Case Number 12770


Warner Bros. // 2003 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 17th, 2008

The Charge

The machines will rise.

Opening Statement

Arnold Schwarzenegger's final headlining blast before the gubernatorial world beckoned is a lean, mean chase film with a solid dose of time-travel shenanigans to do the franchise proud. After its debut on HD DVD, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines hits the Blu side running.

Facts of the Case

After several years of passed since the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John Connor (Nick Stahl, Carnivale) has taken himself off of the grid in an attempt to avoid further attempts on his life by whacked out killer robots from the future. Living the life of an aimless bum, he eventually comes into contact with an old junior high-school pal, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, Shopgirl), a feisty veterinarian that plays a role in the anti-machine resistance in the nuclear-war-torn future.

The pesky terminators are fully aware of this and send their top dog, the T-X (Kristanna Loken, Bloodrayne), into the past to smite Kate and John. But what they weren't counting on -- unless they've been paying attention to the last couple of times they've done this plan -- is that a protector has been seen, and this time it's Arnold's iconic T-101, saddled up and ready to ride and punch the T-X in her stupid face.

The Evidence

I know this is a film jeered by many Terminator enthusiasts (I'd consider myself part of that club by the way), but I just don't see the hatred on this one. Mostow's series entry doesn't look like your grandmother's Terminator, but the mythology is solid, the acting top-shelf and the action beyond kick-ass. The thing is such a bodacious piece of cinematic entertainment, a moonshot of a road movie that is ceaseless in its property damage, yet funny and surprisingly emotional.

T3 is not T2 -- which was as artistic as a science-fiction blockbuster about a killer cyborg from the future that speaks with an Austrian accent can be -- but that's okay. Hey, at the very least Edward Furlong is nowhere to be seen. Here he's replaced by Stahl, who just delivers in a huge way, mixing the angst and disbelief of what his destiny holds, yet the eventual acceptance of that destiny, due to all the shiznit he's been subject to during his formative years. While it lacks the neck-snapping time-travel twist of the first film, the way Mostow and the writers utilized the space-time mayhem here (John's introduction to Kate, his transformation from apathetic street punk to humanity's last best hope) is still clever, and, even cooler, subtle. Danes has the thankless newbie role where the mythology is explained to her for the audience's benefit, but she sells it and, most importantly, is a likable foil for John.

And then you've got Schwarzenegger, who has refined his deadpan, emotionless robot portrayal to perfection and shows that this role, more than any other, is perfect for his acting, er, pedigree. Now if only someone did a Commando/Terminator crossover, you'd see the ultimate Schwarzenegger character: John Matrix, cybernetic ass-kicker!

Really, though, all these actors, as sound as they are, are basically along for the ride and Mostow keeps this sucker moving. Action set-pieces pop up almost every five minutes and there aren't many sequences that have eclipsed the killer crane chase in terms of sheer awesomeness and bombast. To this day, that scene is still my audio/visual system reference point.

That makes this as good a time as any to get to the real nuts and bolts of the review, the hi-def presentation. The trip to Blu is a success. The film looks very, very good in its 2.40:1, 1080p transfer. Not as dark as its predecessors, Terminator 3 brings strong color work and precise detailing to the on-screen shenanigans. Some of the CGI is suspect thanks to the clarity, but the practical effects -- the crane chase, the hearse shootout, the silliness at the end with all the dying -- look great. Mostow allows his camera to linger on the action and this is good news for hi-def fans as you'll be able to really enjoy the picture quality. Good stuff. Unfortunately, a traditional 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is all there is for audio. Regardless, it's still an aggressive treatment that will shake your molars loose, though audiophiles will likely be bummed that there wasn't an upgrade to the mix.

The big news on the extras front is the in-movie experience. With this option activated a pop-up window featuring interviews with cast and crew and behind-the-scenes footage appears. While not as elegant as the HD DVD IME, it's good to see Blu-Ray embracing this component of HD media. The rest of the extras are imported from the standard DVD release: commentary tracks featuring Mostow, the stars and the crew, the HBO First Look special, the deleted Sergeant Candy scene, a gag reel, storyboards, and short featurettes "Dressed to Kill," "Toys in Action, and "The Making of the Video Gamer" (huh?).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Look, I dug this movie something fierce, though I'll admit it wasn't as groundbreaking as the first or epic as the second. But Terminator 3 is, simply put, one of the most fun big-budget bonanzas I've ever seen.

Closing Statement

Finally hitting the Blu side, T3 looks and sounds fantastic and the in-movie experience is a treat.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Talk to the hand.

Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 85
Extras: 85
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* In Movie Experience
* Three Commentary Tracks
* HBO Documentary
* Deleted Scene
* Gag Reel
* Featurettes
* Storyboards
* Trailer

* IMDb