'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' - the Film Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' - the Film

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The Terminator Film Series
The Terminator | Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines | Terminator Salvation | Terminator Genisys | Terminator Dark Fate
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a 2003 film in the highly successful Terminator series. This was the first film in the series not to have been written or directed by James Cameron, but instead was directed by Jonathan Mostow1. It is also the first film not to feature Linda Hamilton or her character Sarah Connor. It was Sarah Connor's story that formed the basis of the first two films.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was financially successful and it is an enjoyable film, even if it is widely acknowledged that it is not as strong as the first two.


John Connor has grown up knowing that the human race is destined to be all-but destroyed by an artificial intelligence called 'Skynet' and that he will lead humanity to ultimate victory. Years after averting the predicted Judgement Day in which the world was supposed to end, Connor still expects the worst and lives off the grid as an undetectable drifter. However, a motorcycle accident causes him to seek medicine at a nearby Veterinarian's, where he encounters Kate Brewster, whom he once kissed back when he was at school.

Kate is about to get married and believes Connor is a drug addict. Before they get a chance to be reacquainted a highly-advanced T-X 'Terminatrix' from the future tries to kill them both. This is a Terminator robot that appears in female form. An older, almost obsolete Arnold Schwarzenegger-shaped T-850 model Terminator saves their lives by kidnapping Kate Brewster, who tries calling for help only for her phone to stop working due to a computer virus that is affecting all networked systems worldwide.

After visiting the grave of John's mother Sarah Connor, where they again encounter and escape the T-X who disguises itself as Kate's now-murdered fiancé Scott, Kate finally believes in the existence of Terminators. They also learn that the world is due to be destroyed within a matter of hours; Judgement Day had not been averted, merely postponed. Kate's father is the T-X's next target as General Brewster is in charge of the military's Cyber Research Systems (CRS) Autonomous Weapons Division, creating advanced, intelligent weaponry, including the Skynet AI programme. General Brewster seeks to use Skynet to neutralise the computer virus, but will he learn in time that Skynet was the virus all along? Will they all discover how to prevent an apocalyptic nuclear war that will result in intelligent machines rising to destroy humanity?


Actors and characters in Bold appear in other Terminator films.

The TerminatorArnold Schwarzenegger
John ConnorNick Stahl
Kate BrewsterClaire Danes
T-XKristanna Loken
General Robert BrewsterDavid Andrews
Scott Petersen/MasonMark Famiglietti
Dr SilbermanEarl Boen

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the world's most successful Austrian actor who, having been a highly-successful body builder, winning world titles Mr Universe and Mr Olympia in the 1970s-80s, became an international acting star in 1982 with Conan the Barbarian and the eponymous Terminator in the film The Terminator in 1984. In 2003, shortly after making Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Schwarzenegger gave up acting to pursue a political career. He became the Republican Governor of California, a position he held until 2011, serving the maximum of two four-year terms. Since then he has resumed his acting career.

Nick Stahl replaced Terminator 2's Edward Furlong as John Connor. Since making T2, Furlong had become addicted to heroin and cocaine. He was regularly arrested and hospitalised and so was considered unreliable. Stahl had received critical acclaim for his small role in The Man Without a Face (1993) and has continued to act in films such as Sin City (2005), although Terminator 3 is his only starring role to date.

Multiple award-winning actress Claire Danes has starred in numerous films including Little Women (1994), Romeo + Juliet (1996) as Juliet and Stardust (2007) as Yvaine, the falling star. Since 2011 she has starred in the television series Homeland for which she has won numerous awards and critical acclaim.

Kristanna Loken has since appeared in various films and television series, most notably appearing in one series of The L Word. Earl Boen had played slimy Dr Silberman in both The Terminator and The Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He is the only actor other than Arnold Schwarzenegger to have been in the first three films in the series. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was his last on-screen role before retiring from live-action acting in 2003, although he has done some voice work since.

