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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones, Brian Austin Green, Garret Dillahunt, Dean Winters
Writing Credits:
Various

Tagline:
This season a mother will become a warrior, a son will become a hero, and their only ally will be a friend from the future.

Synopsis:
At the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah vanquished the Terminator sent from the future to kill her teenage son, John. Sarah and John now find themselves alone in a very dangerous, complicated world. Fugitives from the law, they are confronted with the reality that still more enemies from the future, and the present, could attack at any moment.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles reveals what happens when Sarah (Lena Headey) stops running and goes on the offensive against an ever-evolving technological enemy bent on destroying her life, and perhaps the world. Her son, 15-year-old John Connor (Thomas Dekker), knows that he may be the future savior of mankind, but is not yet ready to take on the mantle of leadership that he's told is his destiny. John finds himself inextricably drawn to Cameron (Summer Glau), an enigmatic and otherworldly student at his high school, who soon proves to be much more than his confidante - she assumes the role of Sarah and John's fearless protector. On their trail are not only threats from the future, but an intelligent and tough FBI agent, James Ellison (Richard T. Jones), who soon becomes a powerful ally.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles represents an exciting reinvention of the Terminator franchise, in which the strong and intrepid Sarah discovers that protecting her son and stopping the rise of the machines is more difficult than she had ever imagined.

This three disc collection includes all nine episodes from The Complete First Season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Chinese
Korean
Thai
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Chinese
Korean
Thai

Runtime: 394 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/19/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries for Three Episodes
• “Terminated Scenes” for Four Episodes
• “Creating the Chronicles” Three-Part Documentary
• Gag Reel
• Cast Audition Tapes
• Storyboard Animatic
• Summer Glau Dance Rehearsal
• Extended Version of “The Demon Hand”


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season 1 (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 5, 2008)

Like its title character, The Terminator just won’t stay down for the count. The franchise remained dormant for a few years after 2003’s Terminator 3, but it sprang back to life on the small screen in early 2008.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles initially takes place a few years after the events in Terminator 2, though it makes a time leap in its first episode to come to the present day. The series’ first season only included nine episodes. We’ll view them in the order broadcast, which is how they appear in this three-DVD set. The plot synopses come straight from the packaging.

DVD ONE:

Pilot: “No one is ever safe, least of all Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her 15-year-old son John (Thomas Dekker). Tired of running from the machines, Sarah decides to stand and fight.”

I admit I went into Chronicles with a fair amount of skepticism. I liked all three Terminator movies, and the chances the TV series would come across as little more than a low-budget version of the flicks seemed high.

Does the “Pilot” eliminate my misgivings? No, not to a substantial degree, though it also fails to make me pessimistic about the show’s future. The episode provides decent entertainment, though it does often feel like a cheaper rehash of prior Terminator adventures. At least some intriguing threads develop as the program progresses, so I’ll reserve judgment. As a series launch, the “Pilot” offers an acceptable beginning but not one that truly impresses.

Gnothi Seuton: “New future, new identity. Cromartie, the battered but relentless Terminator programmed to kill John, resurfaces.”

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d offer my own plot synopses, as some of the ones from the packaging don’t tell us much. That recap above is pretty useless, especially since it fails to reveal much about the episode’s story. It mainly concentrates on the attempts of Sarah to procure new identities for John and herself. It also throws out a few minor plot developments whose potential importance remains to be seen. This show never becomes terribly involving, but it manages to move along the story in a decent manner.

The Turk: “He’s just a geek with a hobby. But is the computer chess program Andy Goode (Brendan Hines) developed the beginning of the end?”

In the “Pilot”, Cameron was able to simulate a flirty, chatty teen; how come she now presents as a stiff robot when she’s back in high school? I don’t expect perfect continuity from a TV series, but discrepancies like these definitely cause distractions. I guess the producers felt a mechanical Cameron would be more entertaining, but the choice makes no sense. (The commentaries attempt to explain this discrepancy, but I don’t buy their rationale; I still think Cameron should be able to act more natural than she does here.)

Despite those problems, “Turk” creates the most interesting of the series’ first few episodes. It shows a quirky sense of humor not present in the earlier shows, and it provides some intriguing plot threads. I remain less than enthralled by the series so far, but “Turk” shows it on an upswing, at least.

