Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Terminator
Nick Stahl as John Connor
Claire Danes as Kate Brewster
Kristanna Loken as T-X
David Andrews as Robert Brewster
Mark Famiglietti as Scott Petersen
Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman
Moira Harris as Betsy
Chopper Bernet as Chief Engineer
Christopher Lawford as Brewster's Aide
Carolyn Hennesy as Rich Woman
Jay Acovone as Cop - Westside Street
M.C. Gainey as Roadhouse Bouncer
Susan Merson as Roadhouse Clubgoer #1
Elizabeth Morehead as Roadhouse Clubgoer #1
Billy D. Lucas as Angry Man
Brian Sites as Bill Anderson
Alana Curry as Bill's Girlfriend

Special Features:
Two Commentary Tracks with the Stars and Director
Movie and Video Game Trailers
Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger
The HBO First Look Making-Of Documentary
Sgt. Candy Scene
“Terminal Flaws” Gag Reel
T3 Visual Effects Lab: Build Your Own Eye Popping Action Sequences
Skynet Database Of Weapons and Personnel Dossiers
Terminator Timeline
Storyboards
Dressed To Kill
Toys In Action
The Making Of The Video Game
Enhanced Features For Your DVD-ROM

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French And English Audio
French, English, and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Synopsis:
Some years after Terminator 2, Judgment Day has come and gone without disaster striking. Yet John Connor still feels uneasy. Living on the road and off public records, he is still haunted by nightmares of the end of the world. Unfortunately, his fears are well founded.

A new Terminator arrives in the present. In the form of a female, the “Terminatrix” exhibits terrifying new powers that combine the abilities of the T-1000 and the T-101. Strangely, though, she begins killing random people in Los Angeles. Why is she killing them?

A new “Uncle Bob” Terminator also arrives in the present to protect John Connor. However, there’s more to this one than meets the eye. He has a secret past and mission that will profoundly affect John Connor’s life. He also reveals that Skynet was inevitably created despite John and Sarah Connor’s best efforts. The new Judgment Day will arrive in a few short hours. But is there anything John can do about it?

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is rated R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity.

The Movie:
I was fully expecting Terminator 3 to suck. After all, without writer / director James Cameron at the helm, how could this movie be any good? Fortunately, my expectations were so low that I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the final product. While not being anywhere near on par with the first two Terminator films, it stands on it’s own as more or less a spinoff from the series. It’s a new take on the story that ultimately ends up being entertaining.

T3 is more of a popcorn flick that its predecessors. While T2 was heavy on drama, beautiful cinematography, good performances, and great dialogue, T3 lacks in all those areas. It chooses to emphasize comedy and hard-hitting action even more so than the other films. If Terminator 2 was gourmet dessert, T3 is a Twinkie. Both are good, but each in their own way. One is made with a lot of care while the other is mass produced sugary goodness. Your enjoyment will depend on your tastes and what you’re in the mood for.

One of the things that struck me about Terminator 3 was the improvement in special effects. T2 was a dramatic jump in special effects technology from Terminator. T3 isn’t quite as big a jump, but a jump nevertheless. You see CG Terminator endosketetons walking and fighting in their full glory. You see the morphing effects used on the Terminatrix to greater effect. And as Arnold is beat up and mangled by the end of the film (and you know he is), they use a combination of makeup and CG that is stunning. I never believed more that Arnold was a robot. I wished they had used it more in the film. The scenes of nuclear destruction are impressive as well though they lack the personal impact of Sarah Connor’s nightmares in T2.

T3 also has some of the best action sequences of the 2003 summer. There’s a rather spectacular car chase involving a crane truck. The amount of sheer destruction in the chase is impressive and is, honestly, bigger than many of the chases in the previous two movies. I actually liked it better than the Matrix freeway chase. The grand finale is cool and it involves our heroes battling Skynet and the first generation of Terminators. Overall, thumbs up on the action.

