I have identified what now appears to be a long-term and never ending problem for the Terminator franchise – the problem of John Connor being an afterthought. I have reconciled with the fact that we’re never going to see the real John Connor on screen, at home or at the cinema. It seems that this isn’t going to change with Terminator: Genisys.
In each movie the Terminator (the T-800 basically) is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, as in superior evolution and something that’ll replace man. However, Kyle Reese disputes that description. In The Terminator, the Tech-Com Forces Soldier insists that in the future, John Connor proved that man was still the baddest motherfucker in the valley and more or less had T-800s shitting their pants. A man who wouldn’t run, like the chase themes of the movies. “He taught us how to smash those metal motherfuckers into junk.” So, in other words, if that John Connor was confronted by an Arnold T-800, there’d be no running. He’d stand his ground and fucking wreck it, just another grunt as far as he’s concerned.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of the character.
Terminator 2 & 3
We can more or less forgive Edward Furlong’s appearance in Terminator 2 and the writing there. He’s a kid and there’s not much you can do with the character at that age. Although I always say I would’ve cast the kid from RoboCop 2. It seemed like that kid had more killer instinct than Furlong’s Connor. He did take down RoboCop after all, look closely, that little shit is directing the entire factory ambush that devastates the cyborg. Terminator 2 was not a problem though, for John Connor.
The real problems though started in Terminator 3. This was when the groundwork should’ve been laid and when John Connor, the baddest fucker in the valley, comes into his own. Instead, in the opening act, Nick Stahl’s Connor gets ambushed and humiliated by a vet. Caged even. Then he relies on an obsolete Terminator for the rest of the movie. Even in the end his ass gets bailed out. This is unbecoming for the leader of humanity. Such a man would be demoted very quickly on the battlefield.
In a sense some might say that the problem is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold is bigger than the series, let’s face it. So he has to be the star. That’s your catch 22. You want a Terminator movie? You need Arnold.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Or maybe not. The opportunity to build Connor once again came with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. But you don’t even have to look past the name of that series to realise that Connor is again relegated to bitch momma’s boy. It’s a show about Sarah Connor first, a girl-band Terminator second and John Connor, hair shampoo model third. There was no Schwarzenegger to hog the screen there, so they should’ve called it the John Connor Chronicles. No such luck.
Then came Terminator: Salvation. This perhaps was the best opportunity to get this character right. The fact that Christian Bale came on board relayed all the right signals. An actor with clout perhaps signified a leader with balls, story-wise. Surely Christian ‘my fucking lights’ Bale wouldn’t settle for being some dickwad errand boy? Well guess what, they fucked it up there, too. In Terminator 4, Bale’s Connor hasn’t got the respect of the leadership of the resistance. Time and time again they dismiss him. Bale doesn’t look like a ‘great military leader’ and isn’t written as one. There’s no excuse this time around, there is no Arnie to pander to. Connor is the centre of the show here. Mankind’s wildcard is supposedly his intuition and guile, yet Connor walks straight into a trap. Dickwad. And is he the badass anti-Terminator Biehn described? Nope. Whereas previous Connors had their wives and mothers protect them, so too does this one have someone else save his ass. Bale is saved from a prototype T-800 by Worthington.
The real John Connor doesn’t need to be saved.
Finally, we have yet another origins story with Terminator: Genisys. Yes, they claim it’s true to the original timeline, but it’s obviously a reboot. Who is John Connor this time? Jason Clarke. Wrong casting in my opinion, but even then, it doesn’t matter. This story, in the first movie at least, revolves around Sarah Connor once again. Being protected by another T-800. Connor will probably not only take a back seat to those two, but Jai Courtney’s Kyle Reese as well.
So you know, it’s sad. We never got to see the badass Connor that appeared at the start of Terminator 2 go to war in the future. That was always the next logical step. In fact, as I see it, the sequel to Terminator: Genisys should open John Connor destroying a T-800 all by himself, to set the tone, that the man was here and shit was getting real. But can you picture Jason Clarke doing that? I don’t think so. Somehow, I also suspect Emilia Clarke is supposed to carry this trilogy…
See Also: Who Could Play The REAL John Connor?