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Please don't terminate this series

Warning: This essay reveals details about the plot of the movie Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

I will not pretend to be a longtime fan of the Terminator films. No, I came to the flicks three years ago when I took Robert McKee's legendary, 30-hour story seminar in New York. McKee discussed The Terminator (T1), describing it as one of the best examples of the relentless antagonist, an antagonist the screenwriter created with understanding and, well, love.

(Although a robotic killing machine, the T1 has human vanity. Remember how he fits his sunglasses just right and grooms his hair before leaving his filthy room?)

As soon as I returned to St. Petersburg, I went straight to Blockbuster and bought T1. McKee was right _ a great film, a splendid villain. Next, I watched T2 and bought it when, complete with metal case, it went on sale. Now, I was hooked forever. Nothing could keep me away from another Terminator movie.


So, you can imagine my joy with the release of Rise of the Machines (What a great title). All year, I had been anticipating the leather-clad mayhem that AARP-qualified Arnie and the wondrously beautiful Kristanna Loken, as T-X Terminatrix, a brand new Terminator model, would treat us to. Arnie wears his staple black leather, and Loken wears brown.

Loken is something else. Check this out: One of the movie's best scenes comes when T-X is stopped by a cop, and she sees a billboard with a buxom model and the words "What is Sexy?" Being a top-of-the-line robot and all, T-X reroutes some of her liquid steel to her breasts. Whamo! Her breasts grow larger right in plain sight. No kidding. Go see for yourself. All around me in the dark theater, I heard women giggling and sighing.

Where was I?

As for the earthlings, John Conner, played by Nick Stahl, is all grown up, and Kate Brewster (the equivalent of the old Sara Conner), played by Claire Danes, is pretty and tough. John Conner has been on the run and has lived in anonymity. He literally has no identity _ no driver's license, car, telephone, address, no nothing. He does not even own a laptop and has no e-mail address. Kate Brewster does some kind of fancy work with animals.

I will not give away too much of the plot, but let me say that Kate Brewster's father is a big wheel in the military complex, and T-X has come to Earth to terminate him and those associated with him, including Kate and John Conner. The Arnie character, a T-800 model Terminator that is technically inferior to the T-X model, has returned to save John Conner.

Without doubt, T1 and T2 are better films than T3. But I enjoyed T3 just as much. It is an integral part of Terminator lore, and it is the bridge to the rest of the franchise to follow. James Cameron, who directed T1 and T2, did a better job, in every category, than his successor, Jonathan Mostow.

But I do not care. For me, The Terminator is an experience. Today's children have their Harry Potter. Old men like me have our Terminator. The Terminator is the ultimate escape.

When I told some of my colleagues that I was taking the afternoon off to see Arnie, my favorite cyborg, in action for the third time, I was reminded that he is a right-wing Republican who probably has designs on the White House. Do not laugh. Remember, we had another right-wing actor who became California's governor and then president of the United States.

I must acknowledge that, until now, I have been unable to separate entertainers from their politics. I still cannot watch a John Wayne movie without holding my nose. The same for Bruce Willis and Tom Selleck and Charlton Heston. I cannot stand the sight of these people _ even when I know that they are acting. I cannot willingly suspend disbelief and forget their nasty politics.

With Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, I have managed to lose myself in the magic of the cyborg's oeuvre. In fact, I cannot imagine anyone else playing the Terminator. If the franchise continues, however, Geritol will not rejuvenate Arnie, and he will have to be replaced by a younger body. In real life, even Mr. Universe slows down.

The Terminator transports me back to my childhood _ when I was a boy reading Phantom and Superman comics on my grandparents' front porch, when my buddies and I built our own Dodge City and played cowboys and Indians, when the lakes in our towns became the deep, ocean waters depicted in Jules Verne, when we built contraptions that H.G. Wells would have liked.

I am going to see T3 again, and I am going to buy the film when it goes on sale. As for sequels to The Terminator, I can't wait to hear Arnie say: "I'll be back!"