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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Terminator Salvation (Director's Cut)



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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted November 30 2009 - 09:19 AM

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Terminator Salvation (Director's Cut)

Release Date: December 1, 2009
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Three-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Running Time: 1:54:00 (theatrical cut) / 1:57:00 (director's cut)
MSRP: $35.99

Video
1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 1080i or 1080p high definition
Audio DTS-HD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French English SDH and French (on select bonus material)

The Feature: 3/5

It's 2018 and Skynet's war on humanity rages on. The destined leader of the resistance, John Connor (Christian Bale), has yet to take command, relegated to leading one modest resistance unit and, on his off time, making motivational radio broadcasts to anyone who will listen. While he has his followers, believers in both his leadership and chilling vision of the future, many - including those at the highest levels of command - consider him a false prophet and a distraction to the task at hand.

When a raid on a Skynet research facility uncovers a secret weapon against the machines, Connor volunteers to test it. Using an existing electronic tether all the machines have to their creator, the resistance can effectively give them an "off" switch with a special disruptor code. If the technology and intelligence proves viable, it would finally give humanity the upper hand and a chance to put an end to the war. But the sudden arrival of a man from the pre-Judgment Day era puts Skynet's resourcefulness in a whole new light, while also corroborating everything that Connor has said since the beginning - namely that Terminators will come to look and sound human. Though Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is still in possession of his memories and free will, and seems to lack the usual Terminator programming, he is more than just a successful experiment in cybernetic technology. If anything, as the "missing link" between the primitive (but still deadly) automatons the resistance has been fighting thus far and the nearly unstoppable human infiltrators Connor has foretold of, Marcus represents Skynet at its most devious and cruel. In an already grim and relentless conflict, this new face to the enemy shows the war is only just beginning.

Though flashes of the future war were some of the more tantalizing and unnerving aspects of the previous "Terminator" films, "Terminator Salvation" fails to capture the same sense of visceral desperation that made those past glimpses so moving. Part of that's from the film's almost exclusive focus on the military aspect of the human resistance, or, more accurately, the film making a hard distinction between military and civilian elements. Previous films - including the "Sarah Connor Chronicles" TV series - showed humanity as fighting against the machines - fighting to survive - in one big, messy jumble. In "Salvation," the resistance is distinctly military, operating above the larger population of survivors, making the resistance a separate, defined entity (and a well-fed and well-equipped one at that) instead of an extension of being human. Though its clear Connor encourages the latter with his "you are the resistance" radio broadcast tag line, and the philosophical difference is one of the reasons he's at odds with high command, the separation alienates the viewer from those with whom we most need to identify. And though it's interesting to consider Connor did not become humanity's leader overnight, previous treatments focusing on his adolescence essentially said the same thing. The bottom line is we didn't need MORE deconstruction of the John Connor myth, instead needing to see the character in his full glory as humanity's post-apocalyptic leader. Also, with a background mythology as rich with potential as his, it's unfortunate the script placed so much attention on Marcus. Though his story is compelling in its own way, it seems reasonable to expect a film set during Connor's adulthood would have him as its focal point, and give his ascension more screen time than just the last few minutes of the film.

The director's cut of "Terminator Salvation" includes about three minutes of additional footage, mostly showing actress Moon Bloodgood disrobing in the rain. Unfortunately, the scenes in the Skynet facility, which seemed to have some obvious excisions for time, remain untouched and mildly confusing.

Video Quality: 4/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Black levels are solid and deep, and contrast displays the full range of values, with excellent shadow and highlight detail. Colors tend to be drably desaturated, making some scenes almost monochrome. While stylistically appropriate for the stark subject matter, it certainly doesn't show off the format's color depth capabilities. Fine object detail is generally very good, particularly in close ups, but wide shots don't seem to have an equivalent level of detail and overall sharpness is a bit inconsistent. Though the issues with clarity suggest the mild application of DNR (or limited resolution in the CGI effects), the picture does not appear to have been digitally sharpened to compensate. Overall it's a solid presentation with only a couple notable issues.

Audio Quality: 5/5

The rear surround channels in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are highly active and expertly controlled, offering everything from subtle ambiance to dynamic directional effects. One early sequence includes a seamless 360 degree pan through the speaker array, that is both seamless and immersive. When offering simple support for the film score, the channels are likewise balanced and expansive. LFE is deep and clean and offers no shortage of wall-shaking experiences. Dialogue, which is finely balanced with the rest of the channel activity, is clear, intelligible and detailed. Overall it's a first-rate audio presentation that I expect many will use to show off their systems.

Special Features: 3.5/5

The first disc contains only the feature and includes the option to view either the director's cut or the theatrical version. The second disc contains the bulk of special features, and includes another presentation of the theatrical cut for viewers to experience the "Maximum Movie Mode" video commentary. The third disc contains the digital copy of the theatrical version.

Overall the special features package is a solid effort, placing most of its attention on the film's special effects. Access to individual pieces could be improved, however, with some items being only available through Maximum Move Mode. The standard issue item of a theatrical trailer is also missing.

Maximum Movie Mode with Director McG: The picture-in-picture video commentary feature incorporates still image galleries, storyboard comparisons, cast and crew interviews, director "walk-ons" explaining key scenes, a Terminator mythology timeline, and access to several "Focus Point" video featurettes. Though it offers a seamless and efficient method of viewing related behind-the-scenes material, a couple items are not accessible outside of it, namely the still image and storyboard galleries. Likewise, the several director "walk-ons" - which are interesting and thorough - are exclusive to the special viewing mode (and add about seven extra minutes to the overall run time). While the latter is understandable, given it's a fancier type of commentary, the inclusion of separate access to the still images could have been easily remedied. Overall though, Maximum Movie Mode is well-implemented and the content should please anyone looking for in-depth information about the film's special effects work.