Both David Andrews and Mark Famiglietti have played minor roles in various films and television series. When the film was in production a Californian man named Scott Peterson was tried for the gruesome murder and dismemberment of his pregnant wife. As this name was similar to that of Kate Brewster's fiancé the character 'Scott Petersen' was renamed to 'Scott Mason', although he is still referred to as 'Scott Petersen' in places, including the end credits.

Making of

Linda Hamilton chose not to return as Sarah Connor after reading a script in which Sarah has only a minor role and dies, with her death having little impact on the rest of the story. The director had initially stated that he would not make the film without her, but later felt that Sarah Connor's character would not have changed since Terminator 2. Between The Terminator and Terminator 2, Sarah Connor had changed from being an unremarkable waitress to a soldier and mother fighting the future, yet had she returned to appear in Terminator 3, Sarah would have remained a soldier and mother, going through the same motions as before. Schwarzenegger initially was reluctant to appear in the film if James Cameron, who created the character, was not involved – especially as he planned to move away from acting and into politics. He only agreed to appear after Cameron advised him to do it for the pay. Schwarzenegger was given $30 million plus 20% of the profit.

The film was made by C2 Pictures and distributed by Warner Brothers in the US and Columbia worldwide. In 1997 Carolco Pictures, which owned 50% of the rights, had gone bankrupt. The rights were sold to Carolco's owners, Mario Kassar and Andrew G Vajna, who formed C2 Pictures in 1999. C2 not only held Carolco's rights but then purchased the 50% Terminator rights held by Gale Anne Hurd2.

The Terminator is briefly seen riding an Indian Chief motorbike while Nick Stahl rides a T-1003 Triumph Bonneville America. Motorbikes play a less prominent role than in previous films in the series.

When filming began, 21-year-old Sophia Bush had been cast in the key role of Kate Brewster, but after a week it was felt that she was too young. 24-year-old Claire Danes was quickly cast to replace her and, hired the day before her first scenes were shot, was plunged straight into filming without a chance to rehearse.

For Schwarzenegger, his key concern was the scene in which he first appears. As the series states that you can only travel through time naked, he was worried about how his nude appearance in 2003 had changed since The Terminator was filmed in 1984. After months of training he successfully returned to the exact weight and physique he had had when making both previous Terminator films. Strangely, one of the most difficult shots to get was that of the actress playing the T-X crossing the road; it took over six months to get permission to film in Beverly Hills purely because the T-X also arrives nude.

With a budget of over $185 million it was the most expensive independently-produced film made to date. There were concerns about the budget, and the scene in which the Terminator is swung through a glass lobby was almost cut as a result. They also considered filming in Vancouver to save money but felt that Los Angeles was a key part of the film series. One measure they did take was to change the script to set more scenes during the day. The plan was originally for night shooting, yet in mid-summer there was only six hours' darkness per day, which would make the key night chase scenes too expensive and time-consuming to make. Instead a scene was added to explain that Kate Brewster was arriving at work early in the morning before dawn and the key crane chase sequence is changed to begin at night and finish as the sun finishes rising.

In this sequence, a 160-ton crane that cost $1.5 million really is doing wheelies around corners thanks to some very skilled stunt driving. The crane flipping up, however, was achieved through computer animation. The town centre it drives through and destroys is a set, with the glass building that the Terminator is driven through taking a fortnight to construct. The tool shop and the vet clinic where Kate works were fake buildings that were so realistic that members of the public came in to get tools and ask for pet advice. Strangely, the cemetery in which the Terminator and police have a gun battle complete with explosions and pyrotechnic effects, was a real cemetery4, although the inside of the mausoleum was a set. The exterior of the Crystal Peak military base was a very realistic miniature model. The interior was one of the film sets, although the most-used set during the filming was the smallest; the inside of the back of Kate's van.

