A lean, efficient, amusing action picture, "T3" isn't a patch on its predecessors, but delivers polished genre entertainment nonetheless.
Rising from his rusty resting place in the box office junkyard, Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers a crowd-pleasing turn as everyone's favourite futuristic killing machine, sent back from the future to rescue man's would-be saviour, John Connor (Nick Stahl).
In clunky dialogue scenes, the movie tries to explain parts one and two, but we, frankly, can't be bothered. Suffice to say that apocalypse-triggering mecha-corporation Skynet wasn't obliterated in "Judgment Day". Why? Well, even the screenwriters are still trying to figure that out...
Anyway, sense is surplus in time travel movies, particularly in a series which here happily slips into self-parody.
"Your levity's good. It relieves tension. Fear of death," says the Terminator, in one of many amusing moments. But the comment's true for the film itself, with laughter obliterating any fear factor, any real emotional investment in the characters. Forget the hard-edged tech-noir of James Cameron's brutal, brilliant original; this is a lightweight actioner where nothing's at stake except Arnie's pulling power.
But the aging icon can still cut it. Asked if he can destroy the lithe, lethal Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken), he replies, "Unlikely, I am an obsolete design." Yet whether smashing her through toilet cisterns, or swinging from a crane, the Austrian Oak remains a convincing action hero.
Stepping into Cameron's loafers, director Jonathan Mostow ("U-571") delivers a typically tight cut, setting a brisk pace and ably utilising Stan Winston's excellent effects work (which is still, it must be said, far too gruesome for a 12A certificate).
Fast, funny and forgettable, this instalment ensures the Terminator will be back for more, whether you like it or not. As Arnie intones, "Desire is irrelevant. I am a machine."