Focus Points
  • Digital Destruction (2:30): CGI and puppetry methods used to create Connor's fight with a T-600.
  • Enlisting the Air Force (2:48): Necessary collaboration and consultation with United States Air Force for the many flight-related scenes.
  • Molten Metal and the Science of Simulation (2:09): Creating the molten metal effects in the final battle.
  • Building the Gas Station (2:52): Constructing and destroying the gas station set.
  • Creating the VLA Attack (2:46): Digital wizardry behind the opening battle sequence.
  • Exploding Serena's Lab in Miniature (2:38): A look at building and destroying a 20 foot model of a building.
  • Hydrobots (2:19): A closer look at the water-based, eel-inspired Terminators.
  • An Icon Returns (3:01): Methods used to apply Arnold Schwarzenegger's likeness on a live stand-in.
  • Terminator Factory (2:17): A look at the T-800 assembly line set.
  • Stan Winston Shop (3:03): A brief tour of the famous special effects facility.
  • Napalm Blast (2:46): Logistics and planning of the forest bombing sequence.
Reforging the Future (19:00): After viewing the previous features, some of the material is redundant, though the piece does spend a little time in the wardrobe department and provides a decent overview of the different Terminator models.

The Moto-Terminator (8:33): A closer look at the design, construction and use of the Ducati motorcycle-based Terminators.

Digital Copy: Download a digital file of the theatrical version for playback on a computer or portable device. Compatible with Mac and Windows.

Recap

The Feature: 3/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5


A flawed fourth installment to an established science fiction franchise gets a very good video presentation, a demo-worthy audio track, and a decent - if a bit incomplete - special features package.


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#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted November 30 2009 - 10:20 AM

Hmm, let me think...more plot points or Moon disrobing...I'll take more Moon! /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif

Thanks for the review Cameron. I'll probably be picking this up despite the fact that given its relatively low special feature count it sounds like a double-dip (and knowing the Terminator franchises' history on home video likely a triple- or quadruple-dip) in the making.
Quote:
The director's cut of "Terminator Salvation" includes about three minutes of additional footage, mostly showing actress Moon Bloodgood disrobing in the rain. Unfortunately, the scenes in the Skynet facility, which seemed to have some obvious excisions for time, remain untouched and mildly confusing.

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#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Joey Gunz

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Posted November 30 2009 - 12:30 PM

I haven't seen the movie yet but it sounds like it's going to be a rental for me.  I have a funny feeling that a "longer" version of the film will eventually be released on blu-ray sometime down the road.  I would prefer to own that version instead (if I enjoy the movie).

Personally, an extra 3-minutes hardly qualifies as a "director's cut" even though it's officially titled as one.


#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted November 30 2009 - 01:00 PM

Picking it up tomorrow. If it's got Terminators and stuff blowing up, well, that's all I need to warrant the purchase, can't wait. Saved my $10 by not seeing this in the theater and with my $10 BB coupon, it's basically free.

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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 30 2009 - 02:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey Gunz View Post

Personally, an extra 3-minutes hardly qualifies as a "director's cut" even though it's officially titled as one.
 

The amount of scenes added has no bearing on whether a movie is or isn't a director's cut.

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   cafink

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Posted November 30 2009 - 05:19 PM

Yeah, though the term has, sadly, been frequently abused by marketing departments (as with the "director's cut" of Alien, for example) the term ultimately means exactly what it says--the version of a film preferred by its director, which may not always be the one initially released in theaters.  Heck, a fair number of director's cuts are actually shorter than their original theatrical versions, such as Blood Simple, Payback, and Alexander.  When it comes to movies, longer isn't always better.

Though it sounds like the differences between the two versions of Terminator Salvation are pretty minimal, I'm glad to learn that the Blu-ray release includes both versions of the film.  Of course I always support having the director's preferred version of the film available, but I like having all versions included when multiple versions exist.


 

 


#7 of 10 OFFLINE   brap

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Posted December 01 2009 - 04:18 AM

Director's cut is sometimes added in error when it is only just an Extended Edition. It depends if it's the directors preferred cut. Alien's theatrical cut is Scott's preferred while he looks at the Director's cut as an experiment. Aliens and T2's Special Edition is Cameron's preferred cut. They should have been called Director's Cuts.

This is a pretty good movie that is ruined by the ending. The exact opposite of T3. More future war movies in this series would be great.


#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Chris S

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Posted December 01 2009 - 10:11 AM

Still the best parody of the "Director's Cut" or "Extended Edition" moniker comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Special Edition) and its "glorious extra 24 seconds absolutely free".

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#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted December 01 2009 - 02:10 PM

I didn't have this information in the Special Features section, but there is a Live Community Screening Event with the director via BD-Live. Details are here: http://wblive.warner...eventId=2862607

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#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 05 2009 - 08:16 AM

I was disappointed in the theater with this film, but watching this film for a second time on Blu, I am much more pleased with it (especially compared with T3). Despite its flaws, the action sequences are better executed than I felt in the theater (for some reason) and, perhaps knowing what to expect with this film, am glad I picked it up!
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