They’re sending another terminator back through time, and it needs to be stopped. I don’t mean that as the synopsis of the latest Terminator movie that will be hitting theaters soon, I mean that as a plea to the movie industry. Please stop. We didn’t need the last few movies and we don’t need this one. From what I’ve seen, the first two movies are being retconned through time travel nonsense, and this will directly affect a woman who is very dear to my heart, the legend that is Sarah Connor.
I’m a bit of a science fiction junkie. This has been true since two major events happened in my tween years. First, I read Fahrenheit 451 in middle school, and it is still my favorite book of all time Also, few years prior to that my brother decided it was a good idea to show an eleven year old Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He was three years older than me, so that was right up his alley, but I was just getting used to frightening images. I still averted my eyes to gore, though now I love horror, and aside from that, this was a pretty weighty movie in terms of plot. Still, he insisted I would really like it, and Mom said it was ok, so into the VCR it went. A few hours later, there was no longer any chance of being anyone but the raging geek I am.
I could talk for days about The Terminator franchise. In my opinion, there are only two movies and a TV show (which I refused to watch at first, but I’ll get into that another time). I saw the second one first, as many my age did, but it was so well crafted that it can stand alone. When I finally saw the original a few years later, it was like watching a prequel, but before that was a thing. Watching the first Terminator later on enriched the experience of the second, because now I understood that some of the lines and shots were call backs to the original without being so obvious that they felt forced. However, the major impact seeing the original had on me was rounding out Sarah Connor’s character.
When I first met Sarah, she looked like this:
Yes, there had just been two characters who came into this movie completely naked, but THIS is how you introduce a character! I had never seen anything like her. The drive to survive, to protect her son, to save mankind, it’s all there on her face (and in her biceps; she is my gymspiration). She knows everyone thinks she’s crazy, and so she plays at what they want to hear in an effort to get a message to her son. When that doesn’t work, she beats the shit out everyone and breaks out. Some people like to blame my feisty spirit on my size, or my hair color. I give credit to Sarah Connor.
Of course, at that moment she runs into her son and his protector, who just happened to try to kill her ten years prior, so naturally she’s bit freaked out. Once I saw the original movie, this scene made more sense to me. I vaguely knew that Arnold had been the bad guy in the first, but I was always struck by how this amazingly strong woman just crumples at the sight of him. Knowing how he terrorized her in the first movie made it all clear. Sarah was never a damsel in distress, not even with her waitress dress and big hair; she was a target. She couldn’t let herself be a victim, she has to be a survivor for the fate of the world. Now here he is again, but offering his hand to help. How she was able to take that hand, I’ll never know. I know John reassuring her that he was on their side had a big impact, but there are people from my past I’d rather not share personal space with and none of them tried to kill me.
Sarah continues to actively make the choice to trust the terminator, mostly at the urging of John. She tries to smash his chip (in a woefully deleted scene) and John makes his first move as the leader she raised. She’ll never trust the machines, but she trusts her son. She eventually accepts the terminator because of how he protects John, but she knows the devastation of Judgment Day is still coming whether this particular machine is “nice” or not. So she does the one thing no one thought to try:
She decides to change the future.
Up until this moment, the series has been a loop. Kyle Reese is sent back by John Connor to protect Sarah and, unbeknownst to him, become John’s father. The terminator that is destroyed in the first film is reverse engineered years later to create Skynet, and the cycle goes on and on. But Sarah is done with this shit. DONE. The plan was to cross the border to Mexico and keep John alive. Not anymore. This is Sarah Connor at her most bad ass. She wants her son to have some peace. She wants the human race to have a chance, and she wants to stop running once and for all. She knows she may not come back from what she’s about to do, which is why she tells John to go ahead with “Uncle Bob”. This stops now.
She doesn’t go through with original plan, of course. I find myself wondering if I would or could, if it’s the right move or just the passionate one. John clearly feels it isn’t and goes to stop her, the thesis being that “you can’t just go around killing people”. But was she wrong to attempt to kill someone who is responsible for three billion deaths? Miles Dyson is innocent because he has no idea what’s coming, but he’s still responsible. It’s a lot to think about now. Imagine it at eleven.
The moment right after she decides not to kill him, when John and the terminator arrive at the house, is my favorite moment in the entire franchise. Earlier, Sarah yelled at John for risking his life to get her out of the institution. “You’re too important,” she tells him, and he is visibly upset about this distance between them. She didn’t even hug him then, she checked him for injuries (“I said I was OK!”). While she has spent her whole life protecting John, he expresses that it wasn’t a particularly warm upbringing. He even doubts her stories of the future and believes she may be crazy after all, until he sees it for himself. But here, on the living room floor of the man who made all of this insanity possible, this mother and son finally become a family.
Sarah: “You came here to stop me?”
John: “Yeah, I did.”
Sarah: “I love you, John. I always have.”
John: “I know.”
John went there to stop his mother from becoming the thing she hated most: a terminator. He doesn’t care that this could actually stop Judgment Day, he doesn’t care that he’s too important to the future to risk his own safety. His mother is too important to him, and Sarah finally realizes it. She’s spent her life teaching him to be strong, and brave, and have military intelligence, but maybe the fate of the human race doesn’t rely on that. Maybe it relies on compassion, and two people finally realizing they love each other enough to fight for the future, not just survive it. They hug, and I cry, because I’m also a big weepy baby. Most people tear up when Arnold gives his thumbs up at the end. This is my moment. They become a united front at last, heading into the unknown future together, and then the movie goes back to being a sci-fi action flick.
I’m going to stop here, because as I said earlier, I could go on for days. What I’m very afraid of in this new movie is time jumping Sarah’s character development. She needs those early moments of being vulnerable and tender with Kyle, she needs the years of being a pillar of strength for John, and finally she needs to need her son. If a terminator goes back to give her all this knowledge and training before Kyle gets there, then why would Kyle ever need to go back? Just to impregnate Sarah? Why would we even need John at all? Don’t get me started on the twist of John being mostly machine now. This post is about Sarah. And you know what? So is the franchise. And you can’t continue it by erasing the core of the series. That’s a remake, and not a sequel. If this were a reboot then those changes could work. But this is a continuation, and there’s no point in cutting out the foundation that everything is built on just to keep Arnold in the picture. The Terminator movies follow how Sarah grows, about how her family grows. Don’t cut that out and tell me it’s the same series I’ve been invested in. Don’t spray liquid metal on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
I love Sarah. Do not mess with my girl. I will go Sarah Connor on your ass.