Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (UK - BD)
Chris Gould takes a look at his second Terminator movie in as many weeks...
Despite seemingly preventing Judgement Day (as seen in the events of Terminator 2), an adult John Connor (Nick Stahl) does not believe that the war has truly been averted. He chooses to live 'off-the-grid' in Los Angeles, with no permanent home or job in order to prevent anyone from tracking him. He fears prove to be warranted when Skynet sends a new model of Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), back through time in an attempt to kill as many of the future human resistance's lieutenants as possible, thereby tipping the balance of the war in its favour. The T-X is an advanced hybrid of the T-800 and T-1000 models and has been designed with an arsenal of powerful weaponry and the ability to remotely control machines with the use of 'nano-transjectors'.
While searching for medicine after a motorcycle accident, John has a chance encounter with Katherine Brewster, an old school friend who, unbeknownst to them both, will go on to become John's wife and second-in-command of the resistance. When the T-X arrives to terminate Kate, it quickly discovers John's presence and begins interrogating her for information, but as before the future resistance is able to send a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back through time to protect Connor and Brewster. Arriving just in time to save them from the T-X, this new Terminator has one mission: to ensure the survival of John Connor and Katherine Brewster so that they may fulfil their destinies.
Now I'm not one to ramble on about films in my reviews (I figure there are better-qualified people than me out there if you want that sort of thing), but I just have to say a few words about Terminator 3. This BD release marks the first time I have watched the film since the DVD release, which itself was only my second viewing, so I was interested to learn whether I'd get more enjoyment out of it now. The short answer is no, not really. Although it's not a totally abhorrent piece of filmmaking, it is a very sloppy one, even for a film involving time travel. The creators not only got John and Sarah's ages wrong, but some of the set-pieces make no sense. The one that always irritates me is the scene in which the T-X uses her nano-machines to make cars drive themselves. I can buy the T-X controlling the electronic components, but what about the mechanical? How the hell do the accelerators/clutch/brakes/steering work?
It's not just that though. In the first and second films Skynet was a supercomputer built by Cyberdyne Systems for the US military. In this film, Skynet exists in Cyberspace, with its AI apparently spread across the world's computer networks. If that's the case, wouldn't nuking all of the major cities on Earth also wipe out most of Skynet's 'brain' at the same time? Putting aside the blast damage, what about the EMPs? A single supercomputer in a protected military bunker I can understand, but this network thing just makes no sense in the way it is presented in the film. There are numerous other things that bother me ('Talk to the Hand' is no 'I'll Be Back'), but it's the general lack of respect for the universe created by Jim Cameron that I find hardest to swallow. Obviously any film involving time travel and futuristic cyborgs has to be taken with a pinch of salt, but at least Terminator 2 was faithful to the laws outlined in the original film. Anyway, whinge over, I'll get on with the rest of the review.
Sony delivers Terminator 3 with a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) that looks pretty good for the most part. Obviously this is the newest of the Schwarzenegger Terminator films, so one would expect it to look significantly better than the older movies, and it's fair to say that it does. The first thing that struck me was how clean the image is, with nary a blemish to be seen anywhere on the print. It's also fairly detailed, although it’s not the sort of razor sharp clarity found on the very best releases (but this seems to be due to the way Terminator 3 was filmed). I don’t have the intimate knowledge of the film required to be certain that colour rendition is completely faithful to the source material, but if the DVD release is a reliable indicator it looks to be reasonably accurate if a little unnatural (skin tones are a good indicator of this as they occasionally have an 'artificial quality' to them). Contrast appears be be a little off, but once again it appears to be consistent with the DVD presentation, so I can only assume that the film is meant to look this way. Blacks are deep and stable though. All things considered it appears to be a solid representation of the original material even if it's not 'reference quality', so fans should be happy.
As is customary for their Blu-ray releases, Sony provides a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that offers plenty of aural thrills and spills. Right from the get-go all five channels are utilised to deliver an engaging experience, from the future war sequence and the fast-paced T-X pursuit, to the cemetery shoot-out and 'rise' of the machines at the CRS base. The cemetery and CRS scenes in particular stick in my mind for the copious amount of bullets that fly around the soundstage, accompanied by some nice, deep bass (especially when the T-1s fire their miniguns). Actually bass is probably worth singling out, because it's incredibly powerful throughout. It's not just the obvious explosions that benefit though, as even less obvious things like the T-X's flame-thrower pack a fair amount of low-end punch. Subtle elements aren’t forgotten either, and there are times when the atmospheric sounds do a wonderful job of convincing you that you’re along for the ride. On the negative side I did find the dialogue a little indistinct at times, particularly during the louder moments. The aggressive use of the surround channels was occasionally overwhelming as well, and Marco Beltrami’s score could also have done with a slightly stronger presence in the mix (although that’s really a personal thing). Even so, this is still a very impressive soundtrack that could easily serve as a demo title for those wanting to show off their surround set-up.
