Critics pan Terminator: Genisys in first reviews as 'past its expiration date'
Should the Terminator be terminated?
We fans have had high hopes for the latest, fifth instalment in the science-fiction franchise. And with the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as versions of his robot character and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as a re-imagined Sarah Connor, Terminator: Genisys has been looking increasingly positive.
But now the early reviews of T5 are flowing in, we may have to rewrite the timeless Schwarzenegger line "I'll be back."
He - and we - might not be coming back for more, even if original Terminator director James Cameron has declared T5 the "official" third film in a series that, since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) has had successively more dire responses.
"New mission, new fate" reads the kicker on the new film's promo material – but some reviewers of Terminator: Genisys, opening in the US overnight, seem to be thinking "new failure" with the likes of Hollywood Reporter opining that "this terminator is past its expiration date".
I'm remaining optimistic that (forgive me) this latest rise of the machines - the first planned in a new series of three - might actually be its salvation rather than its go-to-hell judgment day. There's a chance we might even love T5 to bits when it opens in New Zealand next week, because while some critics have certainly sharpened their knives, others are saying it is the best in the series since Cameron's highly successful Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), which followed his original 1984 The Terminator.
Slashfilm critic Peter Sciretta said that while T5 is certainly not a grand slam like T2, it cleverly "revisits moments we've seen before, allowing them to play out differently than we remember".
And Screen Daily reckons director Alan Taylor very nearly pulls off a difficult task: 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", one that never lacks forward momentum or precision action filmmaking.
Perhaps we can ignore the harshness from Hollywood Reporter and Variety, with the former saying T5 spends "half its time showing unkillable cyborg characters getting shot up only to quickly heal themselves", and the other half "trying to explain a plot that rewrites the entire series". Variety, likewise, critiqued it as a "time-shuffling reboot of a series whose best days are long behind it".
That, though, is the biggest bone of contention with the franchise – and its greatest opportunity: its time-travel premise means successive directors and writers have been able to easily depart from the Terminator "canon", a double-edged sword that can earn either the ire of fundamentalist fans or the praise of those with a more speculative bent.
Nevertheless, calls to inter the franchise have been around ever since T3 and Terminator Salvation (the fourth film) upset the fans by radically re-writing – and ignoring – events from the first two Cameron films.
As Cinemablend noted last month, the franchise will be fighting for its future with Genisys. "With another success story in the books, the two sequels can be put into back-to-back production, and the series can find its second wind," wrote Mike Reyes. "If not, then at least Terminator Salvation won't feel too lonely on your shelf as the least watched Terminator film in your collection."
Diehard fans were furious when the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles starring another Game of Thrones leading light, Lena Headey (Cersei), was shelved after only two seasons that gave much depth to the Terminator backstory and was praised for its superb acting and circuitous storylines.
That is where the franchise was best continued: on the small screen, with room to move and no Hollywood pressure to slide into meaningless high-octane action and fluffy love-story sub-plots. Or maybe Genisys will take it back to its roots: clever, fun, big-screen thrills
- Sydney Morning Herald