"No matter where I go in the world," says Arnold Schwarzenegger, "no matter what movie I have promoted over the last 12 years, people always ask me, ‘When are you going to do another Terminator? You’ve got to do another Terminator. Please, Arnold, do another Terminator.’" Well, he’s done it. And fans of the first two are giving it standing ovations. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines takes up 10 years after T2: Judgment Day left off. The world is still oblivious to its impending doom. But Sarah Connor is dead, and John Connor is 23. "The future has not been written," he dispassionately intones over the opening scenes. "There is no fate but that which we make for ourselves. My name is John Connor. They tried to murder me before I was born. When I was 13 they tried again. Machines from the future ..." Now they’re trying again, and John’s on the run, this time with his future wife, Kate Brewster. The Terminator has been sent back in time to protect the not-yet-in-love couple. And just as in T2, a more advanced cybernetic organism (a female-shaped T-X unit this time) is sent to kill them. Let the cyborg shuffle commence. The machines from the future want John dead because he’s the one destined to lead the human resistance. The humans from the future want him alive, for exactly the same reason. So it’s a struggle to the death—or life, depending on who wins—for John, Kate and the human race.
positive elements: Oblivious to their own safety, John and Kate fight for the survival of the world. And even though the Terminator is a machine, he’d rather self-destruct than harm his human charges. Since the Terminator has been programmed by people (not machines) from the future, he does what he can to keep people in the present from dying. For instance, when he blows up police cars, he calculates the proximity of the officers to ensure their survival. Feeling profound, John comments, "All this stuff you take for granted, it’s not going to last."
sexual content: The Terminator and the T-X arrive onscreen nude. Both are shown crouching on the ground and then (from the rear, at night) walking. Observing a Victoria’s Secret billboard that poses the question, "What is sexy?" the T-X inflates her (now-clothed) breasts to make herself more seductive to the humans around her. Seeking clothing, the Terminator encounters a male stripper who’s about to begin his routine for a bar full of rowdy women. His vision computer outlines women’s bras. It’s implied that Kate and her fiancé have a sexual relationship (she wakes up next to him wearing lingerie).
violent content: T2 tried to top The Terminator. And now T3 tries to top T2. The Terminator franchise is synonymous with violence. There’s no way around that. Nuclear explosions. Plasma guns. RPGs. Machine guns. Car chases. Fist fights. Everything’s here in its extended remix version. Gore takes a backseat to scenes of grand destruction, but the T-X does smash her fist through a cop’s body (her arm emerges covered in blood). She systematically tracks down and murders a number of John’s acquaintances. One she shoots through a fast food drive-up window. Another she blasts in a living room. Using what sounds like a chainsaw, she kills a man in his bed (blood splatters on a nearby picture). And so the body count mounts as she zeros in on her primary target. The Terminator takes a kinder, gentler approach, foregoing murder in favor of using his strength to hurl humans across rooms, out of vehicles, etc. It’s when the Terminator and the T-X fight each other that things get really intense, and even though you know they’re both machines, it’s especially disturbing because the T-X is masquerading as a woman. Since she’s a metallic, self-healing cyborg, bullet wounds (which at first look like holes in a car door) disappear in a flash. Despairing of dispatching her for good, the Terminator’s goal is to slow her down. He does so by bludgeoning her with everything he can get his hands on and running her over with a truck and a helicopter. She returns the favor with, among other things, her built-in plasma gun and flame thrower. At one point she manages to kick the Terminator’s head nearly off his shoulders. An extended road battle between the two involves police cars, a fire truck and a huge crane. The wake of destruction left behind is incalculable.
Elsewhere, Kate shoots the Terminator in the face (unharmed, he spits out the bullet). The Terminator smashes through a mausoleum wall and opens a casket filled with weapons. "Smart," pint-sized tanks and airplanes strafe humans in a military office. A strong magnetic force begins to melt the T-X.
crude or profane language: Five f-words. Double that for the s-word tally. Jesus’ name is abused twice. God’s name nearly 20 (seven times it is combined with "d--n"). There’s also a smattering of milder profanities and crude expressions.
drug and alcohol content: John breaks into a veterinarian clinic to steal drugs after he’s injured. He fondles a beer bottle in a moment of melancholy. A teenager yells for friends to "hide the beer" when the doorbell rings. Others drink alcohol in bars.
other negative elements: The T-X has a habit of licking her victim’s blood to confirm their identity. The idea is that she’s analyzing their DNA, but the visual impact is far less sterile. The Terminator lies to John and Kate to get them to do something they don’t want to do.
conclusion: Producer Andrew G. Vajna attributes The Terminator’s success to people’s unspoken doubts about technology. "We’re all depending more and more on computers for everything from running our electricity to our automobiles," he said. "The more we entrust machines to do everything, the greater chance we have of losing control. What happens if they start thinking? What happens if they turn on us? This scenario, combined with people’s fascination with the concepts of time travel and altering the future, is truly frightening and endlessly entertaining."
On a more visceral level, action movie fans love to watch an amoral antihero do things they would never, and could never do. "The Terminator is not bound by an moral inhibitions," explains producer Mario F. Kassar. "If he needs a car, he gets in the car, he rips out the cables and he takes it. The freedom of that is exhilarating, and people can live vicariously through the Terminator, fantasizing about what it would be like if they didn’t have to live by the laws and moral codes that restrict our behavior." And therein lies the problem with turning the Terminator into a icon. All that matters to him is the end. He doesn’t even think about justifying the means. It doesn’t matter how he gets there. It doesn’t matter who he hurts, who he lies to and who he tramples in the process. It’s an all-too-common movie theme, and as absolute truth slowly dissolves in our culture, it’s becoming increasingly persuasive. I can tell you what it would be like to live in a world unrestricted by moral codes. It would be like those first few moments after the machines drop the nukes: complete chaos and destruction. But in the world of the Terminator, even that ultimately cataclysmic event is awe-inspiring and exciting. It shouldn’t be.