DVD TWO:

Heavy Metal: “Cameron (Summer Glau) discovers a truck loaded with enough metal to build over 500 endoskeletons. Are more Terminators about to be created?”

That theme creates the most intriguing plot so far in the series, though not one “Metal” exploits to the best of its abilities. The story line mostly becomes subsumed to a “rescue John” plot that seems ordinary. I do like an implied fight scene that works very well; it avoids violence to resolve a situation in a clever manner. Otherwise this is an ordinary episode.

Queen’s Gambit: “A chess contest has the potential to link the Turk and Skynet. Meanwhile, the missing Resistance Fighter reappears.”

I wanted to wait a few shows before I judged the acting of Chronicles since I thought it was appropriate to give the performers a while to grow into the roles. Dekker seems decent as John, but I can’t say that I much care for Headey’s take on Sarah. She seems more like a sexy soccer mom than the badass Linda Hamilton created in T2. That Sarah felt like she was tough and in charge while still haunted and trouble, but this one just seems mopey and soft much of the time.

As for Glau, she doesn’t have to take over a role from a prior flick, but she still seems to channel an earlier character: her own River Tam from Firefly. She makes a cute Terminatrix and can handle the fight material well, but there’s not a whole lot to her performance. She never seems quite convincing as a Terminator – or as a teen, since she looks more like she’s in her mid-twenties and appears unlikely to pass as a high school student.

I do like Richard T. Jones as the FBI agent who pursues Sarah and the others. He brings a good sense of weariness to the part but still evokes Lt. Gerard from The Fugitive in terms of his doggedness and insight. He creates one of the series’ more interesting personalities.

As for “Gambit” itself, it works fine. It introduces a new character in that Resistance Fighter, and this opening creates some potential intrigue. A few moderately dramatic events occur here, but the episode doesn’t manage to draw in the viewer to a dynamic degree.

Dungeons and Dragons: “Derek’s (Brian Austin Green) consciousness shifts between his injured state in the present and the future he already knows to be true.”

David Silver, Resistance Fighter? At first, it does feel tough to separate Green’s 90210 character from this show’s role, but he actually does just fine in the part. “Dragons” proves more interesting than most of the episodes to date, largely because it offers the series’ first real taste of the future. We see Derek’s life before he got sent back to the present, and those moments are rather good. They also help tie together some plot points and allow “Dragons” to turn into a solid show.

DVD THREE:

The Demon Hand: “Ellison (Richard T. Jones) digs into the history of Sarah Connor. Cameron sets out to find the Turk but discovers something else entirely.”

For my money, Ellison offers arguably the series’ most interesting character. Sure, he comes across as a pretty standard plot instrument ala Lt. Gerard, but he also provides probably the best realized personality in the bunch, largely due to Jones’ fine performance.

Unfortunately, “Hand” reminds us once again how Headey fails to remotely fill Linda Hamilton’s shoes. We see video footage meant to replicate loony bin shots of T2 Sarah, and Headey just can’t bring out Hamilton’s tortured anger; she seems whiny and petulant.

Nonetheless, “Hand” continues the series’ recent upswing, largely due to the return of Dr. Silberman from the original films. It’s fun to see how the events of T2 affected him, though the decision to cast Bruce Davison and his full head of hair in the role originated by chrome-domed Earl Boen seems odd. Davison does fine in the part, but it’d be good to find a replacement actor who looks at least a little like the prior performer. Even with that drawback, though, “Hand” creates a fine episode.

By the way, can someone else explain the decision the series makes to place the events of T2 in 1997? That makes no sense. While the flick doesn’t mention a specific year, it does tell us that Judgment Day occurs in August 1997. That’s when Skynet goes live, but the action in T2 happens well before the actual creation of that system. Moving ahead the T2 chronology allows Chronicles to fit better within the modern time frame; putting the series 16 years after T2 would cause some other leaps in logic.

In theory, I don’t mind the decision to move Judgment Day to 2011, mostly because I figured it was a different Judgment Day: the events of T2 may have put off the 8/29/97 J-Day but subsequent developments put it 14 years later. However, I get the feeling that Chronicles want us to view 2011 as the same J-Day from the movie. If you don’t remember T2 well, the choices won’t bother you, but I’m sure they annoy many a fan.

