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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines(2003)
A decade has passed since John Connor helped prevent Judgment Day and save mankind from mass destruction. Now, 25, Connor lives "off the grid" - no home, no credit cards, no cell phone and no job. No record of his existence. No way he can be traced by Skynet - the highly developed network of machines that once tried to kill him and wage war on humanity. Until?out of the shadows of the future steps the T-X, Skynet's most sophisticated cyborg killing machine yet. Sent back through time to complete the job left unfinished by her predecessor, the T-1000, this machine is as relentless as her human guise is beautiful. Now Connor's only hope for survival is the Terminator, his mysterious former assassin. Together, they must triumph over the technologically superior T-X and forestall the looming threat of Judgment Day?or face the apocalypse and the fall of civilization as we know it.
For more about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray release, see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 11, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti
Director: Jonathan Mostow
» See full cast & crew
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray Review
This underrated sequel proves to be a troubled Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 11, 2008
The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. I wish I could believe that.
I pretty much grew up on Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. The man is actually a halfway decent actor, and I love everything he's done except for Junior--and that includes his early stuff like Hercules in New York and Stay Hungry. When I was growing up, I thought Schwarzenegger could do no wrong, and he still stands larger than life in my mind. Films like Commando and Predator set the tone for what kind of films I loved as a child and continue to love now. I remember watching the first Terminator film with my father and seeing its sequel no less than 5 times theatrically (still a record for me by a large margin) and countless times on home video. I've seen everything Arnold's ever stared in, and it's safe to say that his films--a genre of their own in my mind--hold a higher replay value for me than any other type of movie starring any other actor, living or dead. His movies may not be the best ever made, but they sure are a whole lot of fun. All that said, you can probably imagine my excitement when I screened Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines upon its initial release in theaters. While I knew the film would be Arnie doing what he does best, namely walking around and blowing things up, I had my reservations. A female Terminator? Wasn't the story line resolved at the end of T2? Is Arnold still in good enough shape to pull this off? What will a Terminator film be like without James Cameron behind the camera? Much to my delight, T3 proved to be loud, exciting, and most importantly, a worthy successor to the first two films with one of the most incredible and unexpected endings I've ever seen in an action film.
It's been several years since John Connor, his mother Sarah, and another T-800 model Terminator destroyed the Cyberdyne building and the evidence of the first Terminator from the year 1984. Now, Sarah is dead, and John (Nick Stahl, Sin City) is living "off the grid," making sure to leave no trace of his existence. Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, Stardust) is a veterinarian whose life will forever change when she leaves her fiancé early one morning to respond to an emergency hair ball at the clinic. She finds Connor inside the office, drugged out with medication, as his living off the grid forces him to steal from veterinarians. Just as the two begin to recognize one another from high school, an advanced Terminator (Kristanna Loken, Bloodrayne) attempts to murder the duo. The outdated T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The 6th Day) arrives just in time to allow John and Kate to escape. As the three attempt to escape the pending nuclear attack that is only hours away, Kate and John convince the T-800 to attempt to prevent the war and rescue Kate's father, a military man who is knee-deep in the world of cyber warfare. Along the way, the Terminators will battle for the lives of John and Kate, and their success in their respective missions might just lead the world to the brink of destruction or save it from total annihilation.
The more I discuss T3 with my fellow movie fans, the further I find myself entrenched in the small camp of people who really enjoy this sequel to Schwarzenegger's biggest and most successful franchise. As I mentioned in my recent review of The Brave One, I'm a fan of downer endings, and they don't come any more depressing than the one we get in this film. I don't have any kind of real-world pleasure in seeing evil triumph over good, but cinema has become so tired in its barrage of feel-good, tidy endings to films that I've come to crave the more unusual, the more macabre, and the more depressing. I think that's one of the reasons why The Empire Strikes Back is considered to be the best of the six Star Wars films. Terminator 3 is a film that takes the theme of the first two films, "there is no fate but what we make for ourselves," and turns it on its head. Ultimately, this might very well be the ultimate turn-off for the dedicated fans of the first two films, but when you stop and really think about it, life is never so cut and dry as to fit into a tidy, tongue-pleasing slogan. It's a volatile and mutable entity and whether you believe in fate or not, what we do as individuals can only make the world go 'round so far.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner is batting .500 with the primary specs of this release, but sadly for them, this isn't baseball, and 1/2 is a poor showing. While the film is presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Warner has pressed the disc with a glitch that displays a 1080i image as the primary feature. When the PiP function is activated, the regular 1080p image is present. Despite this drawback (and this is a problem Warner is aware of and will supposedly correct on future pressings) the image looks very good on the whole. Terminator 3 offers excellent black levels that are deep and jet-black in appearance with excellent reproduction, not to mention fine shadow detail. This print is absolutely pristine with no discernible blemishes to speak of. Detail is fine but there is a lack of depth and clarity overall. The image often sports a glossy, processed, and unnatural look. Flesh tones often look like plastic moldings, and they sport a reddish tint through much of the runtime of the movie. Some of the green screen effects are plainly visible as characters are sometimes bathed around their edges with an unnatural and obvious glow that screams "special effect." Look at the scene in chapter 13 as John and the T- 800 are driving along in the truck. Granted, director Jonathan Mostow points out this scene in the special features, but there are some very obvious scenes in need of touch-ups to make the integration of the effects seamless. Although this a nice image on the whole, it's severely lacking in ultimate clarity, detail, and vibrancy.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray, Audio Quality
