‘Terminator 3’ was an average movie with a fantastic ending

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August 29, 1997. It was the day the world was supposed to end, the day when a military super-computer named Skynet became self-aware, and did its best to wipe out all life on Earth. The events of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” seemingly averted the apocalypse, but what was good news for the human race was a potential disaster for anyone looking to build an ongoing movie franchise – turns out there’s little room for happy endings when it comes to monetizing killer robots from the future.

If the time-traveling cyborg saga has taught us anything, however, it’s that Terminators do not stop. Ever. Even though original creator/writer/director James Cameron had jumped ship to win a bucket loads of Oscars with “Titanic”, Arnold Schwarzenegger was happy to say “I’ll be back” for a third time, and the threequel subsequently continued a story that – to all intents and purposes – had been satisfactorily wrapped up by “T2”. 

When it finally arrived in 2003, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” proved to be little more than a retread of Cameron’s greatest hits, until an ingenious and unexpected curveball of an ending turned out to be its unlikely salvation.

John Connor (Nick Stahl) and Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. (Image credit: C-2 Pictures)

With a whopping 35 years separating “Blade Runner” and its follow up, the 12 years that elapsed between the second and third “Terminator” movies is the blink of an eye in Hollywood terms. Nonetheless, a lot had happened in the interim – in fact, with one of the rights holders, Carolco Pictures, going bust, other legal wranglings, and disagreements over potential budgets, simply getting the proverbial green light was an epic undertaking in itself. 

Although Cameron had tentatively worked on a follow-up in the mid-’90s – and made “Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time” for a ride at Universal Studios – his thoughts were elsewhere by the time “Terminator 3” became a reality. It was a hole that director Jonathan Mostow – hot property in Hollywood action circles at the time, after “Breakdown” and “U-571” – and screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris struggled to fill. Indeed, as directors David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet discovered on “Alien 3” and “Alien: Resurrection”, respectively, following up a genre-defining sequel from James Cameron is something of a no-win scenario, where doing something differently will usually be perceived as doing it wrong.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-100 is still a badass when he’s not stuck trying to get cheap laughs. (Image credit: StudioCanal)

Their lives were made even more difficult when Linda Hamilton decided not to reprise her role as Sarah Connor, the mother of the savior of mankind. “They offered me a part,” the star told MTV a few years later. “I read it and I knew my character arc was so complete in the first two, and in the third one it was a negligible character. She died halfway through and there was no time to mourn her. It was kind of disposable, so I said no thank you.” 

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