Warner Home Video
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Deleted Footage, Featurettes, Trailers
For as long as I can remember, I have always employed "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" as a reference point for testing out a new format as well as to showcase all the best that my home theater had to offer. I have done so since the early days of VHS, then onto the deluxe offering on Laser disc, followed by not one, but two special editions on DVD! With my recent journey into the High Definition realm, I was a bit saddened to discover that, not only was the newest High Definition incarnation of "Terminator 2" a bit of a let down, it was only currently available on the competing Blu-ray format.
A little disappointed at first, I decided to take this opportunity to pass the torch, so-to-speak, and move ahead to the third installment of the "Terminator" franchise, thus placing "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" in the spotlight.
Now 22 years of age, John Connor (this time played by Nick Stahl) lives "off the grid", with no credit or fixed address, etc. Soon realizing that even these precautions won't secure his safety as there is a newer breed of Terminator out to erase his existence from the future. The arrival of this technologically advanced model, the Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken), or T-X for short, takes on the form of an enticing sexy female. With her ability to control any and all machines around her, this new model T-X has a few surprises in store for the older model T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who arrives from the future shortly after the T-X makes her grand entrance.
Thinking that the apocalyptic judgment day had been prevented, John has a rude awakening when he learns that in reality, the devastation that faces the world as we know it had only been postponed. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" adds another new face to the story with Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) as the possible future Lieutenant to John's resistance fighters who is also slated for termination by the T-X. Kate is the daughter of Air Force Lt. Robert Brewster (David Andrews), who just so happens to be in charge of the Sky-net project, which will link all of the U.S. military's computers into one entity, an entity that, unbeknownst to Robert Brewster, will become self aware and threaten the world with complete annihilation. The action never stops as John and Kate utilize the protection of the T-800 in an attempt to reach Kate's father before the T-X does, leading to quite a surprising end to their journey.
I liked this somewhat panned sequel to the "Terminator" franchise. I still get goose bumps when I see the final shot showing armed missiles being deployed in the distance to a common mid-western farm backdrop, beginning the dreaded judgment day. Of course that shot is simply forming the link to the next one or two installments to the "Terminator" franchise that is supposedly going to focus a lot more attention on the future war itself, and I for one can't wait!
Void of director James Cameron this time around, I do have to commend Jonathan Mostow (U-571) for taking on the daunting task of continuing one of my favorite sci-fi series, and doing so in such great fashion. Also missing from this sequel is the Sarah Connor character, played by Linda Hamilton in both "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Even though she was a mainstay in the first two films, I still felt the story worked quite well without her character this time around. A rather decent story and good performances help to make "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" a welcomed addition to the futuristic cyborg fueled "Terminator" franchise.
Warner Home Video presents "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" on HD DVD with a magnificent 1080p High Definition wide screen presentation, displaying an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1. Offering a definite improvement over the standard 480p DVD presentation, I was immediately greeted with sharper contrast that provides a more realistic presentation for "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines". Gorgeous deep black levels enhance the future war segment, defining every minute detailing of the devilishly cool endo-skeletons and flying hunter-killers scouring the landscape on their programmed killing spree. I even caught a glimpse of the highly technical terminator eye that is made up of several red piercing dots (appearing like separate intense LEDs grouped into the center of the eye) as opposed to one red bright (and slightly blurred) dot on the standard DVD presentation.
For me, it was the little things that stood out, making for an overall richer experience in the home theater environment. Maintaining a good balance between naturally appearing flesh tone and colors the seemed to "pop", take for example the cemetery shoot out scene that offered lush shades of orange in the explosions and the eye catching blues and reds from the flashing lights found on the local police cruisers. "Terminator 3" comes to HD DVD void of any dust or dirt particles on the source print and only exhibited minor "moire" patterns in the odd plaid or crosshatch material.
The splendidly bass heavy sound track from the standard DVD has been beefed up even more for the HD DVD version of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines". Presented in a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound track that comes available in English, French and Espanol. One of the unique characteristics I truly enjoy about the new Dolby Digital Plus sound mix format is the overall sense of a tighter crossover between all available channels. This not only helps to reinforce the excitement of action charged sonic presentations, but works at balancing naturally reproduced vocal tracks in amongst heavy artillery and sound effects rather flawlessly. I managed to notice various audio subtleties that were present in the theatrical presentation, but almost non-existent in the standard DVD release. One example of this is the eerie "howling" type sounds picked up during the opening credit sequence, in the HD DVD they are ever more present.
This HD DVD presentation comes packaged with the same offering of special features that are found on the standard definition DVD release, including the DVD introduction from Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition to the previous special features, the HD DVD adds the exclusive "In-Movie Experience" that presents director Jonathan Mostow discussing various aspects of the production of "Terminator 3:Rise of the Machines". Choosing this feature allows you to view the additional material via a picture-in-picture display, which runs simultaneously with the feature presentation of the film.
The HD DVD of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" comes with a full length audio commentary featuring director Jonathan Mostow. A second commentary features the director and stars; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken. The final commentary features the director with screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Don Burgess and production designer Jeff Mann.
For featurettes, this HD DVD offers a "Behind the Story" look at "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and an "HBO First Look" that is a somewhat standard HBO "behind the scenes" fanfare.
A rather neat featurette on the making of the "Terminator 3" video game, and my personal favorite, the segment "Toys in Action" which features Todd McFarlane taking the viewer behind the scenes on the making of the ultra cool action figures made by his McFarlane Toys, which are based on the films main characters.
For additional footage you will find the single deleted scene "Sgt. Candy" that is a tad goofy, yet funny as hell. A blooper reel titled "Terminal Flaws", a separate storyboard section and very short costume design featurette titled "Dressed to Kill" can also be found amongst the added value materials section. The theatrical trailer and PC game trailer complete the special features section.
Until we see a beautiful High Definition release of "Terminator 2" on HD DVD, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is doing a marvelous job of filling that reference quality position quite nicely.
I would almost go out on a limb here to say that this HD DVD of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" can sit pretty comfortable knowing that, at this point in time, it rises to the occasion of taking the top spot for the High Definition presentations of this, my all-time favorite franchise!