Sharp Blue: Terminator 3


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Unlike most science fiction films (and essentially all action films), the Terminator movies are actually about something interesting. At a fundamental level they concern themselves with theories of time. The original movie, The Terminator, was about as perfect an example of a temporal loop ever filmed. It is the very interventions from the future that bring about that future. Everything makes sense, both locally in terms of the motivation and actions of individual characters and globally in terms of history. By Terminator 2: Judgement Day, James Cameron had switched theories of time to allow himself to both skillfully reopen the Terminator plotline (to revisit the possibilities suggested in one of the scenes cut from the original movie), and to give it a hopeful twist. In T2’s world, there is no fate but that which we make for ourselves. Although cybernetic killing machines keep materialising from a future to wreak havoc in the present, that future need not be our future.

Which brings us to Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. This time around, the theory of time seems to be a sort of morphic resonance between timelines. The movie’s present is not the future of the first movie, or the past of either of the first two movies. All the details, from the origin of SkyNet to the date of the nuclear holocaust, are different, but the large-scale picture is unchanged: SkyNet will wage a nuclear war against humanity and afterwards will begin a long struggle between man and machine. This theory of time seemingly reaches into individual lives too, for despite everything else having changed, John Connor will still be the key leader of the human resistance. Indeed, in one interesting conversation it’s suggested that even more intimate details of his future might be determined by the necessities of fate and screenwriting. Whether all this makes sense will have to await further viewings. (Indeed, it may even be possible to make all three movies hang together in a branching and looping timeline in a clever manner.)

The other half of the series, of course, is the seemingly endless series of chase scenes, largely full of automotive carnage, punctuated by bouts of killing machines shooting each other and throwing each other through walls. Terminator 3, while full of accomplished action scenes, also pales a little in comparision with the earlier movies. While Cameron is the consummate director of action sequences, and a master of weaving great wodges of exposition seamlessly into them, Jonathon Mostow’s direction is a little more pedestrian, as is the cinematography (and even music). Similarly, the lead actors don’t quite measure up to their predecessors ( Claire Danes does her best with what material she’s given, but Kristanna Loken’s Terminatrix lacks the effortless menace of Robert Patrick’s T-1000, and Nick Stahl, although whining less than Edward Furlong’s earlier portrayal of John Connor, doesn’t convince us, as Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese did, that he’s a hardened if reluctant warrior). Nevertheless, the movie becomes surprisingly thrilling once it hits its stride, and even the earlier scenes are impressive (although perhaps veering towards self-paradoy). The ending, though, is perfect.

Update (4/8/2003):The phrase “elastic causality” popped into my head in the middle of the night, and it’s exactly right to describe T3’s theory of time.

Psst, hello dollface. Miss me? I haven't talked with you much lately, I insist that this is unacceptable! *smiles* Take care.

I thought the end was excellent myself, and it was also unexpected.

'Elastic causality' is a cool term, and I'm certain that I've read or seen something about that idea, possibly in my physics lectures.

Something to do with half-cylinders, and a ball rolling along either the inside, or perched on top of an inverted half-cylinder. In the first case, any change will cause the ball to oscillate a little, but it'll return to a stable path along the inside of the cylinder.

In the other scenario, if someone prodded the ball, it would fall off the cylinder and move to a new timeline.

Something like that anyway! :)

That isn't anything to do with timelines or suchlike - it's just comparing stable and unstable equilibria. (There's also neutral equilibrium, like a ball sitting on a flat surface.)

Darn it. I was going to suggest we see T3... Seen (The Incredible) Hulk yet? Incidentially notice how all of Stan Lee's prefixes have been dropped. Spiderman is no longer Amazing, nor are the X-Men Uncanny.

PS How was your holiday?

I was planning to ask if you wanted to see it too, but my sister asked if I'd like to see it *right now* and I couldn't resist. I haven't seen Hulk though, and would like to.

I never went on holiday because my dad wasn't well enough.

The formatting in the comments to Sharp Blue really sucks, doesn't it? I never got around to fixing it...

The ending made the movie for me. From the moment they run out of the elevator shaft and the seal of the US president is visible, I knew where he was going and it was one of those rare sequences when the director's vision coincides with yours. I found some of the earlier scenes a bit too jarring - the destruction was overdone to the extent that it distracted me from the flow of the story. The Terminatrix was disappointing primarily because something about her stance spoke of belligerence, an emotional intrusion into her thought processes. I also found the humour of T3 more predictable than the earlier two movies but I have no complaints about the way they chose to stage Arnie's trademark dialogue. However, on the whole, I think T3 was a good sequel. I liked not only the resonance of the old concept of temporal loops creating/buttressing fate but also the brief glimpse we get of the future - perfectly balanced in the implications one might read in it. I wonder when T4 comes out and what the present of that movie will be....

Where is T4 the Original Version the Movie and search in kazaa - Terminator 3 or 4!!!

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