REVIEWER’S NOTEBOOK: Terminator Genisys is mankind’s worst migraine

A review written under duress

7490 terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator in Terminator Genisys from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.
Courtesy of melinda sue gordon


Terminator Genisys

Directed by Alan Taylor

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke

Rated PG-13

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I’d promised Sonya I’d get her into a press screening. I’d also promised her she could choose which one...

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Subject: TERMINATOR GENISYS Press Screening on June 29th

Date: June 19

Her: “Would go to this just to see Arnold!”

Me: “It’s absolutely going to be horrible.”

Her: “...You think it’s going to be a waste of time lol?”

Me: [Silence]

A week later I was texting her, “So this is a press screening. There’s no half-hour of previews. As soon as everyone’s seated, whiz boom bang they start the movie. Let’s try to get there early the day of.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

It was pretty bright outside Monday morning when I stumbled outside my lodgings missing a couple cylinders, thinking about the long office day ahead and the impending global cataclysm of Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys in the evening. I beelined for my bike rack, then slowed down. Then stopped.

“What the fuck?” I whispered out loud, eyes twitching in a 360 scan. The pretty silver Mercier bike with Ergo-saddle and semi-compact geometry that I’d borrowed from a friend, I had definitely parked somewhere else. Next closest bike rack, it must have been.


Down the street?


Then it seeped into my mind like sludge through a kitchen sink filter. “FUUUUUCCKKKKKKKK!”

I had a hardened steel U-lock on that beautiful thing when some bastard came in the middle of night and jacked it.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

So that evening, I interspersed self-loathing jogs with equally self-loathing walks across the murky Charles to meet up with Sonya.

The damn movie didn’t even rank in my top thoughts. The first few things clunking around in my mind? A stat from prowling Quora: only 5% of stolen bikes ever get recovered. And how I’d tear up the kid who took my bike if I ever met him. And how I’d explain this to my friend in Cali. And so on and so forth until I looked up and found myself standing in front of Sonya’s house.

The plan was to get something to eat before we hit the Loews in Boston Common, and I took the extra time to acclimate my companion to what she’d find in the 3D IMAX theater. I’d already been to quite a few press screenings in my exalted tenure as an arts writer for The Tech. It’s the single greatest collection of self-aggrandizing leeches on society you’ll find outside of a cotillion. But really, that’s why we still have press screenings and cotillions, right? To get in on the fun, and stick your pinky fingers in the proverbial social pie. I mean, what was I putting myself out for? A tasteful, nuanced evening of moviegoing?

There’s a saying that goes, “A fisherman is a jerk on one end of a line, waiting for a jerk on the other.” Well, get enough jerks and lines and you have a gallery of film critics.

I laid it out for her. “So you got the first, like, 20 rows reserved for press, and the rest are for some god-knows-who lucky members of the public.”

“Do you have like a press badge or something?”

“Uh. No, I’m just gonna tell the dude I’m a writer for The MIT Tech. They’ll have us on some list somewhere.”

“And that works?”

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

On the way to our seats, we came upon a herd of people corralled into a paddock of the lobby. A snake-like formation, for maximal orderliness. Some of them were jittery, and getting more excited as their childhood neared the big screen again. I mellowed out even more.

“The plebs,” I said, jokingly. “We’re not one of them,” I assured my guest.

We passed a concession stand, one of the greatest evils of capitalism, next to lawyers and hotel fridges. Two steps from the entrance.

“Wait, I want an Icee!”

So close.

“What? Why?”

“I always get one at theaters. I love Icees.”

So we got in line. She asked for a blue one, small. They handed her a cup of crushed ice, food coloring, and high fructose corn syrup that looked like it could feed a small village.

“That’s a small?!”

“They’re big, right?”

She took a long sip, my judgment not even penetrating the patriotic paper sheath of her beverage.

We spotted two empty seats with only minutes to spare. I squeezed in, grabbed the “Press something-or-other” paper taped to my seat, and violently crumpled it up. Didn’t even get to indulge in my favorite pastime, scrutinizing my professional peers and their ever-so-delicate tendencies in their natural habitat.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Sonya’s now reminding me why the hell she wanted to see this in the first place. Arnold Schwarzenegger of gubernator fame makes his first appearance on the screen, his face altered in post-production to take off, say, half of his 67 years. She squeals, laughs when Arnold breaks out into a forced, mechanical smile, and I’m impressed — his witty, dry lines keep coming, and the audience loves it.

“Old.” He churns. “But not obsolete.” Don’t kid yourself — this whole film series is both.

