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“ Skynet is just reaching maturity and the Machines have created a virus that will set off a nuclear chain reaction in 2003. ”

A virus?

NY Daily News review

Sun 6 Jul 2003 | 00h03 GMT+1

"I'll be back," Arnold Schwarzenegger promised in the 1991 "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and indeed he is - at age 55, looking no worse for wear - in Jonathan Mostow's exuberant thrill ride "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."

The subtitle on "T3" could just as well be "Rise of the Series," or "Rise of Arnold." While a perfectly satisfying story in itself, "T3" sets up another sequel that seems absolutely essential, and should guarantee the refocused icon another outing in the role he was born to play.

That is, if he doesn't decide he was born to play the governor of California.

In the meantime, he'll rule the multiplex in a film that, while not as surprising as James Cameron's 1984 "Terminator," nor as technologically astounding as Cameron's "T2," is the popcorn movie of summer '03.

You'll recall from "T2" that a nuclear holocaust was to occur in 1997 and that Sarah Connor, her teenage son John, and Arnold's T-101 terminator managed to destroy the technology that would make that possible. Well, as it turns out, they'd merely postponed Judgment Day, and the new date is imminent.

Skynet, the computer environment that allows the Machines to take over the world in the future, is just reaching maturity and the Machines - in the year 2029 - have created a virus that will set off a nuclear chain reaction in 2003.

It is up to John Connor (Nick Stahl), now 23 and living in a kind of paranoid exile, to save the world. We're told that Sarah died of natural causes, which may be an allusion to the career of Linda Hamilton. His mission will be aided by Arnold's new T-101, and by Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), the daughter of the general in charge of Skynet.

Their main obstacle, in the few hours they have left, is the Machines' latest-model terminator, the T-X (Kristianna Loken), a killing machine in a Miss Universe package. A kind of Swiss Army knife of cyborgs, the blond T-X can not only morph her liquid metallic body into any shape, but her arms double as missile launchers, machine guns and buzz saws.

Loken, a 5-foot-11 former model, is a real find for Mostow. With a natural athleticism to go with her beauty, she's an even more imposing villain than Robert Patrick's T-1000 in "T2," though I'd like to see the two of them face off some time.

And Mostow is a real find for the producers. He's made a movie that in style, tone and humor is a smooth extension of the first sequel, but he's given it his own choreographic spin.

With his first two action films - the desert road thriller "Breakdown" and the submarine adventure "U-571" - Mostow showed complete command of action suspense, and he carries on here with the budget of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission.

The effects in "T3" are spectacular, and the action sequences - particularly the fights between the good and bad terminators - are exhilarating.

As the adult John Connor, Stahl is far less annoying that Ed Furlong's teenager in "T2." Danes, as the woman destined to become his wife, adds a softness sorely missing in Hamilton's last performance.

But the "Terminator" series hangs its success on the bulging shoulders of Schwarzenegger, whose T-101 lets slip some information about John Connor's future that demands one more film. But don't wait another 12 years, or even two four-year terms as governor. He is human, after all.

Jack Mathews
NY Daily News

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