Case Number 03532


Warner Bros. // 2003 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 11th, 2003

The Charge

He said he'd be back.

Opening Statement

The prospect of a third Terminator movie had fanboys drooling clear across the globe. By the time 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day hit theaters Arnold Schwarzenegger's lean mean fighting machine had already become a staple in every college boy's vocabulary ("I'm going to the cafeteria to get some meatloaf...I'll be back."). The second film broke new ground in computer effects and went on to become one of that year's biggest theatrical hits. In 2003, Ahnuld returned to the big screen for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. However, absent was series star Linda Hamilton and creator/writer/director James "King of the World" Cameron. Taking the reins for the new entry was director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) in what turned out to be a disappointing minor hit for Warner Brothers. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines brings home the action in a new two-DVD set care of Warner Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

When last we saw John Conner, future leader of a resistance against an army of diabolical robots, he was coddled in his mother's arms after surviving a run in with a deadly new Terminator. Flash forward more than a decade later and John's life has become a shambles -- with his mother dead, John's only option is to live as a vagabond, cutting off all connections to the past and living without much of a future. Things, however, are about to get ugly when a new Terminator, the shape-shifting T-X (relative newcomer Kristanna Loken), is sent from the future to hunt down John Conner and all of his future commanders of the resistance (teenager at this point). Of course, one good Terminator deserves another, and back for round three is the original Terminator, the T-101 (Schwarzenegger), sent to protect Conner from being killed. As the T-X relentlessly hunts down Conner and the T-101, the duo find themselves on a mission to stop Skynet, the computer system that will eventually bring about a huge nuclear holocaust (AKA "Judgment Day") on mankind. And wouldn't you know it? The man in charge of the Skynet project is Robert Brewster (David Andrews, Graveyard Shift), father of Catherine Brewster (Claire Danes, My So-Called Life), a veterinary assistant who reluctantly tags along with John and the Terminator.

It's a race to save mankind from total annihilation with only one victor: man or machine!

The Evidence

I know that there are a lot of folks out there who were sorely disappointed in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. And how could they not be? Like a new entry into the Star Wars universe, the Terminator series is much loved and as such couldn't live up to the hype that surrounded a second sequel. Critics decried it as empty and lacking creator James Cameron's magical touch. Others just found it to be one big set piece that didn't appropriately expand on the Terminator franchise.

I thought it was a hum-dinger of an action movie.

How can you not like a movie that features one of the screen's greatest (and most womanizing) action stars dangling from the crane of a moving truck while being run through the side of a building? Or Arnold mowing down a row of cops and cars with a gun the size of Utah while balancing a coffin on his shoulder? And I haven't even gotten to al the great set pieces yet. While T3 may be loud and obnoxious, fans can rest easy knowing it's more fun than a barrel of highly intelligent futuristic robotic killing monkeys.

The fact is that, yes, it's true: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines isn't as good as its predecessors. On the level of story and character, the film falls flat. Edward Furlong was apparently too busy to come back as John Conner, so Nick Stahl stepped in with mixed results. While Stahl is steely-eyed, he lacks Furlong's nihilistic spirit -- the voiceover sections just didn't cut it for me. Claire Danes as his potential love interest is little more than wall décor: her role seems to consist of running, screaming, looking scared, yelling at the Terminator, and getting all misty/doe eyed. Kristanna Loken doesn't compare to Robert Patrick's menacing metal melting baddie from the second film, but it's a noble attempt (and truth be told, she is easier on the eyes). As for Schwarzenegger, I'll bow down to anyone who can give me a character better suited for Arnold than the Terminator. Focused, monosyllabic, indifferent -- Arnold is the alpha and the omega of this beast. If they ever try to replace him with another actor, it just won't work: he is the pop culture icon of his time.

Director Jonathan Mostow, stepping in for Cameron, does an apt job with the screenplay and effects. Certainly this is the most complexly wondrous of the three films: while Terminator 2 is still a slam bang-action ride, you've got to give Mostow credit for coming up with the most wildly inventive action sequences in the series. The best of the lot is a scene involving the skeletal Terminators trooping across a barren landscape, blasting anything that comes into their paths. Along the way, we also are witness to the destruction of two helicopters, a tombstone crushing fight in a cemetery, a washroom laid to waste by two fighting Terminators, and the annihilation of earth as we know it. Any complaints? I didn't think so.

