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“ In essence, though, I'll mostly be discussing just how much this draft bl... no, su... aw, crap, I just can't say it. This draft of T3 simply isn't very good. At all. ”

From the review

Draft copy T3 script (inaccurate, with spoilers)

Mon 4 Nov 2002 | 00h00 GMT+1

BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER - This is not the shooting script for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I have no way of knowing exactly which draft it is, since it came to me without a title page. Several factors make it painstakingly clear that this is not one of the more recent drafts, particularly since Sarah Connor remains a main character in it (Linda Hamilton left the project quite a while ago).

The Claire Danes character, from what we know of her, seems absent. I was there when Jonathan Mostow screened footage at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con, and there were shots that didn't seem to coincide with anything in this draft.

So why am I reviewing it? Mostly as a novelty. This review should serve you readers as little more than a special interest piece - where this film was originally going to go. That being said, I am certain that at least some elements of this script have remained in the final production (again, judging from footage shown at the Comic Con), so I will do the makers of the film a favor and try not to give too much away. In essence, though, I'll mostly be discussing just how much this draft bl... no, su... aw, crap, I just can't say it. This draft of Terminator 3 simply isn't very good. At all.

That's a painful statement to make, but not entirely unexpected. The first two Terminator movies are a very hard act to follow, both being some of the best sci-fi action filmmaking ever. The first film is a textbook example of suspense and low-budget thrills, and the second is a textbook example of high-budget thrills and just plain how to do a sequel right. Terminator 2: Judgment Day took everything we loved about the original, revved it up to the next level, while taking the characters to new, exciting, but logical places for them to go. This draft of Terminator 3 doesn't really do that much of that.

The story begins, as with the rest, with the Terminator arriving in his trademark ball of electricity. This time, however, he lands in the ocean, his metallic body getting caught in the rotors of a Rapper's boat. Naturally, the Rapper is introduced doing cocaine and talking smack. Naturally, his clothes are the Terminator's size. There's the obligatory attempt to take Arnold down, but in the end he gets his clothes, some weapons, and, naturally, the Rapper's helicopter. Because EVERY ship has a helicopter.

Meanwhile, the T-1G arrives butt naked in a bowling alley. The T-1G is a woman, by the way. Ha-Ha. She's naked. She uses the manager's cell phone to connect to the wireless network and determine the last known whereabouts of John Connor, then synchs herself with a pinup girl and transforms herself into the average- looking ultra hot pinup girl.

The Terminators both try to find John, whom it seems has eschewed his old life as "a rebel with a very distinct cause" because, hey, the apocalypse didn't happen. Why worry? He's about to get engaged, and wants his Mom to be a part of it. Mom, of course, is holed up somewhere, training a shitload of mercenaries for the inevitable. She obviously isn't training them too well, since they don't even recognize John when he shows up. They have a conversation in which John rails against his Sarah for living in the past/future, and she rails against him for giving up on the cause just because one detail of the apocalypse is wrong. When Sarah fails to be supportive of his new, flamboyantly trivial life (he works in computers - how ironic), John leaves her with the cold words, "Figured as much... I got robbed out of a father... and a mother." Yeah, good point there. She was only training you to be the savior of the species. How dare she not hold more birthday parties?

This conversation spurs John to check in on Skynet just in case, however. (Remember, he works in computers.) He discovers that Skynet's list of projects hasn't changed at all in the last year, meaning that they're obviously covering something up (how they're developing Skynet without the Terminator technology is never discussed). Meanwhile, his girlfriend is dumping him, because he's been secretive about his past. While trying to coerce her back, and providing the audience with an adequate backstory, the Terminator attacks them. No, not the T-1G. Arnold. That's a twist. There's a struggle, and John and his girlfriend escape on, quote: "Not just any bike. A red Suzuki GSX1300R "Hayabusa." The fastest sport bike in production." Because there's always one of those lying around. It's always a hoot when the screenwriters try to show off their research.

They drive away. Then the Terminator gets on, "a black NINJA ZX-12R. The only street legal bike which can keep pace with a Hayabusa" (Research!). He chases them down, the fact that he's a two-ton piece of steel machinery miraculously having no effect on the speed of his bike. This chase is a marvel of improbability. My favorite is the part where John's bike flies off the freeway overpass onto another freeway, landing perfectly whilst keeping pace with traffic. Right...

