HOLLYWOOD — It’s back. But should it be?
‘Terminator Genisys,” the fifth movie in the venerable smash-and-boom to save the world series, seeks to reposition the franchise for a new future by transporting Sarah Connor and her son John, Kyle Reese and, of course, various Terminators into an alternate timeline.
It’s not a stretch to say the series needed a reboot, or at least a boot in the rear. The last entry, 2009’s “Terminator Salvation,” was savaged by fans and critics alike.
Director James Cameron, who oversaw the first film but wasn’t involved in this take, has said fans of the original will “love this movie.”
“I feel like the franchise has been reinvigorated, like this is a renaissance,” Cameron said in a YouTube video posted by the film’s promotional team.
But, as they are wont to do, many critics begged to disagree.
In the New York Times, reviewer Manohla Dargis writes that despite the ravages of time, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator — known here as “Pops” — is indeed back for a film that pays extensive homage to Cameron’s original.
“That’s an obvious mistake,” Dargis writes, “simply because you end up toggling between memories of Mr. Cameron’s kinetic original while watching this latest reboot lurch from one narratively clotted turn to another.”
Here’s how Todd McCarthy puts it for the Hollywood Reporter: “This terminator is past its expiration date.”
The film manages to explode its history well enough to move forward, Taylor writes, “but what actually goes on in the scenes set 14 years hence feels rote and unimaginative.”
“Action scenes are accumulated as if mandated by a stop-watch and almost invariably seem like warmed-over versions of stuff we’ve seen before in Terminator entries and elsewhere,” he writes. “The first three films in the series were R-rated and viscerally benefited from it; this one is rated PG-13 and its action scenes feel like diluted rehashes, obligatory and devoid of visual creativity in the same way the violence feel staged and photographed.”
Richard Lawson, reviewing the film for Vanity Fair, was less harsh in a review headlined, “Terminator Genisys Makes a Surprisingly Compelling Case for Itself.”
“The wheel hasn’t been re-invented, but it’s been nimbly re-purposed, jerry-rigged into something adequately suited to our modern age,” Lawson wrote. “While Genisys doesn’t have the iconic heft of James Cameron’s films, it’s not surprising, to me anyway, that the film has earned the maestro’s mild praise. Genisys isn’t a future classic, but it’ll do for now.”
Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers offered a fair bit of praise as well, saying the movie “fires on all action cylinders when director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) follows the model James Cameron set in the first two films, still the glory of the series.”
Then there’s this from Variety’s Justin Chang: “Genisys” is, he writes, a “nervy, silly, almost admirably misguided attempt to give the 31-year-old franchise a massive cybernetic facelift.”
“It is, on the face of it, a ludicrous and faintly depressing spectacle, like watching a ‘Terminator’ highlights reel stiffly enacted by Hollywood’s latest bright young things,” Chang writes.
“The ‘Terminator’ franchise, by now, has become its own worst Skynet — a monument to self-regeneration that endlessly repackages the same old thrills in ever sleeker, sexier models, and that gladly screws with its own past to ensure its future survival,” Chang said. “You can’t quite call it obsolete, perhaps, but damned if it doesn’t feel awfully futile.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviewer Joe Williams says it’s like “a greatest-hits compilation for obsessive collectors.”
“On its own terms, ‘Terminator Genisys’ makes virtually no sense,” Williams writes. “It tries to cover its plot holes by circling back to worlds-within-worlds, but director Alan Taylor (‘Thor: The Dark World’) doesn’t have the chops to make ‘Inception.’ Instead he throws kitchen sinks into ever-bigger kitchen sinks.”
In The Guardian, reviewer Henry Barnes says it’s all enough to make you want to shed a tear.
“Salvation was boring, but Genisys makes you sad,” Barnes writes “Risk-averse Hollywood has made a crash-test dummy of a once great franchise, simply throwing everything at it to see what it stands. It’s heartbreaking to watch Arnie execute the same old programs: the terrible robo-smile; the slang; the wear and tear of his living tissue revealing the cyborg underneath.
” ‘Old, but not obsolete,’ the Terminator/Guardian tells us when his age is brought into question,” Barnes writes. “In truth, it feels like both.”