and that’s a nice idea but in my opinion it leaves a lot of questions like how does everything happen in the future if nothing happens in the past if nothing happens in the future? There is no time loop. It introduces alternate timelines to the whole thing and muddles the story.
I was never down with the “we save the future” of T2. The first film was about a time loop and destiny. Skynet by coming back to kill John Connor created John Connor and sealed its fate in multiple ways. Its theme was inevitability. It had hints of hope for the future even though things would be dark. This continues that.
The twist in the plot this time round is that the mission is not necessarily to kill John Connor though that becomes a priority should he be encounter. The mission here is to destroy the leadership of the Resistance. That includes everyone from his lieutenants to his wife Katherine “Kate” Brewster (Claire Danes) who currently is engaged to another man named Scott (Mark Famiglietti).
I have two real issues when it comes to Scott and neither one of them have to do with the character addition itself. First of all, when the T-X kills Scott she kills him in the most gruesome way she possibly can with her circular saw weapon. That is an unnecessary level of gore for something that is supposed to be in efficient killing machine. Why not just snap his neck? Maybe make a stabbing weapon with your hand and hack his head off or go through his throat.
The second is when the T-X is impersonating Scott. That is quite possibly the spaciest performance of anybody being impersonated by a Terminator or by a Terminator in general. It comes off more as high rather than machine like. How the cops did not flag him as something wrong right there is unknown.
Another drawback is that in presentation the film itself can look like a well-produced television movie. The framing of the shots and the look of the environment at times does not always step up to feature film quality. I am not sure what went wrong here at times. For a multimillion-dollar production the shots were tight, and the background looked lightly populated.
In the first Terminator Skynet had very little information to go on other than Sarah Connor’s name and the area in which she lived. That is why the T-101 went through the phonebook in order of listing and killed each “Sarah Connor” in it. It knew John had yet to be born and that she lived in the LA area at this time but where exactly or what she looked like was an unknown. Starting with T2 and each successive film Skynet had more and more information on John and/or Sarah. With as fragmented as records were said to be in the first how did Skynet gain so much information?
The fight scenes between the T-X and the T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) play out here more like superhero battles than they do two machine combatants. The T-X is designed to take a serious beating and getting hit by vehicles and flying through the air is acceptable in that context but the T-101 is as implied and as stated an older and thus inferior design. But in Rise of the Machines it is getting knocked around and ridiculously beat up. I know Terminators are supposed to be very durable things that will not stop until their mission is completed but the level of damage Schwarzenegger takes and gets back up from is of a much higher amount than was ever sustained in the first or second film without some serious detriments to functionality. The T-101 even got its head broken off and it was able to fix itself.
This time around in the T-X we get a hybrid of the first two models: A Terminator with a liquid metal covering that allows it to change form and produce useful future weapons. It is a cool idea, but I am not sure how that jives with the science of time travel that was described in the first film. Metal cannot make it through time travel but being wrapped in flesh helped the first Terminator to make it through. That is questionable but it worked. The second film put a lot of questions on how it all actually worked considering the T-1000 was liquid metal. They never really did explain why it did not just fly apart in the time stream. I could see how a flesh covered machine could have some insulation from the supposed issues caused by sending something that’s completely metal back, but I am looking too deep into this. Sometimes you just got to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the show.
And it is an enjoyable show from an action standpoint. They do up the action ante from the last two films even if they do make them more like a superhero brawl than two efficient killing machines duking it out.
I like that rather than try to rehash the idea of killing John they went with the idea of taking out his leadership. Forget the question of how Skynet got all that information to find these kids. This was a step in a better direction for the films in my opinion. Not every Terminator movie has to be focused on John Connor or Sarah Connor. There are other things that the Skynet could go after. In this case it was his leadership.
The twist alteration or however you wish to call it with Skynet being a disembodied computer program rather than a piece of equipment in a building was definitely interesting. But it begs the question of why wasn’t Skynet decentralized in the future? Was it no longer possible because of global control? Did the number of machines under its control necessitate a physical structure in order to maintain dominance?
The focus of the film is action. It is a series of chase sequences strung together which culminates in a machine uprising at the military base where Skynet is being developed. And that all begins off with an “Oh, crap!” moment when the government tired of what they believe to be a computer virus of unknown origin screwing everything up authorizes the release of the Skynet program and Kate‘s father Lieutenant General Robert Brewster (David Andrews) engages the program. Things get a little wonky with their equipment and then nothing and you know Skynet has finally come to power. It was a moment you had heard talked about for years before and you were witnessing it on screen and you just sat back in your theater seat and went “Oh, crap!” And then all the drones start killing everybody and it is just chaos.
I remember when John and Katherine were heading to Crystal Peak I was a little confused because the narrative up to that point since was certainly stressing that Skynet was a computer program and not necessarily a computer system with a physical location yet they were heading ostensibly to destroy one of the best movie villains ever. It was a bit of a shock to find out that her father was not sending her to the enemy to destroy it but trying to save them both.
Rise of the Machines is a great film. It is a worthy successor to the first two if not as good but that is a difficult thing to match. It is an exciting movie that builds upon what came before without completely altering it. This is a fine entry in the series that you will like. Watch it!