The disc actually contains a reasonably generous helping of bonus material, featuring most of the previously available DVD features and some brand new high definition content. Some of the features from the two-disc release are missing, which is a shame, especially considering less than thirty-five gigabytes of space is used on the disc.
TerminatorVision: Picture-in-Picture Experience: This is the disc's BonusView feature, which provides additional commentary and windowed video footage pertinent to the on-screen events. So far BonusView features have left me somewhat underwhelmed, but this one is actually reasonably interesting (even if there is a fair amount of space between the video segments). Mostow dominates the track, so much so that you could be forgiven for thinking that it's a solo effort, but the video segments show some interesting footage.
Audio Commentary by Director Jonathan Mostow, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Nick Stahl, actress Claire Danes and actress Kristanna Loken: This is the same commentary track that appeared on the DVD releases. Each participant was recorded separately and their comments edited together later, so it doesn't have the sort of flow you get with most group commentaries, but it's actually still pretty informative. Arnold comes across as someone who's just a little bit too obsessed with his own body (and Loken's for that matter). It borders on creepy at times.
Audio Commentary by Director Jonathan Mostow: This commentary track also appeared on the two-disc edition of T3 when it arrived back in 2003. It's more technical than the first track, so this is probably the place to start if you're looking for in-depth discussion about every facet of the production.
Documentary (13:02 SD): This is a pretty standard featuette that covers all of the promotional bases without providing any real insight into the production. It was obviously designed to drum up interest prior to the launch of the film, so it focusses on the action and the new 'Terminatrix' (I'm sure that should be 'Terminatress). The cast pop up to tell us how great the film is going to be, but that's about as deep as it gets.
Storyboards (03:55 SD): This is actually a split screen feature that shows the Crystal Peak storyboards alongside the completed footage. I guess this could be quite interesting if you're into the whole 'how did the scene evolve' thing.
Dressed to Kill (02:12 SD): This is a very short look at the various attire worn by the characters, with the focus on the T-850 and the T-X. It's way too short to be of any real interest.
Toys in Action (07:04 SD): In this featurette, Todd McFarlane talks us through the process of creating Terminator toys. While I found the artist work fairly interesting, I did get a bit tired with McFarlane himself. He is way too enthusiastic about plastic dolls.
Sgt. Candy Deleted Scene (01:51 SD): This is the much-talked about Sgt. Candy scene, which features Arnie playing a character who would be the physical basis for the Terminators. It's a fun scene to watch in isolation, but I can see why it was lifted from the film (it would have pushed it too far into the realms of parody).
Terminal Flaws: Gag Reel (03:02 SD): Yes, it's the usual sight of actors fluffing their lines and things going wrong. None of the gaffs are particularly funny though.
Making of the Video Game (08:57 SD): This promotional featurette for the making of the first T3 makes it look a hell of a lot better than reviews suggest. True to form everyone goes on about how great it will be, with even the late, great Stan Winston professing his love for it. Oh dear.
Trailers: The disc also includes trailers for Terminator: Salvation and The Da Vinci Code, along with the usual Blu-ray showcase.
BD-Live: CineChat: This is the latest idea from content makers—that people are going to get together and chat about films online as they watch them. It's an interesting concept, but personally I'm barely able to organise my sock drawer, let alone find a group of people who own the film and are interested in both watching and discussing it at the same time as me. Not that I could try it mind you—it locked my PC up good and proper...
Try as I might, I just can't view Terminator 3 as a valid extension of the Terminator franchise. I get some enjoyment if I watch it for the pyrotechnics and robots beating each other up, rather than as a serious science fiction picture, but it's too dumb to be taken as a proper continuation of Jim Cameron's films. I don't think this Blu-ray is going to do anything to change the minds of people who dislike the flick (me included), but at least it's technically competent with solid video, great audio and a fair helping of bonus material. If you're a Terminator 3 fan this should definitely be on your 'must buy' list, just don't expect me to be standing in line next to you at the store.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 25th May 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Audio Description 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: Danish, English, English HoH, Finnish, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: TerminatorVision: Picture-in-Picture Experience, Director and Cast Commentary, Storyboards, Documentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scene, Blooper Reel, CineChat (BD-Live)
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 109 minutes
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