The first two “Terminator” films were classics, and the hope was that the third would continue this sensational series at the same level. Sadly, “Terminator 3” followed Hollywood tradition and is not as satisfying as its predecessors.

The first two “Terminator” films were also classics, and the hope was that the third would continue this sensational series at the same level. Sadly, “Terminator 3” followed tradition and is not as satisfying as its predecessors. 


That is not to say that “Terminator 3” does not have some strengths. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in his signature role, and he plays the part with great energy and humor. One can easily forget his previous health problems, or that he is much older now than when he made “Terminator 2.”


Nick Stahl and Claire Danes are two of the finest young actors working today, and they are both fine here. The absence of Edward Furlong, who originated the John Connor character in “Terminator 2,” is unfortunate though. Furlong added a streetwise quality to the role that seems to be missing from Stahl’s performance. The absence of Linda Hamilton also creates a void; her character has been as essential to the series as the Terminator itself up until now. The only other cast member with a significant role is Kristanna Loken, who does a fine job playing the menacing T-X.


The film also boasts many amazing special effects and some outstanding stunt work. Like “The Matrix Reloaded” earlier this year, the makers of “Terminator 3” want to impress viewers with what they can do with car chases, explosions and action sequences. The ones here are not quite as impressive as “Matrix,” and the cinematography on some of the action shots is not as smart as it was in “Terminator 2.” 


Director James Cameron, who directed the earlier “Terminators,” did a much better job with the high action than director Jonathan Mostow does here. There is, however, enough impressive work to satisfy the average summer movie fan.


Ultimately, “Terminator 3” lacks one important characteristic that made the first two films so impressive. Though the early films did have the thrilling action sequences mentioned above, they were also strong because they had quiet moments when information and emotions were paramount. The films are not remembered for this, nor is this the reason they were so popular, but this is the reason the films have become classics: the mixture of action and ideas. 


The script for “Terminator 3” could have used some of those moments. The paradox of time travel, machines and man at war, annihilation of the human race—these are all ideas that need to be pondered as the film unfolds. “Terminator 3,” with a running time of less than two hours, could have benefited by exploring more of the ideological landscape in the “Terminator” series.


In the final moments of “Terminator 3,” the film does redeem itself somewhat, and sets itself up brilliantly for a sequel. In fact, the conclusion of the film is the best thing about “Terminator 3.” Here’s hoping that “Terminator 4” begins a new tradition in Hollywood: fourth films that are better than any of the ones that came before.


Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.

MPAA Rating: R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Writers: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

Cast: Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger; John Connor: Nick Stahl; Kate Brewster: Claire Danes; T-X: Kristanna Loken; Robert Brewster: David Andrews.


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