Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
The Terminator Films

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Terminator Films
The Terminator (1984) | Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) | Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator Salvation (2009) | Terminator: Genisys (2015) | Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

The Terminator Films - Part 3
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
d. Jonathan Mostow, 109 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film was set about 10 years after the events of the second film, in the summer of 2004 in Los Angeles. [The predicted nuclear holocaust of Judgment Day had not occurred as predicted in August of 1997.] It opened with the voice-over of Los Angeles transient worker and 20-something, post-apocalyptic leader of worldwide resistance, John Connor (Nick Stahl), who was talking about the prophesied war against the machines, while living "off the grid":

The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. I wish I could believe that. 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. Terminators. All my life, my mother told me the storm was coming, Judgment Day... The beginning of a war between man and machines. Three billion lives would vanish in an instant. And I would lead what was left of the human race to ultimate victory. It hasn't happened. No bombs fell. Computers didn't take control. We stopped Judgment Day. I should feel safe, but I don't. So I live off the grid. No phone, no address. No one and nothing can find me. I've erased all connections to the past. But as hard as I try, I can't erase my dreams, my nightmares...

Skynet dispatched another Terminator - or Terminatrix - an advanced sexy female named T-X (Kristanna Loken) - Skynet's most sophisticated cyborg killing machine to date, back to July 24, 2004 Los Angeles to kill him. She first appeared nude in Beverly Hills where she hijacked a rich lady for her purple leather pantsuit and her silver Lexus. An outdated, mono-syllabic, reprogrammed T-850 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), similar in appearance to the previous two films' Terminators, was also sent back by the Resistance to protect John ("You must live"), while T-X began murdering West Hills Junior HS classmates of John. In particular, the Terminatrix was in pursuit of LA animal hospital veterinary doctor Katherine "Kate" Brewster (Claire Danes), John Connor's future wife.

After a destructive, thrilling auto chase involving a truck-mounted crane, a pickup truck, a police motorbike, and multiple remote-controlled police and emergency vehicles, the T-850 rescued John ("the last best hope of humankind...John Connor leads the Resistance to victory") and Kate, and took both of them to a safe location east of LA. The Terminator told John that Judgment Day had only been postponed ("Judgment Day is inevitable").

They drove to visit a mausoleum in Greenlawn Cemetery (off the 5 Freeway) where Sarah Connor was reportedly entombed (she died in 1997, seven years earlier, of leukemia - her epitaph read: "NO FATE BUT WHAT WE MAKE"), but her coffin only contained weapons, to be used by John if necessary. She had actually been cremated in Mexico. She lived long enough to see that Judgment Day didn't occur in August of 1997. The three escaped the cemetery when surrounded by a SWAT team and the T-X in hot pursuit, in a bullet-riddled hearse driven by the Terminator.

Katherine Brewster was a key figure in the plot - she was John's future wife and second-in-command. (Her husband John Connor died on July 4, 2032 - he was killed by The Terminator himself). She was important because her father, US Air Force Lieut. General Robert Brewster (David Andrews), was the USAF program director of CRS (Cyber Research Systems, autonomous weapons division) that had taken over the Skynet project after Cyberdyne Systems was destroyed (by Miles Dyson in the second film). He had developed SkyNet as "one of the digital defense systems" - and he was the "one who can shut SkyNet down." She was to be used to "contact remnants of the US military and learn how to fight SkyNet forming the core of the Resistance."

They learned to their shock that the "end of the world" was just three hours away when the first launch sequences would be initiated. John insisted on reaching Lieutenant Gen. Brewster to stop the nuclear holocaust and deactivate SkyNet's control of the global computer network, but they were too late. In order to stop a computer super-virus, SkyNet's defense system had already been activated (and was controlling all global communications). Brewster was lethally wounded during a bloody onslaught brought on by the T-X and activated T-1 Terminator killing machines. He was told by John that "SkyNet is the virus" - it had become "self-aware" and was already initiating a massive nuclear disaster upon humans. As he died, Lieut. General Brewster told Kate and John to take a single-engine plane to Crystal Peak built into nearby mountains ("a hardened facility in the Sierra Nevada Mountains") - the supposed location of the SkyNet system core, and then admitted: "I opened Pandora's box."

The two Terminators: the T-X and a rebooted Terminator (after momentarily being controlled, but then announcing: "I'm back"), pursued Kate and John there in separate helicopters. After a fierce struggle that left the T-X with detached legs, the Terminator detonated his last hydrogen fuel cell in the female T-X's mouth, destroying both of them ("You are terminated!"). Crystal Peak was revealed to be a protective, 30 year-old government fall-out shelter for VIPs, designed to survive the blast ("There's nothing here"). Annihilation by SkyNet was inevitable since it was composed of cyberspace software on thousands of computers that couldn't be shut down or destroyed with explosives ("There was never any stopping it"). In the film's downbeat ending, nuclear missiles across the world were being launched and detonated by SkyNet on Judgment Day, as John took charge, assumed command and spoke to Montana Civil Defense on the ham radio.

The film ended with John's voice-over, speaking about the advent of war between man and machines:

...I should have realized our destiny was never to stop Judgment Day. It was merely to survive it, together. The Terminator knew. He tried to tell us, but I didn't want to hear it. Maybe the future has been written. I don't know. All I know is what the Terminator taught me. Never stop fighting. And I never will. The battle has just begun.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

The film's budget was $200 million, with box-office of $150 million (domestically), and $433 million (worldwide). At the time, it was the most expensive independently-produced film in history.

Set-pieces: the thrilling crane-truck-bike chase, the mausoleum-cemetery shootout and escape, the T-X and machine assault within the USAF's CRS headquarters including the one-on-one fight between the two Terminators (in the hallway, men's room and storeroom), the deaths of the two Terminators at Crystal Peak, and the final scene of the nuclear holocaust.

John Connor
(Nick Stahl)

Terminatrix (T-X)
(Kristanna Loken)

Terminator T-850
(Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Katherine (Kate) Brewster
(Claire Danes)

USAF Lieut. Gen. Robert Brewster
(David Andrews)

Dr. Peter Silberman
(Earl Boen)


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