Twenty minutes in, and I can tell he’s breaking away for the best element of this movie. Who has a rat’s chance of catching up? Emilia Clarke? Jai Courtney? Jason Clarke? Mercy, please. Arnie makes this movie. This series, in fact.

But wait — there’s a riveting, nail-biting, plot-twist of a climax! Sonya’s surprised. Her eyes widen. I groan. Unfortunately, I was diligent enough to watch the trailer, which inexplicably revealed the movie’s biggest selling point. What’s that saying about not shitting away your bargaining chips?

And although this series has just progressively and relentlessly gone to crap, they just had to fund another one, didn’t they? The thought that kept coming back to me, basically summing up this rotten mess. $155 million that could have gone to feed those starving kids in Africa that are synonymous with first-world guilt trips.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

By the time the credits started their merciful roll, the theater’s soft orange bulbs were sputtering to life. I was numb. Was starting to feel the traces of a pounding migraine coming on.

What’s the first thing you do when the lights come on in a crowded room? You look around, eagerly.

Two types stood out from the waves of faces around me. Scruffy neckbeards, who looked like they could have come straight from MIT’s Computer Science department, dragging themselves out into public after four days of wallowing in their labs without a showerhead. Then thin, ratty, bespectacled fanboys, the “living in my mom’s basement” type. What department would they be from? Eh. Earth sciences, I ventured a guess.

Sonya looked at me — nonchalant, satisfied — and in much better condition than I was. “They’re all taking notes, get on your game,” she teased.

Was she right? A little self-conscious, even among this rabble of inkslingers, I twitched my head at the laps of my compatriots. I spotted one stenographer’s pad in the row in front, opened to a full page of scrawls.

“Huh. Ambitious prick.” I thought. “He’s the only one.”

But behind me, a few more notebooks were exposed. One hunched fellow was even still scribbling furiously, eyeballs glued to his crotch. I turned back to Sonya, for a split second feeling more shitty than I already had been.

But then my instinct of self-preservation spat, “How many fucking movie reviews have you written without wasting a shred of paper? You know what you’re doing.”

It’s true, everything the film screwed up still haunts me days later. I don’t need references for that. My temple did get some nice massaging during the blustering action sequences and the jumbled time-travel antics. It’s truly a great achievement how Hollywood managed to both retread and wholly butcher some classic sci-fi themes.

We were pushing out of the seats, past a pudgy neckbeard who hadn’t yet twitched a hair on his body, when the mid-credits scene came on the big screen. “Oh shit” I said, and we dropped into the cushions again. I found myself in the port side gravity field of the pudge. “THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T EVER LEAVE A MOVIE EARLY,” the fine gentleman hollered. “EVERYONE WHO LEAVES A MOVIE EARLY SHOULD BE SHOT.” I forced a chuckle of agreement, and discreetly edged away.

The scene was short. I didn’t make any sense of it except for the fact that the malicious machine brain Skynet, now a prepubescent blue hologram-kid, wasn’t as kaput as they tried to make us believe. Not that they tried very hard.

“There’s gonna be another one!” I cackled bitterly, tones of disdain mixed in with amusement. Some similar sentiment echoed from a few others in the audience.

On the way out, I glanced back at the clumps of critics that had formed in the theater, buzzing among themselves like sewing circles. “Look at them...” I said. “Basking in their glory and smug satisfaction, praising themselves.” I turned to Sonya. “Arts writers are the most stuck-up kind there is.”


“Yeah, they’re all still in there, none of them want to leave ’cuz they’d give up the chance to bloat themselves on glory.” I was half joking.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

An Asian guy, exuding cynicism and a desire for aspirin, dressed in a Calvin Klein button-down with Calvin Klein pants held up by a Calvin Klein belt. Standing next to a casually dressed Indian girl, holding the sad, melted remains of a small 32-oz Icee in the Green Line station across from the Loews.

The trains on the Green Line screech like Greek harpies. They’re about the fucking loudest, most obnoxious things ever made by man. Terminator Genisys comes in second. Put them both in one evening and you’ve got one hell of a migraine.

“Did you finish your Icee?”

“Mhmm! Is my tongue blue?”

“Yea. Oh, Jesus.”

“What? I love Icees.”

“That’s just so disgusting. Do you know how much sugar is in one of those? It’s like diabetes in a cup.”

“It’s just ice!”

“I’m sure it’s like 100 grams. At least.”

“Let’s look it up.”

Google search. I’m feeling lucky.

“Ewww it’s 116 grams of sugar. Ahhh I didn’t think it was that much!”

“Yea. I told you. It’s a lot. Let’s go home.”