Though Terminator 3 may add up to little more than eye candy (the story fudges a bit with the Terminator history), there are enough explosions and action set pieces to keep even the most attention-deficit viewers happy. And with Arnold's ascension to governor of California, we may have seen the last of his Terminator appearances. Enjoy it while you can.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Holy androids, does this picture look great! Warner has really come through with a solid transfer that features dark black levels and eye-popping colors. There aren't any major defects to be found in this image -- dirt, grain, and edge enhancement are all wholly absent. Shadow detail appears to be in excellent shape without any bleeding in the image. This is a fantastic looking transfer of the film.

The soundtrack is presented in a rather rollicking Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English. The discrete sounds are all well mixed with powerful, rumbling bass steady throughout. I noticed no noise compression or distortion anywhere in the track. During all of the major action sequences, both the front and rear channels are engaged thoroughly and effectively. Warner has produced a great sound mix, even if the lack of a DTS track is rather disappointing. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles, as well as a Dolby 5.1 mix in French.

Warner has produced what will most likely be the definitive DVD two-disc set of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Or, if they're anything like Artisan, we should be getting a grand total of 397 different versions of this film by the end of next summer. Here's a rundown of what's been included on this disc:


Two Commentary Tracks: Included on disc one are two separate commentary tracks, the first by director Jonathan Mostow, and a second featuring stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Nick Stahl, and Kristanna Loken. In the first track, featuring a solo Mostow, we learn a lot about the challenges of this project, the special effects, casting, and what it was like taking over for creator James Cameron. On the second track, we get the actors edited together from various recording sessions in different studios. This actually ends up being one of the best features on this disc -- almost everyone has something to add about the film's production history, and Arnold talks endlessly about his naked body (not quite as buff as myself, but he comes close) and his thoughts on the three films. Both of these tracks are very informative and should give fans a buttload of information about the movie.

Also included on disc one is a theatrical trailer and a promo for a computer video game based on the movie.


Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Watch as Mr. Universe introduces the movie! Learn absolutely nothing! Skip this feature!

Documentary: This is a very fluffy HBO First Look featurette that lasts roughly 25 minutes in length. Featured in this promo piece are interviews with director Jonathan Mostow, actors Claire Danes, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, and Schwarzenegger, behind-the-scenes footage, clips from the film, and various other little tidbits that don't add up to very much. Not much is revealed here, making this a fairly under-par supplement.

T3 Visual Effects Lab: Included under this section is an introduction, a deconstruction of various visual effects scenes ("Crane Chase," "TX Transformation," "Future War," "Crystal Peak") and a do-it-yourself lab where you can pick and choose various effects for your own composite scene. The best of these is the effects deconstruction, which gives viewers a rare glimpse at how movie magic is conceived, produced, and executed. Various workers from ILM are interviewed, as well as special effects master Stan Winston. The do-it-yourself feature allows the viewer to pick one of two scenes, insert various effects (white lights or red lights, lasers or flamethrowers, et cetera) and see how the scene comes out.

Various Featurettes and Vingnettes: Included here are various little extras, including "Sgt. Candy Scene," which was filmed for the video game and is a humorous look at how the T-101 came into being, a montage of various storyboards from the film, "Dressed to Kill" which focuses on the costume designs, "Toys in Action" which is a short look at Todd McFarlane and his company which produced the very detailed action figure line, and a brief featurette on the making of the video game.

Finally, there is a trivia challenge titled "The Skynet Database," a timeline based on the Terminator series that gives a year-by-year look at the coming of Judgment Day, and some DVD-ROM features for a PC computer.

Closing Statement

Warner has produced an excellent two-disc set of the film. As for the movie itself, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a great popcorn flick that is short, to the point, and endlessly entertaining. This may be the last we see of Mr. Schwarzenegger -- if his career in politics takes off, T3 may be his swan song. But what a swan song it is!

The Verdict

Shape-shift your way on over to Blockbuster and rent yourself some good old-fashioned Arnold action!

Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 98
Audio: 97
Extras: 83
Acting: 85
Story: 83
Judgment: 89

Special Commendations
* Golden Gavel 2003 Nominee

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

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

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary Track with Director Jonathan Mostow
* Commentary Track with Actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Nick Stahl, and Kristanna Loken
* Documentary
* Visual Effects Lab
* Deleted Scene
* Storyboards
* Timeline
* Theatrical Trailer
* Trivia Game

* IMDb

* Official Site