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'Terminator Genisys' reviews: What are the critics saying?

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Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t just back, he’s back playing the character that made him a Hollywood megastar. In Terminator Genisys, the 67-year-old returns as a friendly T-800, but this time—twist!—he’s been sent back in time to save, raise, and protect young Sarah Connor.

This is a major Whoa! moment, since fans of the franchise have been raised on the mythology from the first two films: the original Terminator was a relentless assassin sent from the future by Skynet to kill Sarah in 1984, before she could give birth to messianic freedom fighter John Connor. Connor’s most trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese was sent back to 1984 to protect her, and in the process, they fell in love and conceived John. In the blockbuster 1991 sequel, Judgment Day, Schwarzenegger’s robot was an increasingly human bodyguard sent back though time to protect teenage John from Skynet’s even more advanced and lethal Terminator. 

Director Alan Taylor and the producers behind Genisys chose to ignore the two most recent installments—Rise of the Machines and Salvation—and slavishly tried to recreate the the mood and esthetics of James Cameron’s beloved films. But there are also huge departures, beginning when Reese (Jai Courtney) arrives in 1984 to find Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and an aging Terminator—or Guardian—expecting his arrival. Something has changed the timeline, erasing what we thought we knew about the past and present and threatening the future that John Connor (Jason Clarke) had predicted. 

The twists are a lot to handle, especially for the audience. “There are thickets of exposition about ‘quantum fields,’ ‘nexus points,’ and a nefarious killer-app called Genisys, but it doesn’t add up,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his C- review. “And the new cast — Courtney and both Clarkes — don’t offer enough charisma to cover up all the nonsense. They’re the definition of ‘serviceable.’ Even the film’s Easter eggs for die-hard fans feel soft-boiled.”

For more of Nashawaty’s review, and a sampling of other critics from across the country, scroll below: 

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“For a while, the sight of Schwarzenegger reprising what is arguably his most iconic role packs a retro thrill. But soon, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier make a hash of the saga’s mythology, tweaking timelines and messing with its tenets for their own convenience. The story isn’t just confusing, it’s a betrayal to anyone who’s invested brain cells in the Terminatorverse over the past 31 years.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

Terminator Genisys is as convoluted as The Godfather Part III, only without Al Pacino saying that every time he thinks he’s out they pull him back in. Actually, if Schwarzenegger said that line here, it would have fit just fine. Instead, we get scenes like the one in which two people explain the same complicated concept to someone four times — but really for our benefit — and the audience still doesn’t have a clue.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

“’Convoluted’ doesn’t begin to describe this movie, with its narrative switchbacks and chronological fake-outs, alternate timelines, and drastic character reversals. It’s a brain-cramp disguised as a summer blockbuster, the baroque Back to the Future II of the Terminator series. Is it entertaining? Reasonably so, in a helter-skelter fashion. More often than not, the movie’s simply exhausting.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

Terminator Genisys takes the ‘forget everything you’ve learned before’ concept to a whole new level, and that’s what I mean about it being a little insulting and off-putting. You present us with this whole new timeline, this whole new set of circumstances for Sarah Conner and her son John, not to mention Kyle Reese (John’s father) and the Terminator, I mean, Pops? And we’re supposed to just forget all that happened in the first two movies? What if we don’t want to?”

Michael O’Sullivan (Washington Post)

“The new film centers on a killer computer app called Genisys — imagine the ‘cloud’ on steroids — but it’s also 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, which are generally considered to be the franchise’s best.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

“The largely still impassive, still mighty Mr. 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…”

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)

“Kyle Reese (played by aspiring Aussie hunk-star Jai Courtney), the purported hero of this movie, is an idiot in all possible universes, and if there are fans out there who genuinely care about the internal machinery of the Terminator franchise, they’re going to wish they could forget the role this profoundly irritating dude plays in the story.”

Brian Pruitt (USA Today)

“Clarke is caught between Linda Hamilton’s waitress-in-distress Sarah from the first film and the hardcore warrior woman in the second, never really owning the role outright. J.K. Simmons is wasted in a cop role that begs to be larger, and a mysterious character played by Matt Smith (Doctor Who) is arguably the most interesting player in the entire movie but is barely used as well.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)

“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 same way the violence feel staged and photographed.”

Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)

“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.”

Justin Chang (Variety)

“[Genesis] 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.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 39

Rotten Tomatoes: 25 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 119 minutes

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emila Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke

Directed by Alan Taylor

Distributor: Paramount