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Not letting the fact that no film could ever surpass the crowd pleasing sci-fi action of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the makers of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines didn’t let the past stand in their way. They have crafted a fun film that never lets itself get bogged down by the history set by the first two films. Inevitably, however, this is the weakest film of the series. But has Warner provided a disc worthy of the fans? Absolutely. Read on to find out why.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a project that had nothing going for it. Without James Cameron behind the camera (or involved in any way at all), many thought the project was doomed from day one. With a new director, Jonathan Mostow ( U-571), a new John Connor, Nick Stahl ( Bully), and a story that seemed like a rehash of Terminator 2: Judgment Day it appeared that the naysayers would be right. I am pleased to say that they were only half correct about this film.

Ten years after John and Sarah Connor stopped the T-1000 and Judgment Day, John is in hiding. His fears prove to be well-founded as another, later model terminator, the T-X (played by the smashingly gorgeous Kristanna Loken), travels back to 2003 with a new mission. In the midst of the chaos, John meets Kate Brewster (Claire Danes of My So-Called Life fame), and it seems that their meeting at this time is no coincidence. A T-800 (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads John and Kate on a journey to learn the truth behind Judgement Day and to stop the T-X.

Terminator 3 is not the bomb that many thought it was going to be. Mostow is wise enough to keep the tone and the look of the movie close enough to Cameron’s original style, so as to not alienate this film from the rest of the series. He does, however, throw enough of his own flair into the mix so that we never feel that we are merely watching a replica of Judgment Day. There are also scenes of action in this film that are simply breathtaking to behold. Not thirty minutes into the movie, one of the greatest scenes of vehicular mass destruction takes place, and the movie rarely lets up until the end. At times, the film begins to border on the ridiculous in the action arena - after a while you begin to notice that something blows up every ten to fifteen minutes! Fortunately however, each and every action scene is a joy to watch.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The actors here are all very strong. Schwarzenegger and Loken are both excellent in their parts. Arnold would have had no excuse to not play a perfect terminator; the real worry lay with the ability of Loken, a virtual unknown, to carry such a heavy role. Loken is a real delight as the T-X with her ability to create small moments with only her head and face movements. Nick Stahl is also believable as John Connor and does a good job throughout. Claire Danes is decent in her role although she would qualify as the weakest link amongst the cast.

The real problem with the movie is the script. As hard as it tries, the story here is nothing that we haven’t already seen from a Terminator film. The good terminator versus bad terminator premise was carried out to much greater effect ten years ago with Judgment Day. The time-travel aspect and inherent paradoxes therein reach a new level of confusion in this film as both terminators have unnatural knowledge of each other's movements from the very beginning and the audience is left to wonder why this movie needed to be created after the finality of the last film. Also, there is far too much goofiness involving Arnold’s terminator. Where Terminator 2 used carefully placed and crafted bits of humor to showcase the small bit of humanity contained within the machine, Terminator 3 frequently uses the terminator as ludicrous comic relief when none is needed. Finally, the much talked about ending is admittedly a little weak and underwhelming in light of the rest of the film.

There is no escaping comparison to the two films that came before Rise of the Machines. The first two in the trilogy are true examples of modern classics. While Terminator 3 tries its best, it is by far the weakest of the series. The admirable job done by the cast and crew to ensure this films place in the series, however, is to be commended. With less brains and more popcorn value, this film should satisfy most fans of the action filled saga.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Warner Brothers have overseen a most excellent transfer for Terminator 3. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is absolutely flawless. This is reference quality folks. Even under close scrutiny on a big screen TV, there was no evidence of edge enhancement. There were no nicks or scratches to be found on the print. Free of any defects, full of rich color and containing deep and detailed blacks, this transfer is a joy to behold. This is the DVD to use when showing your friends that new television set!

