Spoilers for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines follow. If you read ahead without seeing the film first, surprises will be terminated.

"The life you know; all the stuff you take for granted - it's not gonna last. Imagine a world of permanent darkness, where machines control man's destiny. Imagine you were the only one who could stop it. But before you do...something terrible has to happen." - John Connor, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

There's no fate but what we make. History isn't written. Sound familiar? 1984's The Terminator and 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day tell the story of Sarah Connor and her crusade to prevent nuclear war from wiping out the human race. The enemy? SkyNet and a race of machines that have judged humanity to be the enemy. The leader of the human army? Sarah's son, John Connor. Although the previous film in the series wrapped things up rather nicely, director Johnathan Mostow and actor/would-be-governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar bring us another chapter in the sci-fi action saga, 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

It is the present day. Judgement Day did not occur as it was supposed to in August 1997 thanks to the efforts of John Connor and friends in Terminator 2. John never believed that it was truly over, however, and after the death of his mother in 1997 he began living "off the grid": no phone, no address, no home. He's become a drifter, working his way from place to place trying to flee from a destiny that he may or may not have to fulfill someday. After a nasty motorcycle accident he breaks into an animal hospital for pain killers and bandages.


In Beverly Hills a time displacement field appears and brings a naked woman into our world. She is the T-X (aka the Terminatrix), the latest model of Terminator robot. She is the first Terminator with a default female appearance, giving her the grace of a woman along with the power to distract men with her beauty, as well as possessing an internal endoskeleton and the memetic polyalloy of the T-1000. In short she's a battle-enhanced robot skeleton surrounded by a layer of liquid metal. The liquid metal aspect of her form allows her to take the form of anyone she touches, while her skeletal structure allows her to break loose with sophisticated laser weapons that the T-1000 could not form on its own. And, just like the T-1000 has the default appearance of Robert Patrick, the T-X comes factory-shipped as model Kristanna Loken. The T-X can also speak modem and she makes a cell phone call to a computer to access data for her mission: the termination of future-John Connor's key lieutenants.

Our story also includes veternarian Kate Brewster, former friend of John Connor and an important player in the war of the future. Her father is a high muckity-muck in the military and he's been working on an important project: a little something called SkyNet, intelligent artificial intelligence software that could someday automate all of the USA's weapons and defenses. The system is still being tested, however, and is not ready for use. This changes when a computer virus begins shutting down systems and networks around the world. It's theorized if SkyNet is brought online and given control of everything, it can stop the virus.

Finally there's the T-800 Arnold Schwarzeneggar model of Terminator. Once again the humans of the future have captured one of these killing machines and have reprogrammed it to assist John Connor in the past. This particular T-800 has a past, however. It is the same robot that killed John Connor in the future. His wife, Kate, sent it back in time to aid humanity in the past after it murdered John Connor in the future. So our hero's killer is now his protector, see? After a harrowing crane chase through the city our three heroes hit the road and drive out to the gravesite of the late Sarah Connor, and off we go...

Terminator 3 behaves much like you expect it would, with chase scenes, Terminator-on-Terminator fight scenes, and dialogue about paradoxes that would give Doc Brown a headache. There are thrilling plot twists and surprises as we learn that SkyNet is actually the computer virus and by turning over all control of the government's weapons to it, mankind has put in motion the final steps towards Judgement Day. As we are told in the film, the events of Terminator 2 merely delayed SkyNet and Judgment Day by several years (like any major software release, SkyNet doesn't ship on time). SkyNet's rise and the nuclear war were inevitable. We also learn that Kate and John's meeting was inevitable, as was their survival and John's rise to leader of the resistance against the machines. Doesn't this invalidate the whole "no fate but what we make" idea? If everything is predetermined and preordained, then how can there be no future but what we make for ourselves? I cannot decide if this is a complete 180 degree turn from the ideals of the previous film or yet another paradox in the Terminator saga.

The film closes with the arrival of Judgment Day and three billion human lives extinguished by nuclear weapons. Obviously we are being set up for Terminator 4 here, as all that's left to show to bring the series full circle is the war against the machines and an older John Connor sending Kyle Reese back in time to 1984. Will we see the T-800 yet again? Chances are that he'll be back.