Anthologies are tricky business, especially with a beloved franchise that has taken some lumps over the years. For example, 20th Century Fox knocked it out of the park earlier this year with the Alien Anthology, mostly because it gave us ample reason to rebuy some films we’ve already owned for years. The packaging was brilliant, the box set included a bunch of new interactive features and the entire thing was easily one of the most impressive box sets we’ve seen in a long time, if ever. Even people who weren’t fans of the troubled third film or the odd left turn of the fourth film would be compelled to pick it up. It was that good.
Conversely, The Terminator Anthology, released as an exclusive to Best Buy this past week as compendium on the sci-fi franchise that includes one of the single most iconic characters in cinema history, is not that good. It’s a nice little set that comes with all of the movies in a nice package, but it fails a lot of ways that other anthologies succeed. And I say this as someone who probably enjoyed Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation more than you did.
With packaging being a very important element of a set like this, it’s nice to see that Terminator excels in at least one area. An embossed fold-open disc holder slides out of the box vertically to reveal a pretty cool rendition of the big guy’s endoskeleton. As it opens to reveal the discs, there’s a noticeable weight to the package that gives me confidence that it’s not going to come apart on me anytime soon (I’m looking at you, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future). Beneath each disc is a look at the endoskeletons from each film’s various Terminator models, including a liquidy T-1000 from Judgment Day. It’s a nice set to hold in your hands and it looks nice on a shelf. And lets not pretend that such things aren’t important. If you’re reading this, they probably are.
The Terminator – This is just a replicant from the previous Blu-ray releases, which will become a theme throughout the rest of this set, as I painstakingly discovered. The movie still looks great, but all the extras are still in standard definition. But there’s still that trailer for XxX in 1080p. Look out!
Terminator 2: Judgment Day – In 2009, I reviewed this “Skynet Edition” of Judgment Day very positively. Going through it again, I realize the error of my ways: the menus on this disc are infuriating. The fact that Warner Bros. didn’t realize this and make a fix for this release is even more confounding. If you get to the extras, they’re nice, just as they were three years ago. And there’s still that awesome, rare James Cameron commentary track with co-writer William Wysher, a must listen for any fan.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – This is where your own personal tastes will begin to weigh heavily in purchasing this set. As someone who didn’t hate T3 (far from it, actually — I celebrate this movie’s absurd scale and wanton destruction), I love the fact that it’s being given a proper HD release. The previous Blu-ray version was released with a 1080i transfer of the film, which has been fixed for this release and upgraded to 1080p. Say what you want about Jonathan Mostow’s film and its fit into the world of Terminator, but you can’t deny that it’s got some ambitious visuals and incredible sound design, all presented in reference quality on this disc.
Terminator Salvation – In bringing Terminator back, director McG really had a wonderful opportunity. He could have showed us that he’s not the fluff-master we’d seen in the past and that he could blow stuff up real good just like the big boys. The big boy in this case being James Cameron. To his credit, he did blow some stuff up. But the script is a mess and that narrative goes from unfocused to silly faster than one of those little Terminator motorcycle bot thingies. To its credit, Salvation still looks nice on Blu-ray and Danny Elfman’s score is worth hearing on a 5.1 DTS-HD mix. And unlike some of the other films in this set, it comes with plenty of extras, should you desire to let to McG talk through your movie (I still love you, Maximum Movie Mode.) It should be noted that disc five of this four-movie set isn’t a bonus disc for the franchise, but the second disc for Salvation and its extras, all of which exist on the “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray release from 2009.
The Final Word
On the whole, The Terminator Anthology isn’t a bad set. In fact, the packaging alone makes it a worthwhile addition to any serious collection. Although there’s disappointment under the surface, especially if you already own these movies on Blu-ray. Because that’s exactly what’s inside — the same exact Blu-ray releases we’ve seen in recent years. No additional extras, no upgraded menus for consistency across the anthology. The only noticable change is the transfer on Terminator 3, which may not even play into your decision if you didn’t enjoy that movie. If for some inexplicable reason you haven’t collected the entire franchise yet on Blu, the $50 price on this set is more than reasonable for what you’re getting.