It has been thirty years since director James Cameron’s original Terminator film appeared in cinemas, and this week marks the release of the next instalment in the popular action franchise.
The latest movie, Terminator: Genisys uses time-travel to re-interpret the storyline from the first movie in a different way. In the original Terminator film Sarah Connor was the target of a cyborg assassin sent back in time to prevent her from giving birth to the future saviour of the human race; John Connor. Without saying too much the Genisys plays around with those events. It is hoped this new movie can be the first in a new trilogy of Terminator movies. The series has already undergone an unsuccessful reboot with Terminator: Salvation in 2009. The film was negatively received by fans, one of the talking points was the exclusion of the actor whom the series made a star; Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In Terminator: Genisys the Austrian Oak returns as a Terminator sent back to 1984 to train a young Sarah Connor in preparation for the arrival of the Terminator sent to kill her in the original movie. It represents a bold new direction for the series, with many fans ecstatic to see Arnie back on board once again. However, some have failed to recognise that this latest sequel also marks the return of the character Sarah Connor to the big screen.
Over the last three decades Sarah Connor has battled genocidal robots as a single mother across two movies played by Linda Hamilton and in the cult television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles (where she was portrayed by Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey). The character was killed off in the third instalment of the series, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and perhaps by no coincidence it is at that point that the franchise began to decline.
Despite the enduring popularity of Arnie as the titular anti-hero of the series, it is often forgotten that Sarah Connor is the main protagonist in the original movies and an important figure within the series’ mythology.
Originally conceived by Terminator writer and director James Cameron and producer and co-writer; Gale Ann Hurd, Sarah Connor has become the archetype for all the subsequent female action heroes that followed. Cameron was very clear about what he wanted from the character from the outset, “I wanted a girl that was tough, that was resilient, but not tough in the sense of being a fighter, because I think that’s too simplistic, it’s somebody who finds her inner strength in the extremes of the situation.”
The importance of Sarah Connor’s humanity cannot be undersold in a story that largely explores the idea of the human race been consumed by technology. Sarah Connor’s story in the original movie involved her transition from an innocent teenager to worldly adult and the difficulty of dealing with a life already mapped out for her. In the 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Sarah Connor had morphed into a complete solider but she has sacrificed everything in order to provide the best possible upbringing for her son in an uncertain world.
Sarah Connor is an action hero but she is also human, and juxtaposing her against wild concepts of time travel and robots only emphasises her humanity; allowing audiences to relate to her story. Her hopes and fears for her future are just as genuine as our own albeit in different circumstances. Perhaps the human element is what the Terminator movies have really been missing in recent years.
The latest actress to portray Sarah Connor on screen is Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who recognises the iconic status of the role of Sarah Connor, “It’s exciting more than intimidating,” she said, “We’re taking on something that is legendary and beautiful in itself.” Perhaps there is no better way to describe Sarah Connor, like all great legends her story says something about the human condition. She earned her status dealing with the obstacles life put in front of her, by moving forward and never giving up. Killer robots and time travel aside that remains an important message for us all.
Terminator: Genisys is released in cinemas on the 2nd July. Image Rights; Paramount Pictures.