Discussing the old school DVD’s that still sound and look great in the era of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology.
With the recent news of MGM green-lighting Terminator 4 as a future tent-pole release in the near future, I thought it would be appropriate to go back and revisit Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on DVD.
The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day were sci-fi/action marvels anchored by James Cameron’s expansive imagination and eye for detail. While …ise of the Machines lacks Cameron’s perfectionism, new director Jonathan Mostow makes up for his shortcomings by turning in a thought-provoking continuation of the plot, resulting in a far from perfect, but still enjoyable film.
The first conversation point has to be whether or not Rise of the Machines insults the first two films by concluding that the Machine War was never preventable in the first place. Rise of the Machines does seem like a complete 180-degree turn from the Cameron films, what with the “There is no fate but what we make” slogans and trying for two entire films to prevent the war from happening – but whereas Rise of the Machines raises my eyebrows in confusion, it also raises them in intrigue.
OK, I can buy into the war never being preventable. After all, if the war was stopped at the end of T2, John Conner would disappear from being like Marty McFly’s brother and sister in the photograph he was carrying around in Back to the Future. We need the war to occur for the story to be told, you get me?
The bottom line is this – if James Cameron admitted to liking Rise of the Machines – which he did shortly after the film was released, then it’s OK for me too. No, it can’t hold a candle to the creativity of the first two films, but it is still fun to see Ah-nuld strutting his stuff as the T-800. The casting was also much better this time around, too. Instead of Edward Furlong’s whiny John Connor, Nick Stahl brings a “reluctant hero” grace to his role and steals the film’s gravity right from under Schwarzenegger. Claire Danes as Kate Brewster equals Stahl’s intensity as well. I can definitely see a Part 4 and 5 being framed with these actors and their characters. However, Linda Hamilton is sorely missed and Kristiana Loken is easy on the eyes, but lacks any fun factor as the villainous T-X.
If Mostow is going to direct any future Terminator films, I do hope he’ll make the films more epic than Rise of the Machines. Coming in at just over 100 minutes, the film feels rushed in places, especially when the batch of main characters just waltz into SkyNet like it’s the local public library. I could have also used some more establishing shots of the beginning of the Machine War taking place around the facility and the world.
But I have to admit – for a film franchise that was seemingly headed toward the obligatory money grab with Rise of the Machines, Mostow and company actually turned in a satisfying continuation of the story and even asked some tough questions – questions that fans may have a hard time coming to terms with. Go over to the IMDb message boards for Rise of the Machines and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
No matter what questions the film asks, there is one thing that can’t be debated, and that is the quality of the transfer Rise of the Machines gets on DVD.
Rise of the Machines sparkles on screen with a flawless 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture. Colors are deep, rich and all the action is captured beautifully by Mostow’s camera. Being a double disc edition — with the film on one disc and the special features on the other — the picture definitely benefited from having more space to stretch its legs.
The real spotlight, however, is the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
Skip to chapter 11 where the T-X chases John, Kate, and the T-800 with a crane truck and a crew of remote controlled cars and you’re in for a treat. It’s easily the film’s best sounding action sequence. All of the speakers come to life with sound. Lows, highs, surrounds — you name it — it’s here in this scene.
The next showcase scene would have to be the graveyard shootout and chase scene, which is chapter 17. Then skip to the last 20 minutes of the film and enjoy some nice-sounding action set pieces in the SkyNet facility that utilize the surround system beautifully, with a deep, full, and crisp sound.
It’ll be interesting to see where the Terminator franchise goes from here. The Machine War has begun. And while Rise of the Machines may be a slap in the face of the first two films, it does raise some interesting questions — questions that needed to be asked.
The bottom line is this — Rise of the Machines is an ambitious film. It didn’t simply want to recycle the first two films and prevent the Machine War again. It wanted to take the franchise in a different direction. You may not like the path Rise of the Machines takes, but you have to agree that it was the only path a sequel to T2 could have taken. Otherwise it would have been the obligatory money grab — and I don’t think it’s fair to say that about Rise of the Machines.