Oh, and one other bit of revisionist history: “Hand” implies that John really liked Todd and Janelle, his foster parents from T2. That never seemed to be the case in the flick. Indeed, it made them out to be kind of unpleasant people.

Vick’s Chip: “What does a T-888 really think? John attempts to hack into a Terminator’s memory chip in order to protect Cameron before it’s too late.”

Often shows that precede a season finale tend to feel like foreplay; they exist to set up climactic events and nothing more. That fate doesn’t befall “Chip”, which actually manages to be surprisingly creative. The glimpses inside the T-888’s brain are fascinating, especially in the way the machine created a personal life. Plot points also develop well in this involving program.

What He Beheld: “Sarah and John’s true identities are discovered by a mysterious operative. Cromartie’s infiltration of the FBI has devastating consequences.”

Remember those expected climactic events I mentioned in the last review? They don’t show up in “Beheld”, an episode that feels more like a show from the middle of the season than from the end. Granted, I assumed we’d get something of a cliffhanger, but I also figured the program would “end” matters in at least a moderate way.

That doesn’t occur here. As it turns out, “Beheld” wasn’t meant to end the season, so that’s why it feels like a loose finish to the year. Despite the frustrations that come with its inconclusive nature, “Beheld” at least leaves the series on a fairly high note. It moves along the plot pretty well and continues to involve us in the show.

Which is important since much of Season One just didn’t do a lot for me. As it stands, I view Chronicles as a decent TV series but not one marked by any greatness. On the positive side, it avoids the tackiness and cheesiness that easily could have marred it. The series creates a respectful version of the Terminator world – despite various liberties – and it feels like a reasonable extension of that universe.

However, it never approaches the levels found in the movies. That’s not because of the restrictions that come with TV series; the first Terminator was dirt-cheap but that didn’t harm it. No, Chronicles just doesn’t boast the same level of inspiration found in the flicks. It creates a generally interesting series, and I’ll be curious to see where it goes in Season Two, but I remain lukewarm toward S1.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While I thought the shows looked quite good, they weren’t quite as terrific as I might’ve expected.

A few minor issues stemmed from sharpness. Though most of the shots appeared well-defined and accurate, some softness crept into the package at times. In particular, wider interior shots tended to appear a bit fuzzy. Those remained minor distractions, though, as the programs were usually concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little light edge enhancement occurred. A for source flaws, the shows presented some graininess but otherwise looked clean.

Colors appeared good. The series went with a reasonably natural palette, and the hues were consistently full and vivid. Blacks showed good depth and richness, but shadows could be a little thick. The low-light shots weren’t terribly dense, but they seemed slightly muddy. Overall, however, the series presented solid visuals.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Chronicles. Don’t expect movie-quality audio, however, as the material showed the restricted scope of a TV series. The forward channels dominated. They provided good stereo music and a nice sense of space for the effects. Various elements filled the front spectrum and flowed together in a smooth manner.

Surround usage was less active. The rear speakers offered a surprising amount of music, but effects seemed less prominent. They cropped up from the surrounds with reasonable frequency, but they didn’t appear to bring much unique information to the table. The soundscapes opened up the shows in a satisfying way, although they weren’t especially impressive.

Audio quality was very good. Bass response seemed especially positive, as both effects and score demonstrated rich, tight low-end. Clarity remained strong for both of those elements as well. The score was bright and full, while the effects sounded clear and accurate. Speech also came across as natural and concise. The series’ soundfields weren’t dazzling, but the material satisfied.

A few extras round out the set. We find audio commentaries for three episodes. They feature a mix of cast and crew:

Pilot: Director David Nutter, Executive Producer/Writer Josh Friedman, Executive Producer James Middleton and Actor Summer Glau. They discuss the series’ development and themes, cast, training and performances, locations and sets, story and character issues, and a few technical topics. This commentary launches the series pretty well. It can be a little superficial at times, but it covers a lot of useful material and usually does so reasonably well.

The Turk: Friedman, Executive Producer John Wirth, and Actors Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker. This track often sticks in experiential mode, as it looks at specifics from the shoot. We get notes from the actors about their work as well as thoughts about the episode's director and a few other details related to the show's creation. It lacks the "global view" apparent in the prior commentary, but it manages to include some nice insights, especially related to the cast and performances.

