Film Reviews


By • Jul 27th, 2003 •

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If you were an actress and your best friend was married to the biggest movie star in the world for ten years, would you be bragging about it if the only acting jobs you got were CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV and TANK GIRL? Couldn’t your dearest friend have helped you with a few introductions?

Naomi Watts, I could have been a better friend to you than Nicole Kidman was.

It’s the same old story we have been dying to see again for ten years. The out-dated Terminator-from-the-Future (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has to once again save stubborn, “Aw shucks, why me?” John Connor (Nick Stahl). Yes, he remembers his mother’s admonitions and the dark, dank future awaiting Mankind. Yes, he remembers “Hasta la vista, baby.” He’s hiding in plain sight, roaming the country, staying anonymous. However, a gorgeous new Terminator, T-X (Kristanna Loken), has arrived in L.A. Her mission? Kill John Connor and all his future lieutenants.

First thing of note, Arnold looks fabulous. He’s pumped back up and whether it’s a mannequin impersonating him, a realistic stunt double, or face and body putty, he’s somehow erased ten years without looking like a feminized Michael Douglas. This time, the Terminator talks a lot. He’s downright chatty. He has to explain what happened in THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. Someone also has to explain the dull, convoluted network, Skynet, that will cause the rise of the machines and the takeover of the planet, and update the technical advances of the T-X over the previous T-1000 (Robert Patrick).

No star wants to be responsible for “exposition,” yet screenwriters have not been able to find a good way of bringing back the maligned, but essential, Greek Chorus. This has a way of slowing down the story, especially when you are being hunted by a raging, extreme killing machine with only one purpose. Thankfully, the Terminator only talks while firing a grenade-launcher or carrying a casket.

Are we still waiting for Judgment Day?

Screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (writers of David Fincher’s complex, smart movie THE GAME, starring the aforementioned Michael Douglas) do not bother refining, or, for that matter, deepening the Terminator bible. That would be like updating The Koran. Instead, we have all the set pieces that are retread, but who cares? The Terminator arrives naked, gets his leather outfit, and gets the sunglasses. He’s a new Terminator made to resemble the old Terminator, but still an older model. There’s no “I’m your father” twist.

Connor’s reluctant aide is Kate (Claire Danes) who remembers kissing him in junior high school. Their fates were sealed. Danes has an anguished, intelligent face that works well here. What she lacks, and might indeed aspire to, is Sarah (Linda Hamilton) Connor’s ferocious determinism and iron will. Perhaps Kate will come into her own in TERMINATOR 4? Stahl’s “I’m running away from my Savior of Mankind destiny” attitude leaves him wallowing around without much sex appeal. Perhaps he will mature and show some Spartan grit in the next one.

It’s all about the casting and Loken is a fabulous find. She’s got one expression and, like Robert Patrick, its “pure resolve.” Loken is so definitively exact that the beating she takes from Arnold is not gender offensive.

Director Jonathan Mostow has a lot of technical dazzle to get up on the screen, so character work and nuances are secondary here. The action scenes are extreme and spectacular, as T-X, in a mammoth crane, destroys everything in a fifty-mile radius. This is the kind of havoc we, the “Shock and Awe Nation,” expect.

I’m thrilled that the Terminator has stopped obeying a boy and has taken charge of the future. And finally, Judgment Day has arrived. The expectation was killing me.

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