Judgment Day has arrived for "Terminator Genisys," the fifth installment of the sci-fi franchise starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a time-traveling cyborg caught in the middle of a battle between humans and machines. And while many movie critics agree that the enduring action hero is the best thing about "Genisys," most also say he can't save the Alan Taylor-directed film from being a convoluted retread.
The Los Angeles Times' Mark Olsen writes: "In smashing together elements from the first two 'Terminator' movies with Digital Age anxiety over connectivity and privacy, the new movie is kind of like a wedding DJ remixing period hits with a modern beat. Which is to say, 'Terminator Genisys' is no fresh start — it's a mess."
The film, Olsen continues, "could be Exhibit A in why the current line of thinking in Hollywood regarding sequels/reboots/remakes often leads to terrible decisions and worse films. ... The popular term is 'reimagining,' taking some things and not others, which in this case apparently really means not entirely thinking things through." Alas, he says, "bigger is not better, complicated is not the same as complex."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott says that Schwarzenegger "remains the franchise's greatest attraction and most-special effect, even if he sometimes brings to mind one of those gruffly lovable geezers that older stars can't resist playing so they can keep basking in our adoration. It's a performance edged in nostalgia, though if your eyes mist when he utters his famous tagline, it will mostly be because ... this movie foolishly keeps invoking the first film."
That's "an obvious mistake," Scott says, "simply because you end up toggling between memories of [James] Cameron's kinetic original while watching this latest reboot lurch from one narratively clotted turn to another."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr says "Genisys" is reasonably entertaining, "in a helter-skelter fashion," but also that "more often than not, the movie's simply exhausting."
In addition to the "busy-bee plot," Burr continues, it also suffers from "the underwhelming impact of the two leads. [Jai] Courtney is a bland stand-in for Michael Biehn's original Kyle Reese, and once you've witnessed Linda Hamilton's ferocious mama-bear intensity in 'Terminator 2,' [Emilia] Clarke's Sarah Connor can't help but seem a soft-bellied pretender in comparison."
USA Today's Brian Truitt gives "Genisys" 1.5 stars out of four and writes: "Constant confusion and intermittent boredom are on tap in 'Terminator Genisys' ... a movie just as ridiculous as the spelling of its subtitle."
But, Truitt adds, "the most unforgivable sin 'Genisys' is guilty of is being dull. No 'Terminator' movie should ever be boring, yet the action scenes drone on for too long and none wow as much as the most average scene from the classic 'Terminator 2.'"
In one of the more positive (but still ambivalent) reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle calls the new movie a "schizoid mix of thrill ride and headache-inducing logic holes. ... Part sequel, part reboot and part remake, 'Genisys' is both seriously fun and seriously flawed. At the same time, it makes for a decent follow-up, at least to the first two films."
For all the movie's flaws, LaSalle says, "there are also many pleasures, the deepest of which come courtesy of Schwarzenegger's enduringly fun bionic warrior which, like a classic wooden roller coaster, gives a reliably rousing, if at this point somewhat rickety, ride. … 'Genisys' goes back to what made the franchise work in the first place: not the machine inside the man, but vice versa."