“Terminator Genisys” is, the first reviews agree, the best movie in the series after “Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” But being better than “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and “Terminator Salvation” is hardly a compliment, as critics go on to make clear. The big news here is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is back — and back, and back, since the actor plays three versions of himself scattered among the movie’s timelines, with digital de-aging taking off three decades to return him to the world of the very first movie. Director Alan Taylor (“Thor 2: The Dark World”) successfully recreates iconic scenes from the earlier films and riffs on them as well — here, it’s Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Conor who says “Come with me if you want to live” — but that’s not the same as recapturing their magic, any more than Colin Trevorrow’s ersatz Spielbergisms in “Jurassic World” are a substitute for the real thing. The mechanics of time travel, complete with altered timelines cause by multiple forays into the past, at least keeps viewers’ brains active, as does sussing out all the references to the first two movies — highly recommended if you want to have a prayer of following along — but when they’re not unscrambling the various histories, they might pause to reflect on the utterly unnecessary nature of “Genisys,” purportedly the start of a new trilogy that no one seems to feel much need to exist. The movie’s preoccupation with revisiting the past seems all to apt for a culture and an industry that is obsessed with reworking the old rather than making anything new.
Reviews of “Terminator Genisys”
This time-jumping contrivance plays well enough, 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. 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 way the violence is staged and photographed.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Not since “Back to the Future II” audaciously set its story partly within the confines of its first instalment has a sequel so shoehorned its narrative inside pre-existing material. A working knowledge of “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the two films made by Cameron, will go a long way towards appreciating what Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”) very nearly pulls off in “Genisys,” which is to tweak our understanding of the franchise’s major characters, have a chuckle at its insolence and deliver a gripping “Terminator” movie in its own right. The lethal, mercury-like T-1000 (this time played by Byung-hun Lee) is back, but so is the very ’80s-blockbuster belief that lame one-liners and dopey catchphrases uttered while blowing away baddies never go out of style.
James Rocchi, The Wrap
Director Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World,” “Game of Thrones”) gives us a film in which all of that “more” just means less. While “Terminator Genisys” doesn’t skimp on fights or philosophy, both feel somewhat perfunctory: A personification of the film’s bad guy doesn’t display much personality; Skynet has gone from a military program to being a portable, hip, killer app for consumers, with the “killer” part being literal; the newest upgrade to the Terminator line is an assassin made of nanomachines that can utterly subsume any human cell by cell, then shift shape or dissolve into dust before reconstituting itself to murder once again.
Most of these addenda represent change for change’s sake and “improvements” that aren’t, and while the film tries to get inside itself — offering familiar lines coming from different characters in new contexts, repeating visual gags like what happens when you shoot a T-1000 in the eye, including the fact that Schwarzenegger’s T-800 has learned to smile, sort of — the recent “Jurassic World” did a much better job of putting a sharp, cynical edge on the familiar parts of an older franchise.
Justin Chang, Variety
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 (which makes the appearance of J.K. Simmons all the more welcome in the minor role of a police detective). Yet while “Terminator Genesis” is far from a perfect movie, it may well be a perfect product of its time and place, one that ably reflects the ruthless economy of the industry in general and the thematic logic of this series in particular. 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. You can’t quite call it obsolete, perhaps, but damned if it doesn’t feel awfully futile.
Peter Sciretta, Slash Film
Satisfying as this sequel may be, if you’re expecting a film on the level of “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” you will be very disappointed. “T2” is a masterwork of science fiction action cinema which featured milestones in visual effects, and this film can’t compare, nor should it — I don’t feel it’s fair to compare this film with Cameron’s sequel. So no, “Genisys” doesn’t feature innovative visual effects giving us something we’ve never seen before. And no, “Genisys” isn’t a grand slam like “T2” was, but like “Jurassic World” it is a fun Summer movie which does a good job of rebooting the franchise.