Terminator Genisys Completely Misses The Point Of Sarah Connor

Photo by Rex USA
Terminator Genisys features the franchise's heroine, Sarah Connor, in what looks to be badass mode, but ultimately diminishes her in a nasty way.

The film envisions a new version of the story from the first Terminator movie, in which Kyle Reese is sent back in time to 1984 to save Sarah Connor and ends up fathering her child, John Connor, who becomes the leader of the resistance against the machines. This time, Kyle Reese is again sent back in time to save Sarah (played by Emilia Clarke), only now she knows everything that’s going to happen. Yes, she even knows that she’s going to have sex with Kyle in order to save the world. This is because her nearly lifelong companion has been a Terminator — in the form of the franchise’s icon, Arnold Schwarzenegger — who has been programmed to shield her from harm and pilot her to her destiny. While this Terminator’s presence means that Sarah has evolved into a fighter earlier in her timeline, it also means that she’s never had to fend for herself completely on her own. She’s always been under the watch of this father figure, whom she calls “Pops.”

When Kyle Reese comes along, Pops’ reaction is disturbingly contradictory. He both asks Sarah about “mating” with Kyle and acts a lot like Paul Lynde in Bye Bye Birdie. Pops doesn’t think Kyle is worthy of Sarah, Kyle doesn’t trust Pops, and Sarah is caught in the middle. She has a Disney princess’ desire to break free of the fate that has been predetermined for her, while simultaneously discovering she has feelings for an inconvenient choice of man. After all, she knows that if they fall in love, he dies. But, don't worry, this Terminator movie has a Disney-worthy ending in store for the lovers.

Sarah does have some awesome moments, including one where she gets to utter the famous "come with me if you want to live" line. But she's ultimately an example of Tasha Robinson's "Trinity Syndrome," which means in this case that Sarah is "the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene." As Devin Faraci writes in his review of Genisys for Birth.Movies.Death., the movie shows "Sarah say she’s not a damsel while being rescued/helped."

The sexual relationship between Sarah and Kyle has always been weird, verging on creepy. In the first movie, Kyle is in love with Sarah based on a photo given to him by his friend John, who is actually his son. When Kyle is in the past, Sarah reciprocates that love, and they have an extended, graphic sex scene. The only reason it's not totally gratuitous is that it results in John. At the end of the first movie, after Kyle’s death, an injured Sarah finishes off the Terminator with the amazing line “you’re terminated, fucker.” She loves Kyle, but she goes off to mold herself into the slightly unhinged, fierce woman we meet in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The end of Terminator Genisys is notably, and depressingly, different.

Warning: More spoilers ahead!

In the new movie, John Connor becomes a villainous Terminator, whom Sarah and Kyle have to defeat along with Skynet in 2017. This means that Sarah is not required to get it on with Kyle in the name of humanity, and yet, she chooses to be with him, anyway. (Even after they both meet Kyle's younger self. This movie has a lot, too much, going on.) On top of that, she gets her robot-dad's approval. “Kyle Reese is a good man,” Pops says. “He is,” Sarah concurs. It’s an annoyingly happily-ever-after moment, and a frustrating rewrite of an emblematic character.

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