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DVD REVIEW

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines  (2003)

 

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, et al.

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Rating: R

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: November 11, 2003
Review posted: November 18, 2003

Spoilers: Minor

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

The T-101 Terminator (Schwarzenegger) returns for one more mission to protect John Conner (Stahl) from a new threat. This time a female Terminator (Kristanna Loken) is bent on terminating everyone of Connor's future resistance cell in the war, including Kate Brewster, a young woman (Claire Danes) whose father (David Andrews) is Skynet's director.

 

Critique

 

Well, I'm listening to Brad Fiedel's Terminator 2 score right now. It reminds me of watching a smart, action-packed sci-fi adventure. James Cameron directed T2 a little over ten years ago. The film is a masterpiece in its own right. Now, star Arnold Schwarzenegger is ten years older, not to mention California's new governor. In any case, Arnold is back in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. It is directed by Jonathan Mostow, the man who brought us the suspenseful Breakdown and exciting U-571. In a sense Mostow follows well into the footsteps of Cameron. However, he adds his own spin to the visual style and play of the film. Mostow proves to be the right choice for this film.

 

On the other hand, Terminator 3 lacks the kinetics and punches of the second film, yet that is mostly due to the script. John Brancato and Michael Ferris come up with a decent idea to bring back the Terminator. The idea is only decent because it's more of the same like we saw in T2. Still, both these guys script some good action pieces. Dialogue interactions with the Terminator and John Connor are fun to watch. Most notably they bring a new character into the story, namely Kate Brewster, daughter of Skynet's director and future ally to John. They also come up with an interesting premise that concerns a new future as well as the introduction of some good themes and ideas, but at 109 minutes the film is a bit too short. Fleshing out the ideas and possible scenarios, as well as adding a few more defining scenes, are aspects that would've improved the film. Additionally, Brancato and Ferris ignore some of the plot threads from T2 by changing the impact and meaning of the famous line, "Fate is what you make of it." Well, as it turns out that is not the case in T3. It's not the smartest thing, but I didn't mind that much.

 

As it stands, Terminator 3 is an enjoyable sequel with incredible action. On the other hand, it's also an average sequel when compared to T2. The dynamics of T3 are not as original as in the former. In other words, it's more of a popcorn flick than a true sci-fi action film. The mass audience might not care much about that factor, but it keeps the film from reaching a level of originality. It's a little disappointing, but I still find many things enjoyable about the film. As mentioned earlier, the introduction of Kate Brewster is a good idea as it adds a new female figure to the story, especially because of how the film addresses the absence of Sara Connor. The spin on her character makes sense and sets up a potentially good premise for a proposed fourth Terminator film. The ultimate set-up, however, occurs at the end of T3. It is then that the war begins. Some viewers will feel excitement like I did. Others will criticize the open-ended nature of the film. Personally, I can't wait for Terminator 4.

 

The acting in T3 is pretty solid. Schwarzenegger returns to the role with a good physique. He plays the same Terminator model, and even though he looks a bit older and his accent is a bit too loose, he is still our favorite cyber-organetic killing machine. Sounds odd during these times, doesn't it? Truthfully, his presence isn't really required in the film, but it probably gives fans of the franchise a greater incentive to watch the film. Aside from John Connor he is still the central figure.

 

Moreover, Nick Stahl does a very good job taking over the role of John Connor. Seeing Edward Furlong return would've been kind of strange, not to mention inappropriate considering his personal problems. Stahl has a good presence, especially opposite Claire Danes. Danes is good for the part of Kate and it should be interesting where these two characters end up. Much can be said about the Terminatrix, played by hottie Kristanna Loken. She's a good transition after Robert Patrick's T-1000 model. Called the T-X, she is much more advanced at terminating.

 

Aside from the overall decent storyline, T3 lacks a determined and powerful score. Brad Fiedel is not back in the composer's chair. Instead, Scream composer Marco Beltrami takes over, but he does a crappy job. Only a few tracks in the soundtrack show promise while the rest are quiet and too short. There is no identifiable "theme", which is a pretty big setback for music enthusiasts and fans. Come back for the fourth one, Brad. You're needed. Anyway, rambling about a fourth film is too premature. I wish I wouldn't have mentioned it as often as I did. Perhaps we'll never see one, but indications are the project is moving ahead. Good.

