XenForo Template Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Release Date: Available now (original release date December 18, 2007) Studio: Warner Home Video Year: 2003 Rating: R Running Time: 1h49m Video: 1080i (labeled 1080p) high definition 16x9 2.40:1 Video (Special Features): Partially 1080p or 1080i high definition, partially 480p or 480i standard definition Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Audio (Special Features): Stereo Subtitles: English, French and Spanish Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray keepcase MSRP: $28.99 The Feature: 3/5 As far as unnecessary sequels go, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" may not be the worst offender but I wouldn't blame anyone for putting it somewhere in the top ten. While there are some undeniably cool moments - like the construction crane chase sequence and seeing the first "T-1" Terminators - it's also hard to deny that without creator James Cameron's involvement, a lot of the film feels like a dime store knockoff. Though some might point to Arnold Schwarzenegger's now bordering-on-campy portrayal of the Terminator Model T-101, those problems ultimately lie in the script, which throws in so many comedic homages to the previous films that it comes off as cheap, not to mention pandering. But having seen the film several times now (darn you, four separate commentary features!) I have to admit the general arc for the John Connor character is pretty compelling and the finale when he accepts his destiny carries sufficient weight to make up for any previous missteps. Besides, with the future being rewritten so easily and often (as it has with the new "Sarah Connor" TV show) there's no point in complaining too much. There's always a better fate in the making. Video Quality: 4/5 It didn't take long for fans to discover, and for Warner Home Video to confirm, the "T3" transfer is encoded at 1080i instead of the intended 1080p/24. Though no replacement program has been announced yet, owners can add their names to a list by contacting Warner's customer service at 1-800-553-6937. Read more about the issue here. As far as what this means in the viewing, those who have players that can output 1080p/24 and displays that can show the 24 Hz frame rate will not have the option with this disc. Those who don't have 24 Hz capability (like myself) will be unaffected as the player's conversion of 1080p/24 encodes already involves a conversion to 1080i to output 1080p/60. Basically, the 1080i disc encode eliminates a step in the player's conversion process. This article explains 1080p/24 in further detail. The only problem I saw that could be related to the encoding error was choppy motion in a camera tilt up at 28:08. If I had a copy of the HD DVD release I could make a better determination, but as it is I can only speculate. If anyone has the HD DVD and can check that point in the movie, please do! Encoding issues aside, the transfer overall is very good, though not the best the format has to offer. The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1 and free of dust, dirt, damage and edge halos. Black levels are deep and solid. Sharpness and fine object detail is good, though I've certainly seen better. I did note a hint of shimmer in the letters in the opening white-on-black credits and a few other instances later in the film. Audio Quality: 3.5/5 The "T3" HD DVD release includes an "In-Movie Experience" video commentary, which this Blu-Ray release replicates by branching to separate encodes of scenes that have related video commentary material. Initially I thought the disc contained a separate, picture-in-picture version of the entire film, but realized I misunderstood my first reading of this article. Still, I can't help but wonder whether the space taken up by the separate video encodes could have gone towards including lossless or uncompressed audio tracks. For what it's worth, the Dolby Digital 5.1 is decent, with plenty of rumbling LFE, seamless surround activity and clear dialogue. But it's hard not to wonder what might be, what sort of detail is missing in the shattering glass, explosions and Terminator-on-Terminator brawling. Disappointing, if only in the dearth of audio options. Special Features: 4/5 The majority of the special features from the DVD release have carried over, with the exception of the "Terminator Timeline," "Visual Effects Lab" and "Skynet Database" character profiles. The additions for this high definition release are the audio commentary with director and production crew and the featurette on the T3 toy line. Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow and the Cast: The commentary was edited together from separate interviews, which sometimes sound suspiciously like excerpts from press junket interviews. The exception is Mostow and Claire Danes's track, who were recorded together and actually sound like they're watching the film. Their contribution also dominates the track and proves to be the most interesting as Danes shares what it was like to work on an action film for the first time, providing some interesting thoughts about the acting process. Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow: Mostow provides an engaging commentary with plenty of technical detail about special effects and interesting thoughts about the challenges of revisiting a then 12-year-old franchise. His manner feels very open and inviting, making me think he would make an excellent teacher. Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow and Crew: Joining Mostow are the writers, director of photography, and production designer. It's unclear whether the track is brand new or whether it was recorded for the DVD release but never used. Either way, it has a nice balance of technical information and background rationale for the plot and production design. Some of the information will be familiar from the previous commentary track but there are enough participants in the mix that it never feels like a retread. Particularly interesting is the explanation around the set design for the Crystal Peak fallout shelter. In-Movie-Experience (IME): Mostow takes center stage in the video commentary, his interview clips being recently recorded while other clips featuring the cast and crew are from old promotional materials. There are some nice looks at storyboards, concept art and behind-the-scenes footage, but overall it seems like there wasn't enough material to fill the entire run time, often resulting in Mostow in talking head form, providing audio only, or neither. And if you've gone through the audio commentaries first, as I did, much of what he shares will seem quite familiar. On a technical level, the technique used to create the IME for this release precludes the ability to turn the feature on and off at will. If you select it during the course of the film, you will start over from the beginning; if you decide you want to turn it off, it seems the only option is to eject and reload the disc. While in appearance the Blu-Ray IME is probably identical to its HD DVD counterpart, the usability of it is significantly different. Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger (33s): Arnie welcomes viewers and throws in the requisite "I'll be back." tagline. HBO First Look (13m01s): Behind-the-scenes featurette covers the standard promotional talking points. Storyboards (3m54s): Scene-to-storyboard comparison of the Crystal Peak entry scene. Dressed to Kill (2m11s): A look at the costumes designed for the terminators. Sgt. Candy Scene (1m50s): An outtake explaining how the T-101 got its voice and appearance. The clip is amusing but it was wise to not include it in the film. Terminal Flaws (3m01s): Blooper reel. Toys in Action (6m34s): Todd McFarlane of McFarlane Toys talks about creating the action figures for the T3 line. Recap and Final Thoughts The Feature: 3/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3/5 Those who disliked "T3" won't be convinced otherwise by this release, while those who enjoyed the film are best advised to hold off until the 1080i encode issue is rectified. Just as important (though it seems less likely to happen any time soon), the film should be re-released with more efficient use of disc capacity to allow for high resolution audio options. As things are, it's a flawed release of a polarizing franchise installment. If you must watch it, rent it.