Although the novelization of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines is largely true to the 2003 movie the book version of the sequel makes a few inexplicable changes to the narrative. It is not hyperbole to state that the Terminator franchise is not easy to follow at the best of times. Since 1984s original movie and its 1990 followup the Terminator timeline has been repeatedly rebooted first by 2009s Christian Balestaring Terminator Salvation and later by the 2015 critical failure Terminator Genisys and the 2019 flop Terminator Dark Fate.
However even before all of these cinematic retcons the Terminator movies had another canon snag to contend with. The novelization of 2003s sequel Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines featured a slightly different story from the movie itself meaning there was yet another instance of the Terminator franchise confusing its chronology with contradictory versions of events. However to be fair to the creators of Terminator Salvation Terminator Genisys and Terminator Dark Fate these reboots at least retconned the franchises story on purpose.
In contrast author David Hagbergs novelization of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines changed such a small set of minor details that the switches almost seemed more like continuity errors than active storytelling choices. However like the seemingly minor choice to cut Sarah Connors death from Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines these small alterations to the story did have a big knockon effect on the Terminator franchise as a whole. Despite this the Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelization barely addresses the inconsistencies between the books text and the movies version of events whether it is the T850s construction the TXs choice of weapon or the question of when and where the T850 came from.
The T850s Changing Origin Story
In the movies version of the story the T850 that saves a young John Connors life was captured and successfully reprogrammed by Johns team after assassinating an older John in the future. Although Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines illadvisedly cut John Connors assassination scene the movie version of the sequel still uses this setup and leans into the plots inherent irony. The T850 tasked with saving Johns life is the exact same machine that would have already killed him in the future an irony that makes the T850 harder to trust despite its heroism. This adds a frisson of extra unease to interactions between John and the T850 which makes it all the odder that the novelization changed this backstory completely.
Where The Novelizations T850 Came From
In Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelization the T850 was found and reprogrammed by the very much alive John Connor his wife and his team. This much less dramatic version of events makes the T850 seem a little less dangerous in the novel since it was never tasked with killing John. While killing off John Connor didnt work in later sequels as it no longer surprised jaded franchise fans Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines was the first Terminator movie to refer to his death and did so by having his trusty T850 be the one to kill him. Even offscreen it was a meanspirited death and an effective twist making it a strange surprise for the Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelization to drop this intriguing backstory. Oddly later in the novel the T850 claims it was caught and reprogrammed by Johns team after killing John even though this contradicts events depicted earlier in the book.
The Terminators Difference Construction and Weapons
The T850 of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machiness novelization is made of durable plastic whereas the movies version of him is made of living tissue. The franchises many different Terminator models make this change understandable as the T1000 the T850 the TX and the Rev9 all operate based on different rules. This change also makes the T850 feel a lot more antiquated than the TX making his odds against her in a fight seem even direr. The TX is still one of the franchises most ferocious and powerful Terminator models so clarifying that she is more technologically advanced than the classic T850 and being faster stronger and more lethal serves to make her an even more effective antagonist.
As if aware that the movies TX couldnt outdo Robert Patricks iconic T1000 from Terminator 2 Judgment Day the novelization reinforces the new villains impressively dangerous capabilities. However this does make a later storytelling choice harder to justify. While the TX replaces her plasma cannon with a flamethrower in the movie in the novelization of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines she simply switches to a weaker version of the damaged plasma cannon. Its a far less cinematic substitution that while believably efficient doesnt exactly make the villain seem more threatening.
The TX & T850s Timelines
As if the earlier issues with the novelizations T850 backstory werent enough the books version of Arnold Schwarzeneggers original Terminator antagonist is not entirely clear on where or when it comes from. According to the Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelizations opening the TX and T850 were both sent from 2029 back to 2003 where the story takes place. However later in the plot the T850 claims it was sent back from 2032. While there is a good chance that this is simply a continuity error theres also an argument that the novelization of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines is doing something more interesting with this inconsistent bit of timekeeping.
Can The Novelizations Terminator Lie?
While various Terminator models might be terrifying antagonists and effective heroic figures at various points throughout the franchise one thing they arent is particularly emotive. Theoretically the Terminator cant feel anything which makes the fan theory that Schwarzeneggers T850 was sentient and sadistic so groundbreaking. However the fact that T850 in Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelization changes its backstory three times throughout the novel could be seen as evidence that the Terminator can lie meaning the machine can feel and think for itself. While there is scarcely enough evidence in the largely faithful book for this to sustain an entire sentience theory this Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines novelization change is still proof that the sequels written retelling does add something new to the franchise mythos.