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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Science Fiction > Robots > Time Travel > Terminator 3 – Rise Of The Machines (HD-DVD)

Terminator 3 – Rise Of The Machines (HD-DVD)


Picture: B+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



In the vast majority of part three installments of any hit film that becomes a franchise, most land up being disasters.  Sometimes, they are done too late (Godfather III), are unnecessary or occasionally work.  They can work (Mission: Impossible III) and get mixed audience reaction, but that does not change the fact that they are good.  The film all the studios hope for when a part three rolls along is a Goldfinger, Return Of The Jedi or even a Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and that latter film is exactly what Warner Bros. lucked out with when they got their hands on Terminator 3 – Rise Of The Machines in 2003.


Of course, the biggest problem for many was the absence of a post-Titanic James Cameron, who bowed out feeling he had no more to say and was simply not interested.  Also not returning was Linda Hamilton, whose underappreciated work made the first two films work in ways they ever would have without her.  In a sadder way, Edward Furlong was not back as the young John Connor despite reprising his role in the Terminator 2: 3-D specialty film for reasons that were of personal nature and professional conflict not totally known.  Of course, they needed Arnold Schwarzenegger and he was on board 100%, so the film was on its way.


At one point, Vin Diesel was supposed to be involved, but that did not work out, though he is obviously the genre heir apparent to the Schwarzenegger Action throne despite his prepackaged prefabricated doppelganger Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being shoved on us relentlessly.


For starters, the Sarah Connor character was not recast and a new female lead by default would fall on never-been-in-an-action-film-before Claire Danes, who had a very mixed reputation off camera.  This film would change her career for the better and I honestly believe helped her become a better actress just by doing something freer of heavy acting chores yet demanding more comedy and physicality.  The underrated Nick Stahl became the new John Connor and fit the bill surprisingly well.


Playing a new model of Terminator with new viciousness, tricks and dangers is Kristanna Loken as the advanced liquid T-X model, picking up where the T-1000 failed its mission in the last film.  Loken is in amazing shape, handles the role very well and she deserves to be in some more films because everyone still talks about how good she was years later when this film comes up.  She is constantly interesting and even brings some cold chemistry to the film that makes the difference.


One other actor who deserves singling out because it is easy to miss what he did is Mark Famiglietti as Kate’s boyfriend Scott, a performance that is more interesting the more you think about it and impressive considering what little time he had on screen to work with.  Like Loken, he should have surfaced more, but is trying screenwriting, so we’ll see.


The T-X is on the hunt for an entire group of persons who will become part of the army that will help Connor and now that the machines know who they are, the T-X is there to exterminate them to quell the resistance in advance.  In the meantime, John is out on the road and eventually gets involved with veterinarian Kate Brewster (Danes) when he invades her business for medical reasons.  Not knowing the T-X is on the way, he gets stuck, but it is soon apparent they are both in danger.


The model Schwarzenegger played in the first two films is back again, same look and programming, but programmed as protector the second time as the adult John and his crew have captured and reprogrammed another for the same purpose.  Now, the battle begins and the chase is on.


Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies with this film and its predecessors still ticking off fans.  However, there is also a new perspective in the ideology of this film that flies in the face of the Cameron films that both twists (if not subverts) the Action genre and dares to deal with the dark side of a post-9/11 world.  Without ruining the film, it should be said that these changes are more than enough to turn off older fans, yet the film was a bigger hit than is talked about and many of the more profound shifts are interesting.  This includes a twist on the humor that is frankly more sophisticated in a good way than the prior films.  There is also often clever little items and details many people miss that the film does not get enough credit for, proving how dumbed-down audiences have become.


Schwarzenegger is backed by his friends and co-producers Mario F. Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, the former partners of Carolco here under the C2 banner; two men who are part of a small minority of solid film producers who handle big budget bucks and actually know how to spend it by putting as much of it on the screen as possible.  The two things the film does effectively is its giant action stunt sequences and it visual effects that range from some of the few good digital visual effects that anyone will find watchable in ten years to Stan Winston’s actual robot Terminator skeletons.  The combination is remarkable for the genre and little made since can compete in those departments.


This is also definitely a step up for director Jonathan Mostow, who has been a commercial filmmaker for a while, but proves he can be more with better material.  He is able to juggle all of this is not easy, but he pulls it off with the narrative in tact and is slated to do the next film.  It will be much to live up to, but if he can meet the ambitions he succeeded in doing with this film, he can do it again.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image has some issues when the digital visual effects kick in, plus some shots here and there with minor issues, but the majority of the shots are impressive with good depth of field (where applicable), good color range for a film that gets dark and good grey scale that shows further depth.  Cinematographer Don Burgess, A.S.C., does some really underappreciated work here, balancing the needs of an Action genre film with bringing the film into a higher echelon of expensive A-level film production big budget films used to always have and now rarely display.  Along with Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath and Sam Raimi first Spider-Man, this is his best work to date.  Fleshtones are good and this definitely outdoes the standard’s DVD, which had to throw out more visual information than even I realized.


The original theatrical sound for the film was originally mixed in 7.1 for Sony’s SDDS system (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) and except for the first two Raimi Spider-Man films using the same amount of channels in the format, is the unrivaled champ for film releases with that mix in the format since 2001.  The standard DVD had a problematic Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that lost bass sound along with vital sound design soundfield and detail the 7.1 SDDS easily offered.  When this HD-DVD was announced, I was not the only one who expected the disc to have Dolby TrueHD or even Warner’s first DTS tracks of some kind.


Instead, all we get is a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix and it is unfortunately the same exact soundmaster with all the problems, limitations and issues the standard DVD had that made people who buy imports get a DTS edition.  In launching this format, you need all the winners you can get and though the picture is one of the better ones we have seen, this sound is just not cutting it.  Marco Beltrami’s score is not bad, but not the home run many were hoping for, not suffering as much.  Obviously, the speakers are often active, but in a way that disappoints.


As compared to the Blu-ray of Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, the DTS sound holds up better for that film, though the picture on this new film is a little better than the transfer of that one.  You can read more about that at:






Extras are many and include the in-movie function where you can see behind the scenes, interviews and other items as you watch the film, plus a repeat of the extras from the regular DVD, including Schwarzenegger introduction, original theatrical trailer, behind the making of the video game, storyboard gallery, three audio commentaries with the stars and director (which may have prevented better soundtracks in the case of both Warner releases), HBO First Look installment on the show, gag reel, “toys in action” piece, “dressed to kill” costume design piece and a look at the Sgt Candy scene.  All are good, but if it again cost the film performance fidelity, I would have dropped some or all of the commentary tracks.  Why not Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and regular Dolby 2.0?


Either way, this is still one of the best new titles on HD-DVD with some of the best picture performance, so those interested should still get the disc despite some “sound” reservations.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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