 

So, despite some minor ramblings and setbacks in the film, I am recommending Terminator 3 as a whole for its entertainment value. It's not T2, but it's damn fun. I had a good time with it and I think fans can enjoy this one, too.

 

The Video

 

Warner Bros. presents Terminator 3 in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are sharp and well-saturated. Color detail is well defined. Grain is not really a big issue here, which is good. I also didn't notice any compression artifacts. Blacks are deep while dark tones are pretty consistent. The overall image quality is quite good. Definition is sharp while the image itself is clean and very fresh. This is a very good presentation.

 

The Audio

 

Warner Bros. presents Terminator 3 in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. I'll say it right off the bat, this soundtrack is packing some good punch and heavy dynamic range. Surrounds are clearly active, distributing all sorts of sound effects into the soundfield for a nice surround experience. Dialog is nicely reproduced across the two front channels. It is also clear and easy to understand. My subwoofer also made some noise. On the other hand, the soundtrack fails to successfully incorporate Marco Beltrami's score into the mix. However, most of his score is weak to begin with. Only a few good tones exist. The absence of Brad Fiedel's signature score is sorely missed. In any case, this presentation is strong and to the point.

 

The Extras

 

It should be noted that this DVD is not a special edition. It's simply a 2-disc edition. In widescreen! Wow! Jonathan Mostow has been quoted as saying several DVD editions are planned for the future. Well, that's kind of unfair, but for business it's gold. Anyway, the DVD features a few good extras, but the rest are lame.

 

On disc 1 there is a commentary with Jonathan Mostow that's pretty good. He goes into detail about the production and story, as well as a few other things. His comments are well-spoken; he's good talker. It's an informative track. Next is a second commentary by Mostow joined by Claire Danes, and Nick Stahl, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kristanna Loken chipping in comments from separate recording sessions. They all have good things to say. Some of Arnold's comments are a bit strange, but he's usually a pretty free-thinking kind of guy. Mostow repeats a few things from his solo track, but brings up new topics also.

 

The film's theatrical trailer and a video game trailer round out the extras on the first disc. Pop in disc 2 and you can navigate through four pages of special features stuff. These extras don't need that many pages. The appearance of a large selection of extras is deceiving. But whatever.

 

Schwarzenegger starts off disc 2 with a 30-second introduction that's kind of pointless. We get a funny deleted scene that plays like an infomercial and explains the origin of the T-101 model and the reason for the Austrian accent. It wouldn't have worked in the film, but it's fun to have it here. The DVD also offers a 13-minute HBO First Look making-of featurette, which is all standard promo stuff. It's not very exciting and doesn't go into detail about the film. A 3-minute gag reel is not that funny, plus the song that plays over it is pretty lame and annoying.

 

But the next item proves to be much more informative and entertaining. The Visual FX Lab is made up of several sections detailing four major effects sequences in the film. It shows the progression of each scene in terms of the background plate, effects animation, composition, etc. A pretty good demonstration of the special effects. Also, you can build you own action sequence by changing around elements of the respective scene. It's kind of fun, but not as interactive as one might think. No major modifications occur.

 

Rounding out the extras is a very brief costume design featurette, a decent but unwarranted featurette on T3 toys with Todd MacFarlane, a lame making of the video game that's not really a making of the video game (it's mostly interviews and game footage), a Terminator timeline, storyboards and a Skynet text database containing all sorts of notes.

 

Most of these extras are filler material, like those on the Matrix Reloaded 2-disc edition. A special edition with  in-depth featurettes or documentaries is sure to follow within the next year or two. Boo-hoo! It's not like I can't wait.

 

You can select to view the film with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The 109-minute feature is organized into thirty-two chapters.

 

Overall

 

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is an enjoyable sequel filled with cool action sequences. The story is not totally original, but nicely continues the plot of the franchise even by omitting a few threads from the previous two films. Jonathan Mostow directs the film well. The cast looks good, too.

 

Video/audio quality is pretty damn good. Most of the extras are filler material, except Mostow's commentary and the visual effects demonstrations that are the highlights. The DVD is worth a purchase. A special edition could be at least a year away. Why wait. Highly recommended.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 8
THE VIDEO 9

THE AUDIO

10

THE EXTRAS

6

OVERALL (not an average)

8

 

VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 


 

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