|Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines|
|HD DVD Sci-Fi-Fantasy|
|Written by Darren Gross|
|Wednesday, 01 November 2006|
It is several years after “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and John Connor (Nick Stahl) is now a nomad. He travels around the country alone, works odd jobs and never stays in one place for too long. While it appears as if his and his mother’s actions in the previous film have prevented the global apocalypse, his nightmares and instincts tell him that doom lies just around the corner. Appearing from the future are the “TX” (Loken) intent on killing all of John Connor’s seconds-in-command, including Catherine Brewster (Danes), the young daughter of an important military general (Andrews) who is being pressured to upload a program called “Skynet” into the worldwide web in order to eradicate a world-wide computer virus. On the TX’s trail is another T-101 (Schwarzenegger), intent on assuring the future of John Connor and Catherine Brewster.
Jonathan Mostow’s sequel follows the pattern set by the previous films: a central chase filled with gargantuan, comic book action set-pieces realized on a jaw-dropping scale. Some of these sequences (such as the construction crane chase and the bathroom fight) are realized in such a photorealistic way that the loopy levels of destruction they reach are thrilling to the point where they almost make one giddy.
Schwarzenegger repeats his oft-impersonated role for the 3rd time and it fits him to a T. The imposing nature of the terminator and it’s naturally stiff way of talking are a perfect match for Schwarzenegger’s particular gifts. In fact, there’s something akin to Buster Keaton in his stone-faced reactions to the whirlwind of carnage around him. It’s like a rewrite of the famous destructive gags in “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, if Bill (Keaton) had been the one responsible for all the damage, instead of the storm. The droll comic relief asides by the terminator and the other characters form a perfect counterpoint to the carnage and are uproarious at times.
A “Terminator” sequel without James Cameron’s involvement seems like a real ‘straight-to-video’ idea on paper, but Mostow’s film is a worthy (and no less costly) follow-up and his fresh and epic approach to the material gives the film an excitement and gravity that is highly engaging. It’s a story with great impact and the repercussions of its plot are far reaching.
The chase structure is a tough balancing act to achieve; the pace must be kept at a near unflagging clip, but story and character development have to be threaded into it without making the film screech to a halt for obvious dialogue scenes. It’s handled deftly and believably here. The choice to focus on the three primary leads, without cluttering up the story with endless side tracks and subplots was a wise one and the interplay between the three lead characters is believable. “Terminator 3” is not a brooding film, though it does have appropriate gravity. This is a non-stop, set-piece filled picture and the pacing is intense. The film’s mixture of comic relief and violent action are very skillfully done.
Kristanna Loken is perfectly believable as the TX and makes a solid, threatening menace for our heroes. It’s an aspect that could have come off very poorly (trailers really made the character seem like a “Species” -esque, so-sexy but deadly terminatrix), but it’s handled smartly. The TX only uses its sex appeal once, in a funny scene. The rest of the time she’s intense, believably powerful and scary. A bathroom confrontation between the TX and the T101 is an insanely over-the-top, and riotous sequence, but it never reduces the threat of the TX character.
Catherine Brewster’s husband (played by Mark Famiglietti) is thinly developed, and probably should have been established a little more substantially to give his quick demise more impact and to give him and Danes a few more scenes to establish some chemistry between them.
Nick Stahl’s John Connor is a definite step-up from Edward Furlong’s whiny teenager. One doesn’t really miss Linda Hamilton, either. Her off-screen death is handled well and given appropriate emotional resonance.
The HD transfer is richly detailed and sharp, a fine showcase for the visual effects. Frequently standard definition DVD makes visual effects appear less photorealistic and accomplished, simply because the detail apparent on a huge theatrical screen from the much higher resolution 35mm, can not be completely conveyed on the lesser video format. The resolution on this HD disc reveals the amazing detail inherent in the visual effects work and makes for a more satisfying and absorbing experience.
The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track is terrific and makes constant use of surrounds, for passing cars, off-screen loudspeakers, helicopter blades etc. and nearly puts you in the role of an active participant in the on-screen events. It’s an involving, intense mix, filled with loud, layered sound effects and thunderous, bass-rumbling explosions, but the dialogue is always crystal clear and set at an appropriate volume.
The In-Vision commentary is well utilized, comprehensive and makes a solid demo for that feature. Pop-up windows depict different aspects of the production that director Mostow discusses. Mostow’s comments and the pop-up windows are used with great frequency and make for a much more involving and watchable experience than a simple audio commentary affords. It’s a bonus feature that has great potential and is something that will be of incredible historical value in years to come.
The rest of the video extras are brief and entertaining but not very in-depth. There are three commentaries which seems like overkill. The deleted “Sergeant Candy” scene is a jaw-droppingly silly bit of goofiness that clearly doesn’t deserve to be in the film (it would have completely torpedoed the tone) but it’s a fun thing to show to unsuspecting friends if they haven’t heard of it.