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Will Terminator 3 resurrect Arnie's career?

Arthur J Pais | July 02, 2003 11:52 IST

As Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in the third instalment of the popular sci-fi action saga, Jonathan Mostow's Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, the question is whether the 55-year-old star can resurrect his own career and help the $200 million film earn a profit.

Terminator 3 is Hollywood's second most expensive film, following the almost $250 million Titanic, which earned an unprecedented $1.8 billion worldwide.

Schwarzenegger is cast as a cyborg from the future. Connor (Nick Stahl) has been hiding from his foes and admirers without a home, credit card, cell phone, or job. Yet, SkyNet traces him. Connor knows he cannot singlehandedly stop the highly sophisticated and relentless machine of destruction called T-X or Terminatrix (played by Kristanna Loken). So he sets out looking for the mysterious Terminator (Schwarzenegger). The interaction and combat scenes involving Schwarzenegger and Loken are among the highlights of the film.

Terminator 3 comes 12 years after the second Terminator. The first two were directed by James Cameron, who has also co-authored the series. The third instalment was in planning over a decade ago when producers Mario Kassar and Andrew G Vajna split. They later reunited to make Terminator 3, roping in more producers. 

By then, Schwarzenegger had lost his box-office clout. The last three Schwarzenegger films -- Collateral Damage, 6th Day, and End Of Days -- were box-office duds. Yet their faith in the franchise -- and in Schwarzenegger -- had Kassar, Vajna and the others raising $200 million for the film.

Apparently, the international conglomerate of financiers who poured money into the new venture and Warner Bros, who are releasing it, have faith in the project directed by Mostow, whose last two films, the thriller Breakdown and the submarine drama U-571, were moderate successes, each earning about $100 million worldwide.

The Warner Bros publicity department says Mostow was chosen for the project because the studio and producers of the new film admired his ability to make atmospheric films that also have excellent acting. Mostow says he took up the project only after being assured that he wouldn't be pressured to deliver the film within, say, a year.

The film was under production for about 20 months, including more than 10 months of rewriting the script. Among other changes, Mostow got rid of the female character made famous by Linda Hamilton and instead developed the character of her son (Stahl). He also rejected the original idea in the script that the character now played by Loken could be invisible. The notion wasn't visceral for him, Mostow has said in interviews.

He has also said that he does not look at the film as just an extension of a phenomenally successful franchise. "Let's face it," Mostow told the Los Angeles Times. "How many movies with the number 3 after the title are that great? I didn't want to make a retread of what has been done before. Because if you want a retread, you might as well go out and rent Terminator 2."

The new film is being released around the time that Schwarzenegger's name is increasingly being mentioned in the California gubernatorial election. Insiders also believe that while Terminator 3 has plenty of violence, it is a bit weak compared with its predecessors.

The movie releases on Wednesday, July 2, in more than 3,500 theatres (and some 5,000 screens) in North America. To break even, Terminator 3 will have to earn at least $550 million in ticket and video sales across the globe.

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