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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Seen: 2003.07.09   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.07.13

We all know about killer cyborgs from the future, and we all know, furthermore, about nuclear war, particularly the kind that is triggered by machines. Arnold Schwarzenegger is of no interest anymore when every 16-year-old boy in the Western world does weights. Arnie is, in fact, tiny in comparison to those “strongman” guys who scrape the bottom of the barrel on TV. And patriotic Americans (tautological, shurely?!) prefer functional muscle over decorative. You may look great when emerging nude from a time-traveling sphere, but can you haul a firehose up 180 flights of stairs?

If the Terminator has arrived here in the present day to either propel John Connor toward or prevent him from triggering Judg(e)ment Day, then, for the love of God, will you please make up your mind? Blow up the world or call the whole thing off, will you? It’s been 11 years since the robot carrying the name Terminator was reprogrammed to inflict no human casualties. He’s the free-range chicken of gun-toting, 200-pound Austrian-accented androids. Where’s the fun in that? (I used to like the conceit of blowing shit up but not blowing people up. Turns out it was handled much better just after the coming-out scene in X-Men 2.)

It seems the sole concession T3 makes to the 21st century – to current technology, not the state of the early-’90s art – involves a sentient software mega-application that has no central core. T3 cribs from Napster and The Matrix: The computers are gonna kill us, but they’re P2P; there’s no there there. T3 isn’t retro like my collection of Betamaxen or its depicted dusty mausoleum of a bomb shelter lined with “old-fashioned CPUs” – it’s merely outdated. The Terminator is a legacy system in desperate need of an upgrade. Or, better yet, replacement. You can’t keep clock-chipping the Terminator forever. Eventually he’s gonna need heart surgery.

At any rate:

Claire Danes is far too refined an actress for an action movie. She’s the Charlotte Rampling of My So-Called Life.

On the plus side, I found that I required next to no leap of the imagination to believe that a store mannequin could transform into an invulnerable killer cyborg. It’s an old story, really – vagina dentata and all that.

What a Terminator would really look like

Is the beat of Soweto truly indestructible?

A BoingBoing posting led to a 15 MB QuickTime video of the astonishing spectacle of a quasi-humanoid robot patrolling Soweto. The 21st century polices the 19th. White technology “protects” the black townships. I don't understand why the robot doesn’t have 360° vision, and the final domain name in this inexplicable teaser video does not exist, but it is freaking me out with its realism and plausibility. Just as third-world countries skipped landline telephones and zipped directly to wireless, why wouldn’t policing skip human beings altogether and deploy replaceable, reparable robots off a Chinese assembly line?

Theatre experience

The manager who considers me part of the family was at the desk, but some other fellow dug up the gear for us. As adduced above, my esteemed colleague accompanied me and Mr. X to the movie. He did captions only and bitched afterward about “typos” (not really), the illegibility of the letter g (true), and the presence of captions before a line is uttered (also true and necessary – he laughed at a punchline before it was even spoken).

Sparsely attended (I thought this was a “blockbuster”?), and almost nobody looked at us. Except someone was sitting in MY SEAT. I was willing to sit one row ahead. I plunked the gear down and set off to collect Mr. X and water. Immediately the people in MY SEAT started asking my esteemed colleague what it was all for. He later claimed to have explained it adequately. However, in so doing he blew his cover of pretending to be deaf for the night. (“But you don’t look deaf,” I told him.)

Caption quality

Do you want me to call 9-1-1? How would you dial the dashes, dear?

I forgot to mention the trite, amateurish interpolated slomo. We even have to caption it: (slow-motion breathing), (in slow motion).

(shrieks)... Stop it! What’s this with using a single line and an ellipsis? What are you, some Canadian 22-year-old with a poli-sci degree making it up as you go along?

Instead of the banal ID of MAN:, we see SWAT CHIEF: and SWAT SQUAD LEADER:.

(engine belts squealing): No, it’s power steering.

Our dear friends at the Caption Center are still not quite at ease with this whole concept of captioning in mixed case. You can just write acronyms in capitals, as you should know by now: C.P.U., C.R.S.

A Minuteman missile is in fact not a minuteman missile, is it?

The Terminator states that a destination is 5° in whatever direction. Kate later states, and is captioned as saying, 0-1-5 degrees. Someday WGBH will stop hyphenating numbers. “Type in Dakota 775,” Kate says, dumbly and ideologically miscaptioned as Type in Dakota 7-7-5. Type those hyphens, John, and you won’t get into the bomb shelter. Truth in fucking advertising, people.

Description quality

Miles Neff gamely grinds through the outdated film stock one scene at a time.

Product placement is mentioned (Budweiser, and I think Lexus, or did they miss that one?). A Xenadrine FX billboard on a truck (“Experience the Power”) was partially described. Is that a real product? I specifically do not feel like Googling it. I do not want to know.

Opening credits were really sped up and condensed into the black screen seen early in the picture.

“John wipes out”: Indeed he does.

“Shadows conceal her shapely nude figure”; “the bulge under her leather jacket grows!”; “a muscular nude male figure crouches in the circle” (with “massive pectórals”): For once I have nothing to complain about on the perennial issue of describing the attractiveness of attractive actors.

“The blonde android, T-X”: We pre-identify. No choice. It’s like a full hour into the picture before Aaahnie bothers to give us the backstory.

A red Seville sideswipes a silver car, which is erroneously called a “red sedan.”

“The pair stride”: In British English you could say that, yes. Otherwise the pair “strides.”

The way the Terminator and T-X “easily” avoid obstacles is described numerous times.

“The androids,” “the cyborg” are used instead of “the Terminator” and “T-X.” It works in that case.

Here the describers simply didn’t understand the concept, even though it too is readily Googlable: A label reading “5.6 TeV required” (or whatever the verb might have been – my note is hard to read) was simply read as words: five point six tevv required. TeV: Tera electon volts. (Apparently it has to be three words.) Few abbreviations for units are read as words or as initialisms (“kph,” which is incorrect anyway, is a known exception).


A clip is captioned as such but described as a “cartridge.”

Exit interview

No problemo.

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