Tuesday, June 02, 2009

[DVD] Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

New Chick In Town

I suppose the hype surrounding Terminator Salvation made me want to revisit some of the previous films, and got myself into buying the Extreme Edition of Terminator 2 with the irresistible lenticular cover, and bury myself into Rise of the Machines despite not liking it the first time round, because I thought the filmmakers had been quite slip-shody in making the film.

Specifically, there was a glaring continuity error in the film that really got to me, enough to submit a goof to IMDb.com. But having to sit through this no less than 3 times, listening to the commentaries and witnessing the sheer amount of effort gone into making the film, and its contribution to the mythology (despite some additional screw ups to the timeline), there's some new found respect for the film. While it's not as sexy as T2, it does have its moments and the big-bang action sequences didn't seem a let down like they were the very first time round.

With Kristanna Loken being the latest Terminator model T-X, I thought that was pretty much a no-brainer since you need to top Robert Patrick's liquid metal outing in the previous movie, and what more by making the new, more lethal machine monster a member of the opposite sex - nice to look at from the outside, but whoa, when she seeks out her prey, there's little to do but run. Schwarzenegger on the other hand seemed to become friendlier here than from his T2 outing, though no less losing his screen presence each time he comes on. Sure some obvious stuntman moments were observed, but that said, Arnie's too big a star and of course no longer a spring chicken to be put into grueling stunts like the ones featured here.

What I felt was missing from the latest Terminator film, was Humour. Then again, being in so bleak a future, there's really no room to monkey around. But here, and in the earlier films, there were little moments which broke the dreariness of continuous running from a monster that just wouldn't stop pursuing, and doing so without being too stupid. I still crack up each time the "Talk to the Hand" scene comes on.

Pace wise, the film takes place in about 24 hours to Judgement Day, which was only postponed in the aftermath of events in T2. John Connor (Nick Stahl) stays off the radar and lives life in an extremely low profile manner, but with the Skynet of the future still sending its latest technological creation back in time, it's only a matter of time when he pops back into Skynet's radar and the chase continues. Here, the machine's plan is to take out Connor's lieutenants when they are still geeky nerds (or at least they're shown to be), and this film introduces us to one Katherine Brewster (Claire Danes), who would later on look like Bryce Dallas Howard, the future wife and second in command of the future resistance leader.

And so, T3 provides its own canonical elements into the world that James Cameron created. We see the future John Connor with a prominent scar on his face, and plenty of machines that were introduced here, being pre-cursors of what we have already seen, or would see in Terminator Salvation. Things such as the prototype T1 which is many generations earlier from the basic T101 model, and resembling more like the bulky, cumbersome ED209 in Robocop, and those of the flying Hunter Killers, courtesy of the late Stan Winston and his team

T3: Rise of the Machines still isn't my most favoured of the lot in the franchise, but having ploughed through this DVD, made me discover newer elements that added to the enjoyment of the film itself, and of the franchise.

The 2-Discs Code 3 DVD by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment has the feature film presented in anamorphic widescreen format, with audio in English available in 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, Subtitles is available in English, and Chinese (Simplified or Original), and scene selection comes in 33 chapters.

Disc 1 contains Two Commentary Tracks. The first is by Director Jonathan Mostow, and cast members Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken, except that they didn't record this altogether, but done separately in different cities, where the actors recorded their own segments. Only Danes (doing her very first DVD commentary ever) and Mostow had their sessions done together, and the most chatty of them all was of course Schwarzenegger himself sharing plenty of nuggets of information. Each of them have their personal anecdotes on the set which they shared, but I would have preferred if they had a track where all had recorded this together rather than artificially spliced together.

The second commentary had Director Jonathan Mostow telling us a lot more going into the breakdown of the scenes, like a proud father sharing all the achievements and elements he had contributed to the franchise, as well as plenty of behind the scenes information on how scenes were constructed and shot. Other than that, this disc contains Trailers for T3, both Teaser and Theatrical versions, the T3 Video Game Trailer, T3 PC Game Trailer, S.W.A.T, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle directed by McG, Men In Black II and The 6th Day which also starred Arnie.

Disc 2 is the Special Features disc, presented in letterbox format, with subtitles for some of the features available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai. The first feature is a rather standard Documentary - Inside Termainator 3: Rise of the Machines (13:00), which contains interviews with cast and crew, and plenty of behind the scenes clips. Then you have the very classic section called the Sgt. Candy Scene (1:50), which if kept in the actual movie, would be one heck of an iconic moment, as it tells you why the T101 looks like Arnie, and sounds like him too. If only it becomes canon by getting itself onto the final cut of the film!

Terminal Flaws: Gag Reel (3:00) captures a whole lot of actors breaking into laughter, their insane ad-libbing, and even crew getting into the way of a shot - thank goodness Christian Bale isn't John Connor here, or the Bale Out might have occurred way sooner!

The T3 Visual Effects Lab would be the section for most techies, in witnessing what techniques were employed to create movie magic. Each segment follows a formula presentation, in posing you the challenge, then which tools of the trade get employed, before showing you the final product. Introduction (2:35) has director Jonathan Mostow, and various technological wizards coming in to discuss about makeup, visual and special effects, and how they all have to come together in agreement on how shots are to be done. Be amazed by the whole array of tools they have at their disposal, from animatronics and puppets to CG and miniatures.

Initially I had thought that there's nothing too groundbreaking in the effects department of T3 compared to T2, but the sheer amount of work done as documented here would make you appreciate the effort a lot more. Crane Chase (7:48) documents how good old stunts still have their place in modern movie making, with CGI employed on the flipping of the crane which was as photorealistic as can be.T-X Transformation (8:02) showcases how morphing is done through CGI, motion control, layering and blue screen. Talk about 10 months of work for just a few seconds on screen! Future War (8:40) demonstrates how SFX miniatures, robotics and CGI gel seamlessly to provide that flash forward glimpse into the Skynet dominated landscape of the future, while Crystal Peak (9:24) deconstructs the final battle between the battle-torn terminators in a mix of miniatures, robotics, make up, special effects, and plenty of green fabric. The segment took an unexpected pause with Create Your Own Visual Effects which puts you at the driving seat in deciding what kind of effects you would like to incorporate into the Future War scene, before the final 10:07 duration of a segment with CRS Lab explains all the details that went into the real performing robots, such as the T1, created by Stan Winston and his team, and plenty of others such as the whack-fest between T101 and T-X, Arnie's near-decapitation and the particle accelerator which wrecked havoc on the T-X.

The Skynet Database is the one-stop shop for trivia fans and those clueless and wanting to know more of the mythos, be it the humans or the systems that have graced the movies so far. The Terminator Timeline seeks to put everything in the last 3 films in a nifty timeline. I didn't scrutinize it to the last detail so I can't vouch for its accuracy here, but narratively it seemed alright. Storyboards (3:54) only had the entire action sequence at Crystal Peak given the treatment where you get to see a storyboard side by side some actual moments of the film.

Then comes the more forgettable extras, like Dressed To Kill (2:10) which is just a small snippet of the costumes and clothes of some of the characters in the film, such as the leather jacket, sunglasses and shotgun that makes Arnie the Terminator. Toys in Action (7:03) has Todd McFarlane marketing the T3 toys which has great attention to detail modelled to capture key scenes, and rounding things up, Making of the Video Game (8:57) has cast and crew talking about the merits of the video game, which serves as a companion piece of sorts.

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