Few movie franchises have been as successful, both financially and artistically, as James Cameron’s Terminator series. With Arnold Schwarzenegger as the “cybernetic organism” you love to dread (The Terminator, 1984) or root for (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991), the first two installments seemed like all we’d ever need, particularly in light of the downright profundity of T2. Action sequences, special effects and balls-to-the-wall acting have almost never come together in such a relevant, visionary and entertaining film experience. So why does anyone (except the studio’s cash flow) need Terminator 3 — with Arnie back for a truly belated encore as the cyborg, but without the brilliant presences of Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton as John and Sarah Conner?
Geezer: It’s not a bad movie — it’s just cheesy, that’s all. When you remember the overall feel and thematics of the first two, those are fun movies that are really about something.
Weezer: I wouldn’t say the first movie’s “fun.” It’s creepy. There are no jokes in The Terminator.
Geezer: No, they started telling jokes in T2.
Weezer: They were satirical lines — not trying to get a laugh from the audience necessarily — they were just …
Geezer: … to relieve tension.
Weezer: And John Conner was a kid …
Geezer: … being a wise-ass …
Weezer: … being a little kid. He’s like, “You can’t kill people.” And the terminator says, “Why not?”
Geezer: Yeah, that was endearing. A great relationship gets set up between the robot and this kid. By the time they go to spring his mom from the mental institution, they already have a tight bond. It was a great story. In T3, the one-liners are cool once in a while, but you’re waiting for them. You know they’re coming.
Weezer: When I first heard they were making a Terminator 3, I got really geeked. And then I found out that Cameron wasn’t going to direct it and got really pissed off. Because Terminator 2 is the best film Cameron ever made — it’s masterful. So I got super disappointed — not that T3 is bad — it’s just got such huge shoes to fill that there’s almost no way to do it. From T1 to T2, it’s a completely different story. In T1, you’ve got humans vs. the horrible machine — like how can they beat it? In the second one, there’s a different dynamic. Now you’re protecting the kid and the mom from this evil — and with the cyborg’s strong male figure, you kind of have a family. The only thing really original left to do with the series was to set most of the third movie in the future.
Geezer: Which seems like what they’re going to do with the next installment.
Weezer: They open the door for a fourth and even a fifth one. And the female terminator (played by Kristanna Loken) is the twist here, but she’s not successful as a scary character. She’s not physically intimidating enough, and her sexiness only carries her so far. In T2, the guy who plays T1000 has a very creepy face and demeanor — you’re scared of him, even though he’s only a third of Arnold’s size. In T3, I’m not scared of this girl. She’s got better weapons and is the newest, latest perfect machine, but she’s got makeup on, her blond hair is done up perfectly and she’s wearing a leather Gucci jumpsuit … ooo, I’m really terrified.
Geezer: She’s just some Beverly Hills bitch with her sports car. That’s one of the main problems here: the casting. Nick Stahl, a good actor, was in The Thin Red Line and other fine movies, but he just can’t come up to Edward Furlong as John Conner. Furlong had instant street cred and was perfect for the part. He’s one of a few Hollywood actors — along with Chloë Sevigny — to have so much intense street presence in his face. Where was he for this movie?
Weezer: He’s been having too many personal problems. Though Claire Danes, who’s sometimes irritating, probably does the best acting of anybody in T3.
Geezer:You ask yourself, what was the purpose of making this film? Just to show all the footage of action and carnage?
Weezer:The purpose is that it’s a gold mine. Arnold got paid $30 million for T3. For him, it’s kind of the last hurrah. He really hasn’t had a good movie since I don’t know when and the Terminator is probably his most popular role ever. He’s trying to run for governor of California, so why not go out saying the lines that everyone mimics him for … let’s give the people the Arnold they want and then say goodbye. If they make a Terminator 4, I’d be surprised if Arnold is in it. He trained three months to get in shape for this one, and I’m sure he doesn’t get fit as quick as he used to.
Geezer:What was beautiful about T2 were the lengths to which Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton’s character) went to save humanity. There’s a ground-level seriousness to that film that appeals to people who don’t care about action movies and sci-fi. Here’s a woman doing everything she can to save her child and all other children.
Weezer: It’s an extremely primal, maternal instinct. She’s saving her baby from whatever these machine creatures have in store. But the way T3 — as directed by Jonathan Mostow — resorts to comic-action moves really tarnishes the trilogy. It’s really disappointing in the way it turns into a camp thrill ride by the end.
Geezer: Too much happens in too short a time. It’s yet another serious franchise demeaned by sequel-mania. Thank your lucky stars — knock on wood — there’s never been a sequel to Blade Runner.
Weezer: You’d think there are movies that have earned their right not to be fucked with, but you never, ever know. —George and Bruno Tysh
George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a recent high school graduate. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.