After being the focal point of four feature films and a television series, John Connor was officially killed in Terminator: Dark Fate in a rather lame attempt at the franchise trying to reboot itself. Terminator: Dark Fate was the 2018 version of Halloween, it erased all the mythology introduced after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and decided that this was a direct sequel to the classic. Even if you take away Terminator: Salvation, Terminator Genisys, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor was still the focal point of the two best and most recognized films in the franchise. Connor wasn’t in the first movie, though the purpose of seeing Kyle Reese teleport back to 1984 was to stop the advanced cyborg from killing Sarah Connor, who eventually gives birth to Mr. Connor. The point is, John Connor was essentially the staple of the franchise before he was killed off as a nobody. Here’s the thing, there’s nothing wrong with killing off your central character. Tony Stark from Avengers Endgame is a prime example of this. However, after a long battle, Stark sacrificed himself in order to save humanity. The difference with Tony Stark’s death was that had been given something prominent to do before going out in a blaze of glory. John Connor was killed off like some worthless extra; He didn’t die because of one final battle, nor was he given a chance to have a heroic moment. In many ways, it felt like a big f-you to fans who had been with the franchise from the beginning.
Terminator: Dark Fate is not a bad movie. It’s just Terminator Redux. However, it’s clear that the movie’s agenda was a female empowerment theme. However, was killing John Connor necessary in order to say, girls rule? No. Killing off John Connor in the first few minutes of the film effectively ruined the momentum of Terminator: Dark Fate. It also made the work done in Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day worthless. Both movies fought hard to keep this important central character alive and well. To never actually see John fighting the good fight in the war against Skynet and become the leader that’s he destined to be is quite depressing. I know, Terminator: Salvation exists; however, Terminator: Dark Fate erases that film so technically, the movie doesn’t exist in the Terminator mythology. Yes, my brain hurts too. That one moment effectively put a black cloud over the entire film. Unfortunately, we got the chance to bond with John Connor throughout various films, and even though the studio tried to pull a Halloween here, you can’t simply undo all the work that’s been done.
It doesn’t help that the beats of Terminator: Dark Fate are mostly the same as the first two superior films. Terminator comes back in time to kill the chosen one. Check. Chosen one and protector run and fight to survive. Check. Chosen one almost dies but is saved by an ex-Machina. Check. Arnold Schwarzenegger dies because, why not. Check. Those same beats trigger the adventures of the previous films, thus the senseless death of John Connor cuts even deeper. What’s worse, we never truly got the full potential out of John Connor’s journey. It would’ve been great if the creators went back into the world of Salvation. Say what you will about the film, but at least it tried something different in the franchise. Why not actually go deep into the war of Skynet and showcase him as a legendary hero that he’s built up to be? It’s shocking that the filmmakers have never truly dabbled in this area.
The approach of, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is not the way to go here. At the very least, John Connor could’ve been the man sent back to try and protect Dani Ramos. If Kyle Reese can do it, then I don’t see why Connor can’t. Granted, that does muddle the mythology even further. John Connor is supposed to be this ultimate badass warrior who saves humanity from these evil robots, yet it ends up being that Connor wasn’t truly the chosen one. There is a way around this. As much as I despise retreading the same water here, Ramos could’ve been an important fixture who helps Connor defeat Skynet. Whatever the direction, Connor should’ve at least had one heroic moment before dying. However, there was never a need to truly kill him off as there’s so much more to explore with his character. It’s just a shame that the Terminator franchise continues to be in wash, rinse, and repeat mode.