Of course, that makes a modicum of sense when we discover that John's girlfriend, who had been driving, is actually the T-1G (his girlfriend's dead), sent back in time to protect John from a grossly inferior model Terminator. John fails to see any lapse in logic there, and trusts her words so implicitly one finds it difficult to believe Edward Furlong ever played him. The ultra-naïve John, tricked by the T-1G, manages to jump-start Skynet into artificial intelligence, but not before a hugely redundant scene in which the computer needs to warm up. Given a spare moment, the T-1G, who will be ready to kill John momentarily, decides to give him a demonstration of some of the stuff she can do. Because that information could NEVER come in handy later on (I thought machines were supposed to be intelligent?). The Terminator is also going to go over the same information in a few pages after he saves John, anyway. Great...

So why was the Terminator after John? To stop him from starting Skynet, obviously. He informs John that he wasn't trying to kill him, just keep him from doing anything at all - injury was considered an option.

A word about the Terminator in this draft - firstly, he's a new model: T-201. This in and of itself seems a bit odd... wasn't the first one the T-800, and Robert Patrick's model, T-1000? T-801 seems a bit more logical. Anyway, this one has a regenerating capability, making it just like the T-1000 in terms of healing, but same-old, same-old otherwise. Why didn't John just send another one of those suckers? Sentimental value, I guess. Oh yeah, and now the Terminator has a sense of humour. Why, exactly, is never adequately explained. Supposedly, it was designed to goad John into being a leader, but my theory is that they felt Arnold would be bored otherwise. Still, the cocky Terminator has nothing on the "learning to be human" Terminator from the second film, although an unnecessary subplot regarding his favorite color does seem to be an attempt to harken back to that spirit. However, unlike Terminator 2, in which the whole point was that the Terminator could learn behavior but tragically never actually emote, this one signifies that if a machine tries hard enough they can create a genuine personality of their own. Huh? Skynet designed a machine that could become self-aware? (I thought machines were supposed to be intelligent?)

Anyway, from here on out is where the action really starts, beginning with one of the most overblown and ridiculous sequences in the history of all the scripts I've read (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coming in first - if you think this review is negative, you should hear what I have to say about THAT sucker). It's an interesting idea, and wondrous in scope, but so far removed from even the most lenient tenets of movie reality I still have trouble wrapping my head around it. Oh yeah, and it wouldn't work in the wake of September 11th, either.


T-1G pauses firing when something fills her ears. She turns and focuses on an approaching 747, landing gear down, on final approach. T-1G shift (sic) aim and fires a rocket at the jumbo jet!

EXT. 747

The rocket impacts the 747's wing. EXPLOSION! (Note: The writer(s) seem to really like writing "EXPLOSION!") The fiery 747 barrel-rolls out of the sky, heading straight for the office building.


Terminator, John and Sarah exit through the side of the building when they see the massive jumbo jet hurtling straight for them.

So basically, using a rocket launcher, she aims an exploding 747 right at them. It's an interesting idea, and must have been a blast (no pun intended) to come up with, but seriously... Who the fuck would buy that?

A word about the T-1G, renamed the T-X (for "Terminatrix") in the actual film. As the Terminator says, "The T-1G is Skynet's most elite model. Composed of sentient frequency matter. It can't be melted, frozen or blown-up." Basically, she's sentient static electricity. My theory is that you could basically throw a magnet at her and disrupt the literal fibers of her being. Anyway, she basically comes across as God. She can read minds (Sarah's is actually pretty funny), she can become pseudo-invisible, she can become immaterial at will. Someone once told me that the problem with Terminator 2 was that the antagonist was ridiculously unstoppable. The same may hold true here, unless you throw a magnet at her. But that's just my suggestion. At any rate, it seems that the theory behind the Terminatrix has been changed at least some since this draft.