I was really worried the movie was going to be a rehash of Terminator 2. While there are a ton of similarities between the two, they still manage to throw in a number of unique twists to make the story interesting. For example, the reason for the TX killing other people is rather intriguing. I won’t spoil it for you here. Claire Danes’ addition as Kate Brewster throws an interesting twist into the works as well. Her role in everything is revealed towards the end of the film and her character has a lot of future potential. Most interesting, though, is that this film sets up a very cool premise for a sequel which could be set entirely in the post-Judgment Day world. I think that’s a story I’d very much like to see told.

The cast is fairly solid. Of course Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a new Terminator. He looks the same as he did in the other films, but his performance is a bit different. He has many more lines and it makes him seem less robotic. I think he would have been better off just looking cool. Edward Furlong is replaced by Nick Stahl as John Connor. Stahl does a fine enough job, but he lacks the bad boy, rebellious aura of Furlong. I never really thought I saw any potential in him to be a great leader. He is good opposite of Claire Danes, though. I thought she struck a good balance between the wimpy Sarah Connor of Terminator and the butch Sarah Connor of T2. She also has a good relationship with Stahl in the film. I’d really like to see more of her in a sequel. Earl Boen also returns as Dr. Peter Silberman in a cameo that seemed a little forced, but it did draw laughs.

One of the biggest problems with Terminator 3 is the silliness. While T2 had a fair amount of humor, T3 pours it on in heaping helpings. For example, when the Terminatrix gets pulled over by a cop, you see her boobs magically inflate to distract him. It drew cheers from the guys in the audience, but it was cheesy. Schwarzenegger steals clothes from a flaming gay male stripper. After a humorous exchange, Arnie pulls sunglasses out of the stolen coat pocket and puts them on. You then see they look more appropriate for Elton John than the Terminator. It drew major laughs from the crowd, but it again seemed a bit over the top. Later on the battle of the sexes takes on a whole new meaning when the TX and Arnold fight in a men’s restroom. Arnold smashes a urinal over her head, then shoves her face in a toilet. She retaliates by grabbing him by the balls and neck and using him as a battering ram through the stalls. It was a little much. The catch phrase “Tell it to the hand” also lacks the staying power of “Hasta la vista, baby”. As much as this stuff seemed un-Terminatorish, I will admit it drew laughs from the crowd in theaters.

There are numerous plot holes in the film. The TX is inexplicably able to show up where a person is least likely to be and then kills them. There’s little explanation on how she does it. Arnold, Connor, and the gang also magically infiltrate a top secret military installation with no explanation. Throughout the movie I get a sense that a lot of scenes involving exposition were cut for the sake of keeping a fast pace. Unfortunately, they aren’t included on the DVD. And after a breathless, action packed pace through the rest of the film, the movie ends quietly on what should have been the biggest scene of the movie. I found it a bit disappointing. T3 should have ended on a bang rather than a whimper.

I should also mention the shameless product placements in the movie. John Connor blatantly displays a Budweiser beer bottle. A truck in a car chase has a massive ad for a nutritional supplement that takes up the whole screen. Fellow critic Danny Minton mentioned he was waiting for Planet Hollywood to appear on the screen. I guess I can’t fault the film this, though, because T2 had blatant product placements for Subway and Pepsi.

Finally, I have to mention the rating. There’s no way this movie deserved an R. A PG-13 would have been appropriate. I’ve seen PG-13 movies with more profanity, gore, and butt shots than this film had. If the MPAA wants their ratings to carry any weight, they need to be more consistent on how they rate movies.

Overall it’s a fun popcorn flick. Terminator fans should be more or less pleased, but I think everyone will agree James Cameron is still King Of The World. I recommend checking Terminator 3.

