Blu-ray Review: Terminator Anthology
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Terminator Anthology
Directed by James Cameron, Jonathan Mostow, McG
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Edition
Release Date: August 28, 2012

“The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in the future. It would be fought here, in our present. Tonight…”

In 2008, James Cameron‘s 1984 film The Terminator was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the Terminator, a relentless cybernetic assassin from the post-apocalyptic future of 2029, sent back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a resistance fighter from the future, follows the Terminator back in time to protect Sarah – but why am I even explaining this, obviously you’ve seen this movie… right? Please, for the love of God tell me you’ve seen The Terminator.

OK, good. So, it’s safe to assume you’ve seen Cameron’s 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, starring Robert Patrick as Skynet’s liquid-metal shapeshifter, the T-1000, and Edward Furlong as Sarah’s son, John Connor. If you haven’t seen T2, I’m fucking ashamed of you (or whoever’s responsible for this travesty) for your lack of culturally and historically significant moviegoing experiences.

The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are completely different films, much like Alien and Aliens, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite or critically assess which film is ‘better.’ They both have their strengths, with The Terminator being a straight-ahead, sci-fi pulp noir that is as cold and merciless as it is thrilling. T2 is certainly more epic and more action-packed, with a massive budget and state-of-the-art computer effects, but it feels neutered in some way… more kid-friendly, less threatening than Cameron’s original.

Regardless, T2 was a formative film in my youth and is still one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s where the Terminator franchise ends for me. Schwarzenegger succeeds in protecting Sarah and her son John, the future leader of the resistance. T-1000 is defeated and Judgment Day is averted. “There is no fate, but what we make.”

I spent countless hours as a kid daydreaming of Connor’s war against the machines in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, where Skynet’s metallic monsters crush human skulls and pulverize the remains of concrete jungles with their supreme firepower and gigantic tank-treads.

Instead, someone decided to make a third Terminator film… without James Cameron, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, or Linda Hamilton. Yeah, fucking spectacular idea Warner Bros. At least Alien 3 had Sigourney Weaver in it, even if they did butcher Cameron’s storyline and killed off Hicks and Newt. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is easily the weakest entry in the franchise.

Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (who would go on to write such classics as Halle Berry’s Catwoman and 2007’s killer-crocodile movie, Primeval), Terminator 3 stars Nick Stahl (Sin City) as John Connor and Claire Danes (Homeland) as his future wife, Kate Brewster.

Following the events of T2, Connor has been living off-the-grid in Los Angeles. While Judgment Day didn’t happen on August 29, 1997, the paranoid Connor believes the prophesied war between humans and machines is inevitable. Up to its old tricks again, Skynet sends a new model of Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), back in time to 2004 to hunt down Connor and those closest to him.

Oh yeah, and Sarah Connor is dead. Killed off-screen by that old familiar foe, leukemia. Ugh. As you might imagine, Schwarzenegger’s tried-and-true T-800 is sent back as well to defeat Skynet’s Terminatrix, which is a combination of T-1000’s liquid-metal chemistry and the indestructible endoskeleton of older Terminator models.

On paper, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines sounds like a great idea. We’re going to get to see Judgment Day and John Connor’s rise as the leader of the human resistance, but instead we get a half-baked action comedy with poor casting and ever worse acting. Far worse still is the script by Brancato and Ferris who take Cameron’s Terminator and make him wear Elton John star-shaped sunglasses and say, “Talk to the hand!”

Rise of the Machines is the most uninteresting, nonthreatening film of the entire series – there’s nothing scary about a gorgeous blonde woman (who looks like a bad-ass version of Shakira) in a red leather jumpsuit strutting around Los Angeles in the daytime trying to kill Schwarzenegger, who’s so stiff and arthritic in his portrayal as a robot that it makes you wonder if he actually is one. I wonder if Arnold was even really in the film or if Stan Winston did a full-body mold of Arnold’s body and retrofitted it over an old mechanical Velociraptor from Jurassic Park.

Finally, Terminator: Salvation attempts to stir up interest in a dead franchise by fast-forwarding to 2018, where grown-up John Connor (Christian Bale) and his wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard) lead the resistance against Skynet in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is now the United States.

Directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels) and written by the dynamic duo of Brancato and Ferris (because apparently Warner Bros. didn’t learn their lesson after Terminator 3), Terminator: Salvation attempts to be Batman Begins, quite literally, being as Bale spends most of the movie growling and screaming – you half expect him to let out a “SWEAR TO ME!” or “DO I LOOK LIKE A COP!?” while fighting T-600s and Transformers-esque machines.

Salvation also stars Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese and Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, a human/machine hybrid that doesn’t realize he’s a Terminator. While Terminator: Salvation isn’t as atrocious as Rise of the Machines, it doesn’t quite hit the mark in reinvigorating the Terminator franchise. Christian Bale is a much better Connor than Stahl, and Yelchin is spot-on as a younger, unexperienced Kyle Reese – it’s obvious he studied Michael Biehn’s performance in bringing the character to life.

There are some great references to Terminator and T2 in McG’s Terminator: Salvation, including a return to John Connor listening to Guns n’ Roses and using his little hacking device to re-program a motorcycle Terminator and ride it to Skynet Headquarters. There’s also a pretty impressive digital model of 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger that feels more realistic and life-like than the actor in the previous 2003 film.

The Terminator Anthology Blu-Ray Collection features video transfers from four previous releases: the 2006 MGM release of The Terminator, the 2009 Lionsgate release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day Skynet Edition, the 2008 Warner Bros. release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and the 2009 2-disc Warner Bros. release of Terminator: Salvation which includes the Director’s Cut.

As for special features, again, there’s not a whole lot going on here, just your typical assortment of commentaries and featurettes from previous releases. So, if you already own these films on Blu-Ray, you’re not getting much you don’t already have, except some pretty cool box art. Unless you’re an absolute completist, you really only need the first two Terminator films – and let’s be honest, Terminator 5 (and 6, more than likely) are an inevitability at this point, so there’s bound to be another box set release later.

Special Features

– The Terminator: A Retrospective
– Other Voices documentary with James Cameron
– Cast and crew interviews about The Terminator
– The Terminator deleted Scenes with James Cameron
– Audio commentary with James Cameron and writer William Wisher on Terminator 2
– Terminator 2 cast and crew audio commentary
– Terminator 2 deleted Scenes and outtakes
– Over eight hours of interactive Terminator 2 special features, such as behind-the-scenes video and multimedia galleries, storyboard-script mode, quizzes, and games
– Three audio commentaries for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
– Terminator Salvation mythology timelines
– Terminator Salvation: Re-Forging the Future documentary

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