In perhaps one of the oddest moves in the young history of the Blu-ray format, Warner Brothers has chosen not to include a lossless audio track for Terminator 3. Saddled with only a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the results are nevertheless mostly spectacular. While the exclusion of a lossless track is indeed unfortunate, Warner does deliver perhaps the best lossy mix I've heard yet on Blu-ray. If you like your action loud, your speakers to get an extended workout, and your ears to scream "uncle" by the end of the picture, this one's for you. For instance, take the shootout in the cemetery in chapter 18. It hits you in the gut, repeatedly, until the final shell casing crashes to the ground. What we get here is incredibly deep bass, but it sometimes suffers from being a bit muddled and it lacks the clear and clean punch the best lossless mixes offer. Surrounds are used to great effect. There's always something going on, be it the hissing path of a missile, the reverberation of an explosion, or the simple background music in a department store early in the film. They are all clear and pleasing in their reproduction. Dialogue is smooth and focused in the center, though there were a few instances in which I strained to make out what was being said under the music and action that permeates nearly the entirety of the track. Ultimately, fidelity and dynamics suffer a bit from the lack of a true lossless mix, but this track certainly suffices and, dare I say, rocks and rolls with an endless amount of energy and stamina. As good of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as this is, I still must dock this presentation a full point for not offering a high definition audio track on a high definition format disc.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Terminator fans should be pleased. This release provides the most special features we've seen yet accompanying a Terminator film on Blu-ray. First up is a "phony" picture-in- picture commentary with director Jonathan Mostow. When this feature is on, we see the true 1080p image. Unfortunately, it's covered by the PiP window throughout most of the runtime. Regarding the feature itself, the commentary is interesting with Mostow and other cast and crew members recounting some very interesting on-set stories, what it was like to work with Arnold, as well as where this film fits into the franchise. Mostow is an extremely interesting man to listen to. He's smart, passionate, and eloquent. He knows his stuff and he knows this franchise, and he's a very personable director. I can't wait to hear more from him in the future. The secondary picture window works better here than in some of the other "true" profile 1.1 PiP windows I've seen, like that in Resident Evil: Extinction, because it's actually big enough to be a worthwhile item to watch.
Next are three commentary tracks. The first features director Jonathan Mostow, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Nick Stahl, and Kristanna Loken. Each participant is recorded separately, so this is more of a montage than a group effort. Nevertheless, each participant offers up some great insights, and I was happy to hear Arnold's thoughts on both the franchise as a whole and in this film in particular. The second track is a solo effort by Mostow. He discusses "the process of directing" the film. He covers everything from the three separate studio logos at the beginning of the film, what that meant for the method behind making the movie, and how not producing the movie inside the usual "studio structure" allowed for the not-so audience pleasing ending to the more technical and mundane, such as shooting particular scenes on a soundstage with moving plates rather than on location. Like his commentary in the PiP feature, Mostow proves to be engaging and entertaining. This is the best track of the three. The third track features Mostow, writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, production designer Jeff Mann, and director of photography Don Burgess. As expected, this is the driest and most technical of the tracks, but there is also quite a bit of discussion about the decisions that make this film work.
Behind the Story is a four part feature that starts off with a brief introduction by superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger (480p, 0:33) that serves more as an introduction to the special features as a whole rather than this individual grouping. This is followed by the HBO First Look special (480p, 13:02) which is a very bland and typical behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Arnold discusses why he is a good fit for this film while the crew describes the movie making process and the core of the story presented in this film. As usual, there is a lot of back patting going on amongst the cast and crew. Storyboards (480p, 3:54) looks at a scene side-by-side with the storyboards that were drawn beforehand to lay out the way the scene should look on film. I always enjoy these storyboard features quite a bit and I look forward to greater implementation of them with the PiP feature in the future. Dressed to Kill (480p, 2:11) is a brief look at the famous wardrobe worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in this film, not to mention the clothes worn by some of the other characters.
Moving on, Sgt. Candy Scene (480p, 1:50) is a deleted scene featuring a comical "commercial" for SkyNet's weapons systems and how the Terminator ended up with an Austrian accent. Terminal Flaws (480p, 3:01) is a sometimes funny blooper reel. Toys in Action (480p, 6:35) looks at Todd McFarlan's famous toy and product line relating to this film and how they decide which scenes will resonate most with audiences and therefore make for the best figurines. There is also a fascinating look at how these figurines are created and the intricate detail that goes into making each one. Making of the Video Game (480p, 8:57) explores the way in which the game expands on the world created in T3. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:23) and a preview for the above-referenced video game (480p, 1:36) conclude this set of supplements.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a fun, exciting, and explosive action movie that is also admirable in its attempt to carry on the tradition of the first two films by expanding the story line in a mostly logical manner. As a hardcore fan of the franchise, I went into this film with mixed expectations but came out of the experience wholly satisfied. The best part of the movie is undoubtedly the controversial and unexpected ending, and any shortcomings or minor flaws I noted through the length of the film were instantly shrugged off by the powerful and brave finale. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers has released T3 on Blu-ray as a flawed disc on both the video and audio side. A mastering snafu has resulted in the feature displaying a 1080i image only and the audio has been crippled by the inclusion of a lossy only Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. Fortunately, the disc is not a total loss as both are of high quality, but they ultimately leave the disc and the viewer wanting for something better. Fans of the film should be pleased with the number and quality of the included extras. Unfortunately, as much as I liked the film, I can only recommend renting T3 until Warner Brothers fixes the 1080i problem, and perhaps until the film is re-issued with the true high definition soundtrack it demands.
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