Fear not, my friends, although we do not get a DTS track here (like our Region 2 cousins), the Dolby Digital 5.1 is probably the best 5.1 surround track I have heard. Every scene is full of effects that totally envelop. Dialogue remains crisp and clear; even when the action gets tough. Most will be more than satisfied with this wonderfully hyper surround track. Others, however, will be able to see the incredible potential of a DTS track on any future release of the film. Do not feel cheated by buying this disc, it will give your system a true workout.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The supplemental package included in this release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines begins with two audio commentary tracks. The first includes director Jonathan Mostow and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken. This track is made up of individual clips from each person involved. This keeps the track from every becoming cluttered or confusing. Each person delivers interesting information and the track is never boring. The second track with director Jonathan Mostow is equally excellent. He has a deep appreciation and understanding of the Terminator movies and he explains the connections between this film and the first two in the series. He also gives some of the detailed technical information that some of us look for in our commentary tracks. Both tracks come highly recommended. Also included on Disc 1 is the theatrical trailer for Terminator 3 and the trailer for the film’s video game counterpart.

Disc 2 starts off with a short introduction by Arnold. Following that is a documentary on the film. It’s more a promotional piece than a documentary, although we do get some decent interview clips and some behind-the-scenes peaks.

Next is the infamous deleted “Sgt. Candy” scene. This shows some of the research being conducted by CRS in conjunction with the Skynet project. In this deleted scene we see the prototype for the Arnold-style terminator. We meet Sgt. Candy and hear his “real” voice and discover where the Arnold-style accent came from. This scene is overly ridiculous and the humor falls flat. If it had been done in a more serious fashion it would have been sorely missed. In the state it is in, though, it was wisely left out of the final cut.

There is also a short gag reel. This reel is good for a chuckle and should definitely be checked out. Watch for the naughty hand gesture pulled off by the T-X endoskeleton.

Next we enter the real meat of the extra features: The “Visual Effects Lab”. Following an informative introduction by some of the cast and crew, we are invited to detailed breakdowns of four effects heavy sequences in the film: the Crane Chase, the TX Transformation, the Future War and Crystal Peak. Each section presents a challenge for the effects team and gives us video clips and interviews with the people involved with the creation of said effects. These sections are technical enough for those interested but never overly so. They are always interesting. Finally, there is a “Create Your Own Visual Effects” feature that sounds much more fascinating than it ends up being. Using the tricks that you have learned in the Visual Effects Lab you are able to put together your own scene. You can chose from “Robots” and “Underwater Scene” background plates. Once inside your selection, you can mix and match different elements to configure. Once finished, your completed scene is played. Unfortunately, the scenes are either clips from the film or clips from the film with obviously rendered changes. Interesting idea, poor execution.

Two features combine to provide some background information on the Terminator series. After correctly answering a trivia question, you are able to enter the Skynet Database and read about the characters and machines involved in the three movies. There is also a Terminator Timeline that will help sort out the now complex series of events spread across the three films.

There is also a trio of interesting featurettes included on the DVD. The first is a storyboard featurette that plays the Crystal Peak scene while simultaneously showing the storyboards for the scene. This automatically progressing featurette is much more interesting than your standard static storyboards. The next featurette is called “Dressed to Kill” and explains the work that went into the costumes in the film. Lastly you will find “Toys in Action” which covers the action figures that came with the Terminator 3 marketing blitz. All three are interesting and worth checking into.

Rounding out the features is a trailer for the PC game, a making-of for the video game and some web links. The making-of the video game featurette is far more interesting than it should be and was actually a pretty fun watch.

This DVD package, while not the most spectacular ever conceived, is quite comprehensive. Although a more detailed behind-the-scenes documentary could have been included, most information contained within such a feature can be found spread out on these discs. As a side note, all special features can be viewed with French subtitles. Bravo Warner Brothers.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 3 was a pleasant surprise for a huge Terminator fan such as myself. While the film was disappointing overall, it wasn’t the astronomically depressing disappointment I anticipated. The movie sets up the series for a fourth addition, although with Arnold busy with his new political duties I do not foresee a quick (or good) sequel coming along. Standing alone as an action film, T3 excels. If for no other reason, pick this disc up for the reference quality picture and one of the best 5.1 tracks ever. Otherwise, pick it up to enjoy an admirable attempt to follow-up one of the best sci-fi films ever.