At this point in the story, John, Sarah and the Terminator are on the run. Sarah and the Terminator are basically resigned to the fact that John has screwed the pooch and nuked the world. John isn't quite ready to agree, and decides to go for the gusto and rewrite history. He turns them all in (since the public now believes they're the terrorists who bombed the plane - amusingly, they had all planned to hide in a mountain cave of some kind), where they try to tell the government what exactly is happening. Naturally, no one believes them until the Terminator rips his face off, San Francisco is nuked, and the shrink who made Sarah's life a living hell in T2 shows up and apologizes. Then, it's all like, "You were right. LEAD US!!!" And he does. John leads them, but not before they're decimated by the T-1G.

The survivors (the leads, naturally), escape to the Green River Complex, where Skynet has isolated itself and begun building first generation Terminators. This idea is actually pretty neat - I've always wondered how that thing got started. I'm very curious as to how a computer is getting the raw materials, though. I also liked how the T-1's can make mincemeat of humans, but are nothing compared to a superior model.


It's clear to me why Skynet rushed to redesign the T-1s. They suck.

Rimshot. But yeah, that's all good. They fight off the Terminators, they fight off the T-1G, they try to destroy Skynet. I won't go into much detail about the last act, since it's all one big action sequence and if it stays in the film I don't want all you guys ruined. I do hope they re-wrote it though, because parts of it work, but other parts are simply idiotic. My favorite bit comes when John looks at the powerless husk of the Terminator and talks it into working again. I mean, geez, kicking it at least makes sense. Remember all that outrage about Jor-El talking Superman into living again in that Superman draft everyone's talking about? Same problem. Really dumb.

On the whole, this draft of Terminator 3 simply comes across as very ill conceived. Characters weave in and out who serve no distinct purpose - my favorite is the guy who dies shortly after John meets him. When asked who he was, John reveals that he was important. HE'S A CHARACTER WHO EXISTS TO DIE BEFORE HE CAN BECOME USEFUL. I can't be the only one who sees a problem with that. I just can't...

I now realize I have barely mentioned Sarah at all, since on the whole she is hardly worth mentioning. I respect Linda Hamilton immensely for turning this down. Sarah is a non-character. In Terminator 2 she was a badass, but a complicated one. She was violent and paranoid for deep-seated reasons. Here, she's just a badass. She exists to shoot stuff and apologize to John for turning him into the hero he is today. It's a terrible direction for the character, and hardly worth putting in the film at all. We're better off without Sarah, and although it would have been one hell of a paycheck, I think Linda Hamilton is too.

Are we better off with a Terminator 3, I can't help wondering as I write this fiercely negative review? Obviously, I have no answer to that question, but I remain hopelessly optimistic. There are elements of this storyline that work, or at least could work with a bit more logic infused into them. For example, there has been much ballyhoo about how Arnold will switch sides sporadically through the film. This concept isn't present here, but the impetus is. This Terminator was sent back to make sure John didn't do anything stupid - it could be totally cool to watch the Terminator threaten John with physical violence every time makes a mistake, and then protecting him again once it's been rectified. That may not be the justification in the final draft, but it is introduced as one here.

And there are occasional snippets of humour, my favorite being when the Terminator arrives and John's house, interrogates his girlfriend briefly then leaves.


Will you be back?

Terminator just sends Anna a dark look, dons his sunglasses and continues on his way...

But then of course, the screenwriter(s) feel the need to comment on the joke, because we may not get it otherwise.

(no, he doesn't say the famous line, at least not here).

That's frustrating to read. Of COURSE he doesn't say the "famous line" - you didn't WRITE it! We can read! Anyone reading this draft is responsible for seeing the other movies - they should get it! Don't oversell the joke! AAAAAARGH!!!

It can be a very emotional experience reviewing scripts, I promise you. Sometimes you just want to scream to the heavens that this simply isn't a very good idea, or that this line is terribly hackneyed. Hopefully I don't even have to do that here, since again, this is an old draft. I do hope that you've enjoyed my aggravation - it's been quite a strain on my fragile psyche.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, for the record, may end up an excellent film. From the footage shown this summer, it looks to be on very solid ground. I have nothing against the project. I wish it the best. I just hope that they've strayed as far from this draft, not as possible, but as necessary. Best of luck, Jonathan Mostow. I'll be the first one in line this summer.

Full article copied to archives on May 21st 2010.

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