Stan Winston, who had provided the full-scale animatronic models and make-up for both previous Terminator films, returned. As well as stunning make-up effects that took advantage of recent advances in computer animation, Winston created full-scale animatronic realistic T-850 and T-X models that could mimic the full range of movement available to humans. Yet his prime accomplishment has to be the T-1s, the very first type of Terminator robot that looks like a menacing tracked cross between Johnny 5, WALL·E and ED-2095. All the T-1s seen on screen were real radio-controlled full-scale working models made by Stan Winston.

Other techniques employed on the film were using a recreated cityscape miniature, with models making use of differing sized skulls to give forced perspective and a greater sense of depth to the scene. Surprisingly one of the key components in the impressive scene in which Kate's apparent fiancé Scott morphs into the shape of the T-X were the platform shoes worn by actor Mark Famiglietti, who is smaller than Kristanna Loken.

Unlike the first two films which were rated 15, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is rated 12 by the BBFC for infrequent, strong language, one instance of moderate nudity and strong, frequent, fantasy violence.

No Terminators from the future were harmed in the making of the film.

Reception and Legacy

Following the release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Arnold Schwarzenegger left filmmaking to pursue a career in politics. It took six years for a sequel to be made, during which time C2 Pictures closed. The Halcyon Company acquired the franchise rights from Mario Kassar and Andrew G Vajna, who had already licensed the creation of a Terminator television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-09). When this spin-off was made, the events of Terminator 3 were ignored, as Sarah Connor's character was still alive.

The film made over $400 million at the box office; though this was not as successful as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, it was still an impressive figure.

The Game

A computer game was released, which starred the original cast members, particularly Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kristanna Loken. The game combined first-person shooter with elements of hand-to-hand combat in third-person perspective and was released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, to mainly negative reviews.

The game did include an unlockable bonus 2-minute scene, since included on the DVD release of the film. This shows General Brewster showing a promotion video for CRS, showing the work that they do in creating advanced weaponry. It shows how they are developing human-like robotic soldiers whose appearance is based on a real soldier named Sgt Candy, although as Candy has an annoying voice a different accent would be provided. It also reveals that CRS had bought the patents for Skynet from Cyberdyne.

Review: Warning, Contains Spoilers

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a film that shows that better special effects do not make a sequel better than the original. Similar in style to the first two films, which was a conscious attempt to ensure it felt like a real Terminator film, means that despite some impressive set-pieces it will never be able to come out from the shadow of the films that came before it. As the film takes place over 24 hours it has a reasonable sense of pace, like the first two films. There is a big chase sequence involving the Terminator in a large vehicle, and the villain Terminator keeps after the heroes even after the audience is convinced it has been destroyed. Once again dogs bark when a Terminator is near. The film also has a Future War sequence in which dreams give John Connor glimpses of a terrifying, post-nuclear future, just as Kyle Reese had experienced in The Terminator and Sarah in T2.

T2 ended with Sarah Connor stating that the future has not been set, and this film begins with John Connor stating that the future has not been set, but finding himself unable to believe that. The Terminator's arrival is a parody of its arrival in T2; instead of going to a rough bar he enters a strip club where the song 'Macho Man' is playing. There he steals a leather jacket from a fairly camp stripper, whose Elton John-esque star-shaped sunglasses are trod underfoot. Much of the dialogue is tweaked reprises of dialogue in the previous films, including 'Get in! Do you want to live? Come on!' which is based on 'Come with me if you want to live'. Of course both 'She'll be back' and 'I'm Back' are based on Schwarzenegger's catchphrase 'I'll be back6'. The trouble with this is that by deliberately giving the audience déjà vu, the film reminds us that we have seen a better film before.

That said, there are many things that Terminator 3 does well. For example, Claire Danes' performance, despite her lack of preparation time, in which she out-acts Nick Stahl in every scene. Kate Brewster is a much stronger character than John Connor, who sadly comes across as a little whiny for someone destined to be a world-saving great military leader. Connor seems to have strange military tactics, including firing his machine gun at an empty room and then later staring at the T-X as it approaches rather than trying to escape.