The Extras:
As you would expect from a genre film DVD, this two disc set comes with a fair number of extras:

Two Commentary Tracks with the Stars and Director – The first commentary on the DVD features director Jonathan Mostow, Danes, Stahl, Loken, and Schwarzenegger. Mostow says at the beginning that each actor’s commentary was recorded separately (except for Danes who recorded with the director) and then pieced together for the movie. They have interesting things to say, but they rarely comment on what’s happening on the screen. Arnie spends a lot of time talking about his body, Loken’s sexy body, and being naked on the street. Mostow provides the second commentary and discusses more of the technical details of getting the movie made. He offers up a lot of trivia and details on how it was filmed. They aren’t spectacular commentaries, but they’re worth sampling if you’re interested.

Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arnie briefly introduces you to the material on the second DVD. He does look a bit like his age in this feature, though.

The HBO First Look Making-Of Documentary – This video features a lot of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. It doesn’t get heavy into the making of the movie, though. It’s very much geared towards people who hadn’t seen the movie at the time it aired. It rehashes a lot of the plot and there is a lot of footage from the movie, but the behind the scenes footage offsets it and makes it worth checking out.

The Making Of The Video Game – The original cast and crew actually helped in the making of the video game. This video describes the plot of the game, shows how Stan Winston was involved, and more. This, too, has interviews with the actors about the game. Terminator fans and gamers should be interested in checking it out after seeing this video. The game appears to expand on the movie a bit. One of the more intriguing aspects of it is that a scene was filmed specifically for the video game. It was included on the DVD in its entirety.

Sgt. Candy Scene – This is the scene made for the video game. I’m actually glad it wasn’t included in the movie because it borders on parody, but it’s still very amusing. We see a commercial for the research laboratory and we see how they are developing Terminators to replace humans in the army. We then see the man that the Terminator was based on – Sgt. Candy. For lack of a better description, he’s a hick with Arnold’s body. As he talks with a goofy voice and a southern drawl, an executive says, “I don’t know about the accent.” Another executive with Arnold’s voice replies, “We can fix it.” It’s silly and completely ruins the dark mood of the Terminator movies, but it’s still funny.

“Terminal Flaws” Gag Reel – This is a short gag reel of bloopers where Arnie and the others flub their lines, break props, and generally screw up. It’s fun to see the Terminator do things completely out of character.

T3 Visual Effects Lab: Build Your Own Eye Popping Action Sequences – This section is made up of several parts. In one section you have four videos describing how some of the key effects scenes in the movie were created. These include the crane chase, the T-X morphing scenes, the future war, and the final battle where Arnold is in pieces. It’s a very cool look at how CGI, stunts, miniatures, and makeup effects all combine to bring the images to the screen. I was quite impressed with the final Terminator scene where you can see his robotic parts, so it was cool to see how it was made. The second part of this section allows you to choose which effects you want to appear in the future war scene. You can choose smoke, fire, lasers, and other stuff. Once you make your selection, the scene replays. It’s kind of neat but not the kind of thing you’ll try more than once.

Skynet Database Of Weapons and Personnel Dossiers – This is a listing of all the characters, robots, and other stuff in the movies. It gives short biographies on the characters, details, and more. It’s all presented as if it was a part of the Skynet computer files. However, if you’re a Terminator fan, there’s not much new here for you.

Terminator Timeline – This spells out the potentially confusing timeline of the Terminator storyline. It’s interesting to see it laid out though, again, there’s nothing new for fans of the series.

Storyboards – This feature shows a few storyboards from the climax next to the final product. It’s a fairly standard addition to DVDs though there seems to be few storyboards displayed with the scene.

Dressed To Kill – This scene talks about the Terminator’s trademark leather outfit and glasses as well as the outfit for the Terminatrix. They show a variety of designs for the outfit, then the final choice.

Toys In Action – Still pushing the merchandise, this feature takes a close look at the creation of the toys by the McFarlane toy company. He talks about the fine attention to detail, the extensive research into the toys, and more. As much as I like McFarlane, he ends up coming across as a real weirdo in the video. You’ll just have to see it to believe it.

The Bottom Line:
Terminator 3 is a good addition to your DVD collection, especially if you own the first two movies. If you happened to miss it in theaters, it’s very much worth checking out.

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