Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

(In theaters, July 2003) As a big fan of Terminator 2, this sequel seemed like one of the most superfluous projects of all times. If James Cameron wasn’t on board, why even bother? It’s not as if T2 needed a sequel. If you really wanted one, well, there’s plenty of fan-fiction on the Internet and indeed that’s what Terminator 3 truly feels like: Without Cameron’s vision, we’re stuck with recycled imagery, pedestrian dialogues and mere continuations of previously-established elements rather than genuinely new things. It all culminates in (ooh, aah) a female Terminator, the “genius idea” of Terminator fan-writers for more than a decade. As the film unfolds, it never completely loses its taint of fan-fiction. This is obviously not The Vision, but An Adaptation that loosely connects with the original duology. Oh, as straight entertainment, Terminator 3 succeeds far more than it fails. There’s a pretty good car chase involving remote-controlled emergency vehicles and a massive construction crane. Plus, there are a few good shootouts. The special effects are the best in the series (despite their annoying tendency to be overly blurry during fast-moving shots), culminating in some truly astonishing make-up/CGI work late in the film. Heck, even the conclusion features a cool little twist, an audacious “so there!” to the audience. But however entertaining it may become, it’s still fan fiction. Good fan fiction, maybe, but still fan fiction nonetheless.

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