Summary

  • John Connor's death in Terminator: Dark Fate insulted T2 and lacked emotional impact.
  • Terminator movies have struggled with John Connor after T2.
  • Terminator 7 must handle John Connor better, finding a balance between old and new characters.

Edward Furlong, who played John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, had an interesting response to Terminator: Dark Fate’s opening sequence – and it shows how difficult it will be for Terminator 7 to revive the franchise. Several actors have played John Connor in different stages of his life across all Terminator movies, but the T2 version of the character is arguably the most iconic. Judgment Day is widely recognized as the best Terminator movie for multiple reasons, including the relationship between John and a reformed T-800 who was willing to learn from his human friend.

None of the Terminator films released after T2 managed to capture what made the 1991 installment so special. Terminator: Dark Fate tried to shake things up by killing John Connor, played through an amalgamation of performances that included Edward Furlong’s motion capture performance, in the opening minutes of the film. During the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast, Furlong shared his experience on the set of Dark Fate, noting he didn’t understand at first how they were going to kill T2 John Connor.

"And I didn’t understand, like, how the hell are they going to do that? I don’t know, it just felt a little bit like What Ever Happened To Baby Jane situation"

Why Terminator: Dark Fate Killing Off John Connor Was A Mistake

John Connor’s death meant nothing & insulted T2

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) hugging John Connor's (Edward Furlong) body in Terminator Dark Fate

John Connor’s death in Terminator: Dark Fate was supposed to be a major moment that would justify Sarah Connor’s arc in the film while also separating this new installment from everything that had come before. This risky creation decision, however, backfired. Dark Fate’s opening sequence has little to no emotional impact, delivering instead a soulless, strange scene that is made even worse by the solid yet uncanny valley-ish recreation of T2 John Connor. While the idea of revisiting what is arguably the most iconic version of John with the help of VFX could’ve worked, Dark Fate wasted it.

Killing off John Connor was the most direct way Terminator: Dark Fate could find to set itself apart from all the other Terminator 2: Judgment Day sequels. If John died shortly after the events of T2, Terminator: Rise of the Machines never happened. Likewise, nothing shown in Terminator: Salvation or Terminator: Genisys would matter in this new version of the story. Even The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show would not exist in a timeline where John Connor was killed after T2. The scene was also supposed to raise the stakes for the movie, as John’s death meant that no one was safe.

The Terminator franchise has struggled to find its identity ever since the release of Terminator 2.

However, as one of the most important characters in the franchise alongside the T-800 and Sarah Connor, John Connor should not have been used as a mere plot device. Granted, the Terminator franchise has used John as a plot device several times, but the death of such an important character should mean more to the series than just a brief opening sequence designed to set the tone for a new film. Additionally, the circumstances of John’s death make the events of T2 pointless, meaning it ruins the best Terminator movie at least in terms of canon.

Terminator Movies Haven't Known What To Do With John Connor Since T2

What is John Connor’s role in the franchise after all?

The Terminator franchise has struggled to find its identity ever since the release of Terminator 2. It is no exaggeration to say that there has not been a universally praised Terminator movie since 1991 and that every attempt at reigniting the franchise has failed. The consecutive failures of the Terminator films can be attributed to a lot of factors, including but not limited to the fact James Cameron never directed another entry in the franchise after T2. Perhaps the best example of how much the saga has struggled since T2 is the character of John Connor.

Versions of John Connor

Actor

Movie/Show

Edward Furlong

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (young)

Michael Edwards

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (older)

Nick Stahl

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Thomas Dekker

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Christian Bale

Terminator: Salvation

Jason Clarke

Terminator: Genisys

Terminator movies have not known what to do with John Connor for more than 30 years now, be it as a character or as a plot device. Rise of the Machines introduced a grown-up version of the character who got to live in a peaceful world that had seemingly avoided the rise of Skynet, an interesting premise wasted in a bad movie overall. Terminator: Salvation had the chance to reinvent John Connor by showing the hero of the rebellion the movies had never actually featured, but the film also had a lot of problems and wasted Christian Bale’s star power.

Terminator: The Anime Series, a Terminator anime by Skydance, Japan Animation Studio Production I.G., and Mattson Tomlin will be released soon on Netflix.

Terminator: Genisys cannot be accused of not trying to do something different with John Connor, but the film’s approach to the character was arguably worse than what Dark Fate did. Making John Connor into a villain controlled by Skynet for nothing other than shock value played against Terminator: Genisys and made this new timeline uninteresting from the start. The fact that the John Connor twist was revealed in the trailers made it all much worse. John’s death in Dark Fate was just one of many mistakes made by the Terminator franchise regarding Sarah Connor’s son.

Terminator 7 Can't Kill John Connor Again, But Can't Just Avoid Him Either

John Connor is too important to be ignored

The T-800 and Future John Connor

Assuming Terminator 7 will not be a complete reboot of the franchise with an all-new set of characters, the film will have to find a way of handling John Connor better than its predecessors. Killing off John Connor, regardless of which version of the character or timeline, should be off the cards now considering the reception to Dark Fate. Even if a new Terminator film tries to distance itself from Sarah and John, the leader of the resistance is just too important to the saga’s lore not to be referenced in some way.

Related
Terminator 7: Script Announcement & Everything We Know

James Cameron has announced he's currently penning a script for Terminator 7, and here's everything we know about the new Terminator movie.

John Connor has appeared in almost every Terminator movie, from small cameos to major roles. No matter in which timeline a new film is set, as long as it references the war between humans and machines, it will have to acknowledge John Connor. Still, one of the problems with Terminator movies is how they haven't been able to move on from iconic characters, particularly Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800. Finding the balance between respecting the original and doing something new is Terminator 7’s biggest challenge.

What Should John Connor's Terminator 7 Story Be?

Terminator 7’s John Connor should have nothing to do with previous versions

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 juxtaposed with Edward Furlong as John Connor in the Terminator franchise
Custom image by Ryan Northrup

One interesting way for Terminator 7 to deal with John Connor would be to have an all-new version of the character whose story would not be tied to any of the previous Terminator movies. Be it in a present-day story about a young John Connor or something in the future showcasing the leader of the resistance, the next version of Terminator’s original MacGuffin should not have anything to do with previous interpretations of the character. This would avoid the problem with Dark Fate, whose opening sequence messed with the saga’s best film.

Terminator 7 must also decide early on whether it wants John Connor as the main character, or if Sarah Connor’s son will only be part of a larger story about new protagonists. Even if Terminator 7 is a reboot, it could still have its own interpretation of John Connor, perhaps reinventing the character completely. Movies like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Prey have shown that it is possible to reignite a franchise while keeping its core elements regardless if it is a reboot, meaning Terminator 7 can still bring new life to the franchise.

Sources: Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum

Terminator: Dark Fate
R
Action
Adventure
Sci-Fi

Terminator: Dark Fate is a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, ignoring the rest of the future films to re-canonize the franchise. Set years after Sarah Connor successfully stopped the impending Judgement Day, a new Terminator is sent to destroy the resistance before it forms. Now forced to team up with a former T-800 terminator model, Sarah will seek vengeance and protect Dani Ramos, the new target of Skynet.

Director
Tim Miller
Release Date
November 1, 2019
Cast
Linda Hamilton , Gabriel Luna , Fraser James , Natalia Reyes , Arnold Schwarzenegger , Brett Azar , Steven Cree , Diego Boneta , Mackenzie Davis , Claudia Trujillo
Runtime
128 minutes