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Warner Home Video presents
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines HD-DVD (2003)

"Basic psychology is among my subroutines."
- The Terminator (Arnold Scharzenegger)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 18, 2007

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
Other Stars: David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen, Moira Harris
Director: Jonathan Mostow

MPAA Rating: R for strong sci-fi violence and action, language and brief nudity
Run Time: 01h:49m:17s
Release Date: September 26, 2006
UPC: 012569809444
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The original two Terminator films from James Cameron were instant classics of the action/sci-fi genre. Together, they made a comprehensive little story about the dangers of reliance on machines, with amazing kill counts and action, with some odd time paradoxes thrown in to boot. A third film really didn't seem necessary, but when you combine Schwarzenegger's star power and the money that is generated by these pictures, a third movie was probably inevitable. It doesn't quite measure up to its predecessors, in part due to Cameron's absence, but it manages to be an exciting action piece that is entertaining enough on its own merits.

John Connor (Nick Stahl) avoided the takeover of the world by Skynet and its machines in the previous movie, but he nonetheless stays off the grid, keeping himself incognito to the extent possible. When he's injured in an accident, he sneaks into the veterinary clinic where Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) works to get some medication. Two Terminators arrive from the future in which the machines have eliminated most of mankind, except for a resistance led by the future Connor. One is the familiar T-101 (Schwarzenegger), sent to protect Connor again, and the new and improved TX (Kristanna Loken), which is determined to kill John and the ten people who are to be his lieutenants in the future, including Kate. It seems Kate's father, military man Robert Brewster (David Andrews) is about to activate Skynet, which will trigger a massive nuclear attack by the machines, and with that foreknowledge Kate and John set out to prevent the dystopian future from happening. But the TX is both implacable and highly destructive, complete with plasma weaponry, so they are in deep trouble.

Where Terminator 2 was deeply hopeful and optimistic, this sequel is very much pessimistic. The future is inevitable, according to this version, and can at most be postponed, not prevented. It's a deterministic nightmare that John Calvin would approve. It seems that if anything, the future can only get worse, since the TX is quite successful in killing John's lieutenants-to-be, altering the future for the worse. As a result, the grim story is depressing, enlivened only by pure adrenaline and occasional glimpses of happiness that soon turn to ash.

The sequel does, however, deliver the action sequences in spades. It's virtually a non-stop cascade of car crashes, chases, gun battles, mayhem and explosions, providing a visceral thrill that is hard to resist. Only at a few moments is there time to catch one's breath, and they're well-paced too. Director Jonathan Mostow may not be James Cameron, but he never leaves a dull moment. There are a bunch of holes in the story, such as the easy willingness of the government to connect all computer systems to Skynet as a way to deal with a computer virus, which is certainly antithetical to any kind of computer security. There are also some continuity glitches with the previous films, such as John Connor's age not being consistent with the prior movies.

Ahnuld is in fine form back in the leather-clad robotic role, and he's clearly having a great time. Stahl provides a good intensity just on the edge of madness that echoes the paranoia of Linda Hamilton's character in the prior films. Claire Danes is an interesting casting choice for Kate, giving a hysterical disbelief to her initial contacts with John and the Terminators, succeeded by acceptance and even action heroine status. Loken has an icy coldness reminiscent of Robert Patrick's wry portrayal of the evil Terminator of the second film, with an edge of sadistic viciousness. Earl Boen returns again in a very humorous little cameo that fans of the previous films will enjoy. It may not be great cinema, and not hold up to close scrutiny, but it still manages to be pretty satisfying from a purely action film standpoint.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The HD transfer is surprisingly soft on the live action throughout, although the CGI elements are very crisp and sharp. The contrast is occasionally distracting, but at least there isn't any significant edge enhancement or artifacting. Colors are vivid, but black levels don't seem quite fully saturated. One sequence, where John and Kate are talking outdoors in the sunshine, is very grainy and extremely soft, possibly as a result of blowing up the Super 35 frame excessively. The unevenness of the quality is the main defect; the source print is appropriately immaculate.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital+ 5.1 tracks are highly effective, with house-rattling bass and subsonic effects in the LFE throughout. It's a killer soundtrack with plenty of directionality and presence. Marco Beltrammi's score has a good vividness and never sounds shrill or muddy. Dialogue is always clear, and manages to be heard above the noisy mix. It's an exceptional track that will give even the best systems a solid workout.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captioning only)` with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Deleted Scenes
4 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Jonathan Mastow, actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken; writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Don Burgess, production designer Jeff Mann
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. In-Movie Experience
  2. Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger
  3. Gag reel
Extras Review: While the standard DVD had an enormous amount of extras, the HD DVD ups the ante by including an In-Movie Experience, a picture-in-picture commentary of sorts that takes many of the most interesting details and combines them with visuals of the persons talking, storyboards, artwork, visualizations and more. It's quite thorough although there are some dead spots. Ahnuld provides a very brief (33s) introduction to the picture. A set of three commentaries are way over the top for this film, but if you want a thorough discussion, Jonathan Mastow is here to provide it for you. He appears on all three commentaries, with one all to himself. The other two feature selected members of the cast and the crew, recorded separately and edited together. There's a lot of overlap, inevitably (I heard plenty about how Schwarzenegger got back into the same shape he was in 12 years ago, and that no CGI was involved, just pumping iron, for instance). Little surprise, Schwarzenegger's comments are sex-obsessed. Loken's pretty humorous, though, and the cast commentary is worth listening to if you need to pick one.

More casual viewers will probably be satisfied with the featurettes and the In-Movie Experience at most. The HBO First Look (13m:01s) provides the usual assortment of fluff, but as usual there's some interesting green-screen work visible. The too-short Dressed to Kill featurette (2m:11s) talks about the costuming of the Terminators. A storyboard comparison looks at the fiery climactic battle (3m:54s). Toys in Action provides an amusing look at the Todd Macfarlane action figures from the movie, and his enthusiasm for the toys is palpable. There's also a highly dispensable Making of the Video Game. All of the extras are nonanamorphic widescreen, except for the trailer, which is anamorphic, but regrettably not HD. A 3m:01s gag reel is less than humorous. The best extra is a short (1m:50s) deleted scene that includes an informercial for Skynet, and finally explains why the Terminator talks with an Austrian accent. There's more here than most people will want to trudge through, but it's certainly well-packed.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

He said he'd be back, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is indeed back in black and this adrenaline-pumping action/sci-fi is enjoyable on its own terms if not exactly consistent. The HD transfer is reasonably good, the audio is outstanding, and the extras are overwhelming to say the least.


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