The Terminator itself is a third CSM-101, this time a T-850 rather than T-8007. This means that it has two hydrogen fuel cells which, when damaged, explode. In the first film the Terminator is evil, in the second it is good and in this film, rather than being just good, the Terminator's programme is showed being corrupted, resulting in it being in conflict with itself. Like the T-800 seen in Terminator 2, this Terminator avoids killing the police when it is surrounded. We also learn that this model Terminator had successfully assassinated John Connor in the future in 2032, a twist which sadly has not been picked up on by any of the sequels made since.

Some of the film's highlights include the cemetery scene. This involves the Terminator carrying a coffin while engaging in a gun battle with the police, while Kate Brewster meets Dr Silberman in a brief scene which reveals that it took his character years to recover from the events he witnessed during T2. After all the explosions from the police cars followed by the intense threat from the T-X, the heroes escaping in a 'Valley of Peace' hearse is a nice touch. Perhaps the most poignant moment is the film's ending in which it is revealed how John Connor's acceptance as a great military leader truly begins, supported by Kate who we learn is destined to be his wife.


A film is often only as good as the baddie and there can be no denying that the T-X is an effective, scary villain. Played unnervingly by Kristanna Loken, for this role she trained to sprint in 2" heels and also gave a mo-capped8 performance for the scenes in which the robotic skeleton is seen attacking the Terminator.

The T-X, described as an anti-Terminator Terminator, has both an endoskeleton containing various in-built weapons and a liquid-metal exterior, allowing it to change shape and appearance in order to impersonate others. It can use its mouth as a modem to connect to the Internet and its tongue can analyse blood, which it uses to conduct DNA tests to ascertain the identity of its victims. When it discovers John Connor's blood, its reaction is positively orgasmic.

Yes, there can be no denying that the T-X knows what it likes. After arriving in Beverly Hills in front of a window display brandishing the slogan 'I like my look', the T-X's dialogue is limited to:

  • I like this car.
  • I like your gun.
  • Jose Barrera?
  • Elizabeth and William Anderson?
  • Katherine Brewster?
  • John Connor was here. Where did he go? Tell me. Where did he go?

That said, the T-X is not exactly discreet. Shortly after arriving it needlessly attracts police attention by driving recklessly, a situation it deflates by distracting the policeman by inflating its breasts. It also botches its attempt to kill Kate Brewster by changing shape from Scott back into its feminine form right in front of her; Kate is unlikely to have run away and escaped had the T-X remained disguised as Scott.

Another key ability is its nanotechnological projectors that can be activated from a finger to allow the T-X to control other machines, such as cars, remotely. It also plays a prominent role in Judgement Day when it re-programmes the T-1s and early flying Hunter Killer robotic soldiers to aid Skynet in rising against humanity.

The Terminator Film Series
The Terminator | Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines | Terminator Salvation | Terminator Genisys
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
1A director who was most famous for U-571 (2000), a controversial war film that distorted real-life events and, when discussed in Parliament, was called an affront to British sailors by Prime Minister Tony Blair.2Head of production company Pacific Western, she had purchased the rights to The Terminator in exchange for a guarantee that Cameron would be the director. She had also been Cameron's second wife (1985-89).3Built to commemorate 100 years since the production of the first Triumph motorcycle.4Despite the production using a real cemetery, be reassured that the skulls seen in the Future War sequence are models.5Robot characters first seen in Short Circuit (1986), WALL·E (2008) and Robocop (1987) respectively.6In a Terminator film, the word 'back' means 'a vehicle is about to crash into this building'.7The T-850 refers to the robotic endoskeleton, which is a more advanced model than the T-800 seen in the previous films. One change is that it is powered by highly explosive batteries. The Terminator's human appearance is called CSM-101 or Cyberdyne System Model 101; this is the Terminator's Schwarzenegger-shaped exterior.8Mo-cap, short for Motion-Capture, is where an actor's facial expressions and body movement are replicated on a computer-generated character, rather than programmed by an animation artist. Also known as Performance Capture.

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