Terminator 3 has something in common with another sequel this summer, 2 Fast 2 Furious. Both movies had only one actor return that was in the previous movie and they both had different directors. 2 Fast 2 Furious had secondary actor Paul Walker return, instead of Vin Diesel and brought on John Singleton of Boyz in the Hood fame (I won't even mention his more recent movies) to direct. T3, however had it's primary actor Arnold Schwarzenneger as the only one to return (excluding a cameo from Earl Boen as Dr. Silberman) and replaced creator James Cameron with director Jonathon Mostow (U-571). That is where the simliarities end between these movies, because T3 is far more entertaining than the gearhead sequel, and adds some new spark and humor to the series.

T3 starts out by showing us where John Connor (Nick Stahl) is now, 12 years later. After being told for years by his mother that he will be the savior of the human race, Connor has become skeptical of his destiny since August 29, 1997 came and went without the proverbial bang. But a part of him still believes that he is who he's been told he is, so he lives a nomad's life, drifting from town to town without any real identity to be traced to. Meanwhile a new breed of Terminator, the T-X or Terminatrix played by the insanely gorgeous Kristanna Loken is sent back into time to kill, and another T-101 (Schwarzenegger) is sent back to protect Connor and unassuming veternarian Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

What I liked a lot about this movie is there were a lot of constants that were used like in the previous movies, but they added little twists to them. They kept the way the Terminator's came back into present time the same (except it wasn't between two semi trucks), they're both naked (no full-frontal for Loken, though, sorry guys) but when Arnold goes into the bar to acquire clothing and transportation, like in the first two, they added a little twist. The bar is a male strip club, which provides for a few hillarious moments, including one where Arnold puts on his shades, only to realize they're purple, star-shaped glasses that look like they came from Liberace's dressing room. I liked how it tried to set the movie apart by mocking some of the minor conventions that were so regular in the first movies you wouldn't really notice it otherwise.The action scenes, which I thought would suffer slightly without Cameron's direction, were actually phenomenal with a greater creative flair than we've seen in the first two movies. Director Jonathan Mostow employs a wonderful style in capturing these scenes, and creative ways for Connor and Co. to dispatch, if only temporarily, their dispatcher the T-X.The acting here is pretty solid, with the best performance from Stahl, who's most notable role is from 2001's In the Bedroom. He displays a great range and carries the movie forward with his performance.

Claire Danes, best known from MTV's My So-Called Life, does a decent job as Kate Brewster, but it's nothing spectacular. Kristanna Loken, the model-turned-actress, does a very job as the vicious vixen T-X. Although she doesn't speak much, she displays a great look for a villain (not to mention that she looks great) who can look seductive when she has to and then switch to a cold-blooded killer at the drop of a hat.

Then there's Arnold. His acting isn't great, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is his presence on screen, and that, is what's great. He doesn't talk a whole lot, but he doesn't need to. He's still got the build and the look to carry his character forward. The times he does speak seem overdone a bit, actually, but just his presence seems like it's looking over the movie like a guardian angel...a rather ripped guardian angel at that. And I think that's what the movie needed, with a new cast, writers and director, Arnold's presence on screen seems like it holds it all together, no matter how average his performance is. It's the least he could do, seeing he was paid $30 million, the highest in film history, to reprise his role. But possibly the most underrated performance of all is from a non-actor: Stan Winston, who created all of the incredibly realistic speical effects for the Terminator's and who is clearly in a class all his own. If you don't want to go to this movie, you should go just to see the effects because they are simply remarkable, and well worth the price of admission alone.The screenplay, originally written by Tedi Sarafian (Tank Girl) and rewritten by Michael Ferris and John Brancato (The Game), has a nice storyline and an exceptional ending that will surely make T4, if it's made, the best out of all of them, if they follow the path set forth at the end. But the storytelling gets kind of muddled in explaining everything, and some of the dialogue falls flat, as well as some parts toward the end that are predictable and could've been written better. But I liked how it filled in the gap as to what happened in between T2, which was the first movie to cost over $100 million to make, and T3.

Director Jonathan Mostow will surely become a name to watch in directing circles after taking on this $170 million movie. He has a wonderful style behind the camera, is a wiz at action scenes and handles his actors quite nicely. He definitely broke the mold of the first two Terminators and created his own, keeping to the nature of the first two movies while adding an edge all his own.Terminator 3 is a movie about how you can't escape fate. It's an exciting, creative action movie that will stand on its own without the training wheels of T1 and T2, and one you surely don't want to miss.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is out July 2, 2003.

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