Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines  is set 12 years after the events of T2 and Judgment Day is still coming. We follow John Connor (Nick Stahl) as he’s hunted by an incredibly advanced robot assassin and the threat of a nuclear war on the forefront.
Cameron fatigue. Except for Schwarzenegger, nobody from the first two films returns. Jonathan Mastow (U-571, Surrogates) takes the directing duties in this installment, and Cameron’s disappearance is extremely apparent. Right from the get-go, the film seems tonally off and the characters that we’re watching on-screen are boring and unlikable. Even the plot-line of the film seems pretty forced and ultimately pointless.
Split personality disorder. The tone of this film is all over the place. This being a Terminator film, it should take itself pretty seriously, but that’s not the case here. The film is almost like a spoof on itself, with entire sequences being dedicated to one-note jokes that don’t really work and also add nothing to the story, thus making the film feel longer than it actually is. The comedy from the first two films worked because of its subtlety. We enjoyed seeing Schwarzenegger’s interactions with John Connor and him trying to conform to normal life. Here, not so much. Because of how much time is spent on these comedy scenes and less on the story & the actual characters (and even the action), the film feels unfocused.
Not Edward Furlong, but not too shabby. One of the best parts of the film is Nick Stahl as John Connor. He gives a pretty layered performance. He’s pretty pessimistic about his future and seems to be the only character that actually wants to save the day instead of running and hiding. Kristanna Loken is terrible as the main Terminator. She’s not threatening at all and we never learn enough about her rules (What can she turn into? Why is she able to do this?) to understand her motivations.
Bookends. The biggest takeaway from the film is the beginning and the end of it. It’s a pretty bleak and bizarrely edgy way to start and end a film of this scale. It’s honestly shocking that a major studio would let the director end the film like that — wrapping up all loose ends and everything. Unfortunately, though, in congruence with the rest of the film, the bookends felt tonally off with the rest of the film.