When a Californian speaks of the "terminator," almost anyone listening will wonder briefly if the emerging dialogue is to be about the actor/governor of California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or the film, The Terminator. And if the discussion is to be about the movie The Terminator then which "Terminator" will be in focus - one, two, or three? For purposes of this paper, the focus will be on The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), and, also, on The Matrix Revolutions.
The Terminator: The big career break for Arnold Schwarzenegger was not when he became a well-known body-builder. His huge break was playing the lead role in The Terminator, the first of three science-fiction films that were also action-thrillers.
The plot: It is the "Year of Darkness," 2029, and a powerful and intelligent computer named Skynet continues to battle human resistance on Earth, after nearly - but not completely - destroying all members of the human race in 1997. Skynet has learned how to send its cyborg assassin warriors (Terminators) backward through time travel; the story is built around Skynet sending The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) back to 1984, on a mission to kill the mother of one of the leaders of the resistance against Skynet. The mother in question is Sarah Conner (played by Linda Hamilton), whose son, John Conner, if allowed to be born, will later lead the remaining members of the human race in a winning campaign against the machines - unless, of course, The Terminator can kill Sarah Conner and erase the possibility of John Conner battling the machines.
But wait, the resistance to Skynet machines has also sent a warrior back in time; he is Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn), and his job is to protect Sarah Conner from The Terminator, and in effect, salvage the human race.
The Characters, the Director and Other Interesting Film Particulars: (the film information was summarized from the Web site called the Internet Movie Database: (www.imdb.com/title/tt0088247/maindetails).Arnold Schwarzenegger is of course The Terminator; other actors include Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, and Rick Rossovich. The Director is James Cameron. The Writers include James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher Jr. The film was released in 1984, is 108 minutes long. An interesting bit of trivia about this film: although stereophonic sound was available in 1984, The Terminator was filmed in mono because "...the cost for everything else in the movie added up to the crew not having enough money" to produce the movie in stereo (www.imidb.com).The film grossed $38 million for Orion Pictures.
Schwarzenegger's performance was "career-shaping" and led to "many more such formidable, box-office appealing characterizations in the mid to late 80s and into the 90s" (Dirks, 2004). Other films Schwarzenegger made, include: Commando (1985), Raw Deal (1986), Predator (1987), The Running Man (1987), Red Heat (1988), Total Recall (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Eraser (1996), and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).
During the Terminator's initial mission, "he delivers the oft-quoted, straight-faced line "I'll be back" to a desk clerk," Dirks writes in Filmsite.org. "And he does return, destroying the building by driving a monstrous vehicle directly into it." "I'll be back" became a pop culture phrase with the same kind of emphasis and staying power as the line, "Go ahead, make my day," uttered by Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" character.
Meanwhile, Dirks writes that The Terminator "...has often been considered by most film reviewers to be a better-crafted film than its popular sequels, with fewer special effects and pretension."
Another critic, writing in Movie Reviews UK (Cannon, 1997), believes that The Terminator is "cast to perfection." The choice of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role of the cyborg "was a stroke of genius (even though he and Biehn were initially cast in each other's character)." Cannon continues: "With his pumped-up, inhuman musculature and inexpressive features, there is little difficulty in imagining that he is an ultimate killing machine, sent from the future."
Biehn, meantime, "does a fine job as a fish-out-of-water, brought up to fight..." As for Hamilton's character, "her transformation and gradual coming to terms with the coming holocaust never feels outlandish," Cannon asserts. "It's also refreshing," writes Cannon, "to find a movie where the timelines of present and future are synchronized...without lots of absurd hops back and forth in time."
An article in BoxOffice Movie Reviews asserts that The Terminator "is "fast-paced and cleverly conceived," and is "welcomed proof that a well-made sci-fi thriller can deliver the goods without encumbering itself with an outsized budget."
Moreover, the reviewer's analysis is that The Terminator succeeds in large part due to the "filmmaker's ingeniously humorous approach to their subject." An example of that humor is the fact that "the time-travelers must negotiate their journey without clothes... [and so viewers] are made privy to the sight...of Arnold in the buff." Overall, The Terminator "makes the most of what it's got... [and] Schwarzenegger is a thoroughly enjoyable presence, who lights up the screen whenever he appears."
The Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3): Plot: John Conner (played by Nick Stahl) is now in his 20s and he is being pursued by a female terminator called "Terminatrix ("T-X") played by Kristanna Loken. Another "T-101 protector" from the human resistance to the machines has been sent back in time to protect Conner, as the machines are on the verge of rising to power again. It is apparent that T2's Judgment Day did not really come, because Skynet's machine has not killed John Conner, and now Skynet has sent the sexy, voluptuous cyborg assassin (T-X) to hunt and then charm her prey before killing them. In fact, T-X is so creative, she can enlarge her breasts to seduce just about any man.
This film was directed by Jonathan Mostow, written by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian. The move's star is once again Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Does this film live up to the rave reviews of the first, and the second Terminator? Not according to an article in USA Today (Clark, 2003), titled "Schwarzenegger is back, barely, in 'Terminator 3'." Clark begins by suggesting (this review was written July 1, 2003, well before Schwarzenegger announced that he was running for governor of California) that the question isn't, was the 12-year wait for the third Terminator movie worth it? The question is, he poses, will the third Terminator flick "hasten star Arnold Schwarzenegger's entry into politics. It could." And now that the 2003 campaign is history, everyone knows it did.
Clark writes that T3 begins "promisingly and entertains for a stretch because you think it's leading to something more than one of the movie year's flattest conclusions." But, though Schwarzenegger "still looks spectacular," the script is "short on deadpan zingers," and Arnold's heart "doesn't seem in it."
Further, Clark objects to the fact that innocent characters are "brutally killed" and their homes destroyed, prior to the movie "blithely cuts to another scene and ignores the ramifications." Shoving a sharp elbow in Schwarzenegger's rib cage, Clark ends his review with: "At least T-X and the stunts make it a better movie than Ronald Reagan's final screen hero role in Hellcats of the Navy. That forced the actor into politics as much by necessity as choice."
The New York Times (Scott, 2003) begins its critique of T3 by describing the film's opening scenes, as T-X "touches down on rodeo Drive in the arresting and unclothed form of Kristanna Loken," who carries out her role in "a red leather pantsuit and a silver Lexus coupe." As for Schwarzenegger, he delivers his "weary one-liners" in his "familiar Austro-California monotone," Scott reports. Overall, the film must "struggle with its own potential obsolescence," according to the Times' critic.
Scott writes that he was initially "heartened" to learn that the T3 movie was a "relatively brisk" 109 minutes; however, while he watched the first "big highway screech-and-bang sequence" (a construction crane and a huge fire engine smashing everything in sight on a busy Los Angeles thoroughfare) the movie "felt at least that long."
In fairness, though the Times perhaps exaggerates the carnage a tad bit, that scene was far, far too long, and it began to play as though the whole rest of the movie would be enough car chase carnage to destroy all of California, not just LA.]
After the crash scene, Scott continues, "if your auditory nerves have not sustained permanent damage, you will hear some necessary explanations..." And as to Scott's explanation at the end of his critique, "For all the hype and the inevitable...box office bonanza, 'Terminator 3' is essentially a B. movie, content to be loud, dumb and obvious."
The final rip of Schwarzenegger by Scott alludes to the now-governor's ambition to be governor: "Mr. Schwarzenegger, whose main contribution to American culture has been inspiring wicked parodies on 'Saturday Night Live'...acts (if you can call it that) with his usual leaden whimsy, manifesting the gift…