What He Beheld: Friedman, Glau, Writer Ian Goldberg and Actor Brian Austin Green. This one sticks with general thoughts as well. It gives us a smattering of notes about story, performances, and characters along with a bit about stunts and the like, but it doesn’t add up to a lot. We get more praise and dead air than in the two prior tracks, so it works the worst of the bunch. Nonetheless, some fun parts emerge, especially when Green gets faux (?) offended when Friedman appears to accidentally slag 90210.

Terminated Scenes appear for four episodes. We get clips for “Pilot” (five scenes, 9:02), “The Turk” (one scene, 2:07), “Dungeons and Dragons” (one scene, 2:08), and “The Demon Hand” (two scenes, 7:23). The “Pilot” bits tend to flesh out a few character bits; the most significant of the bunch shows Sarah’s tearful confession of her fears. “Dragons” shows more of John’s reunion with Dixon and hints the kid might be attracted to Cameron. (Can you blame him?) The shots from “Hand” let us see Sarah’s old psych ward video as well as interactions between John and Cheri.

The latter snippets are interesting because the series doesn’t develop that thread well. Cheri hangs out there as a character who doesn’t go anywhere – in S1, at least – so it’s nice to get a little more development there, even though you shouldn’t expect much new info.

As for the other scenes, the one from “Dragons” is okay but unnecessary, and Sarah’s video in “Hand” falls into the same category; it’s fun to see as an extra, but it definitely shouldn’t have been in the final show. The rest of the clips are generally interesting but nothing especially memorable.

DVD One presents a three-part documentary called Creating the Chronicles. It breaks down into “Re-Boot” (16:41), “Future War” (10:23) and “The Demon Hand” (11:54). Each one mixes program clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Friedman, Glau, Middleton, Nutter, Wirth, Headey, Dekker, Green, visual effects supervisor James Lima, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Joel Kramer, special effects supervisor Steve Galich, and actor Richard T. Jones. “Re-Boot” covers adapting the films for the small screen and various story threads/concerns, cast and characters, various effects and design choices, and stunts and action. “War” digs into the specifics of shooting the future in “Dungeons and Dragons”, while “Hand” looks at elements of that particular episode.

Plenty of good information shows up across these three pieces. Some of the usual happy talk appears, but we find a lot of useful material. “Hand” seems particularly good in the way that it digs into characters and themes. These add up to a fine view of the series.

For DVD One’s final component, we get a Gag Reel. The three-minute and 35-second compilation presents the standard complement of mistakes and jokes. It’s pretty forgettable.

Over on DVD Two, we find Cast Audition Tapes. These provide tests for Lena Headey (4:13), Thomas Dekker (2:23) and Richard T. Jones (4:24). I enjoy this kind of footage, so all three are fun to see.

Still on DVD Two, we get a Summer Glau Dance Rehearsal. This one-minute and 34-second snippet shows the actor as she practices ballet. You’d think that it’d be stimulating to see the sexy Glau prance, but it’s actually kind of dull.

DVD Two ends with a Storyreel Animatic. It gives us a three-minute and 20-second animated storyboard look at the “Pilot” scene in which Cameron rescues John from the Terminator. It offers a decent view of the planning art.

DVD Three includes an Extended Version of “The Demon Hand”. While the broadcast episode runs 42:22, this longer cut goes for 50:28 It starts with a 68-second intro from Wirth, Friedman and Middleton; they allude to a few differences that come in the extended edition. (The running time I list above doesn’t include the intro.) I didn’t watch both, so I can’t compare them; I opted for the broadcast version. In any case, it’s cool that we get the option here, even if the extended edition is a little rough around the edges; it lacks finished effects and other elements in some scenes.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles attempts to fill some big shoes, and it succeeds only sporadically. The series entertains enough to keep us with it, and it does improve toward the end, but I must admit it doesn’t thrill me. Still, I look forward to Season Two and hope to see it continue to get better. The DVD gives us pretty good picture and audio as well as some interesting supplements. Although I’m not totally sold on the series, I think there’s enough of interest to recommend it to Terminator fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
65:
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51:
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