Arnold Schwarzenegger’s old, obsolete Terminator is back in black in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). Black leather, that is, as well as his trademark dark glasses and mono-syllabic punchlines. He may be machine, but he’s got the spirit of a human whirring inside the gearbox as he plays tough-love father figure to John Connor (now grown up to become scruffy, haggard Nick Stahl) and a reluctant bystander (Claire Danes) destined to play a role in the future of mankind. The new Terminator TX (Kristanna Loken) looks like she’s stepped out of The Blue Lagoon but this instant fashion maven has the rudimentary emotional range of a calculating femme fatale—burning drive, cold malevolence, smirking satisfaction—and a veritable Swiss Army Knife of goodies: Inspector Gadget in the guise of a Victoria’s Secret mannequin.
Director Jonathan Mostow delivers an impressive display of property damage in his first signature scene, a battering chase with a small platoon of riderless cars and a barreling construction crane that practically levels a neighborhood, and continues in the same vein throughout the film. But where Terminator creator James Cameron transformed previous man-versus-machine duels into show-stopping spectacle, Mostow favors momentum. He powers through his set pieces with such speed that you rarely notice (or just don’t care) when the plot and the characters fail to connect. (It makes you wonder if the script was whittled down from a Cameron-sized epic to a lean, swiftly paced doomsday rollercoaster when Cameron passed on the project.)
It lacks the mano-a-machino grit and grungy gut-punch of the original down-and-dirty classic, and the eye-popping effects spectacle and epic action movie ambition of T2: Judgment Day, but amidst the comic book supe-operas dense with psychological torment, guilt, and sprawling running times, the narrative efficiency of T3 is not just commendable, it’s refreshing.
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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [Blu-ray]
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [DVD]
The special edition Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. features two commentary tracks (one with director Jonathan Mostow and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken, the other a solo track with director Jonathan Mostow), an introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the original documentary featurette “Rise of the Machines” and the made-for-cable “HBO First Look: Terminator 3,” the deleted “Sgt. Candy Scene” (hilarious – dig Arnie’s accent!), the “T3 Visual Effects Lab” (four interactive effects labs that let viewers build their own action scenes), the interactive “Skynet Database” background files, the gag reel “Terminal Flaws,” short featurettes “Dressed to Kill” (on the costumes) and “The Making of the Video Game,” galleries of storyboards, costume/production designs, and posters, a Terminator timeline, and video game and film trailers.
The Blu-ray includes a third commentary track featuring director Mostow joined by screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Don Burgess, and production designer Jeff Mann.