Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Review
With Terminator: Salvation due to hit UK screens ‘tis the season for cash in releases! Terminator 3 had some massive shoes to fill when it came out in 2003, but it turned out to have a tiny pair of hobbit hoofs. In Terminator 3 an adult John Connor struggles with the idea that Judgement Day was never fully prevented, and that he is destined for greatness. This is confirmed when Connor ends up running for his life with old acquaintance Kate Brewster as an all new Terminator comes back through time ready to eliminate a number of key members of the future resistance. This time round the mechanical hunter is a sexy blonde “Terminatrix” called the T-X, and she’s pitted against the good old bargain basement T-101, who has also been sent back to play bodyguard. Terminator 3 is a practically note-for-note clone of Terminator 2, the narrative seems rather routine and the action sequences have a sense of Deja Vu about them. It feels like it was conceived as a project to highlight how much more filmmakers can do with CGI in the new millennium, but ironically director Jonathan Mostow ends using CGI so frequently and pushes it to breaking point by using human models, that T3 looks dated just five years later! It’s a shame as the non-CGI effects work from Stan Winston is truly excellent.
Terminator 3 has two things going for it: The first is that Arnie is as good as ever as the T-101 and the part is generally well written, adding a healthy dose of light humour and self-mockery whilst staying true to the character from T2. The second is that the production values are very high, there are explosions on top of explosions involving everything from helicopters to police cars, fire engines and even a big crane. Ordinarily this would help make up for the utterly derivative plot, but Mostow’s direction completely compromises just about every set piece. Using poorly framed close ups and edits that are so short very few shots last longer than 5 seconds, you end up with so much information with so little clarity being thrown at you that some impressive stunt sequences end up feeling matter of fact. You don’t have time to take it all in, it’s simply there you go... and on to the next. The characters are quite dull as well, John Connor isn’t a techno-savvy leader type as all the prophetic speech would imply, he’s a big sappy wet drip of a man who has nothing to do when the action kicks in. This is why T3 ultimately fails, when the most interesting character is an emotionless robot and the action spectacle isn’t that spectacular, what are you left with? A distinctly average sequel!.
The Disc: As with Terminator 2, T3 was shot in Super35 and if you want a damn good example of how that film format should look in High Definition then this transfer is it. The print is almost pristine and grain is kept down to a relatively soft layer. Image detail is very satisfying, Super35 films for me never look “pin sharp” so don’t go looking for that pristine digital look that you find in popular Blu-ray demo discs, as that was never in the image to begin with. If sharpening filters have been used then you can’t notice them; some very slight EE can be seen when you zoom into the transfer but you can’t see this in a standard viewing. Contrast and brightness levels are generally bang on, T3 is not the brightest of films, most of the film is set at night and the daytime sequences generally look under-exposed which is reflected in the look of this transfer. Black levels are excellent and shadow detail is strong. The colour scheme is a little muted and generally “cool” so again you’re not going to see colours that pop off the screen with vibrancy, but what you will see is very solid colour reproduction that looks very natural, with neutral skin tones. Compression is excellent, there’s no noticeable digital noise whether it’s in the colours or blacks.
For audio we have a very nicely balanced English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that has deep punchy bass and crisp and clear dialogue. The dynamics are very strong and the soundstage is given an expressive workout in the action sequences, with some excellent use of the rear channels. Extra Features seem to have been lifted from the DVD release as they’re all in standard definition, you have a rather standard set of production featurettes, the best of which is an interview with Todd Mcfarlene on the design and production of the official T3 figurines. There are also two very interesting audio commentaries, one with Mostow and the entire primary cast (all recorded separately) that focuses on the actor’s experiences on the film, and an individual commentary with Mostow that is more technically oriented, but no less engaging.