“Who the F*** is That?” – Thoughts on the Connors’ New Place in the Terminator Universe

We know more about the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate since hearing descriptions of the two clips and montage footage shown at CinemaCon on April 4, 2019. But there is still a lot we don’t know. And one thing has been bugging some fans (not me so much but some of the talk about it kind of does, hence this) above all else. “Where is John Connor?”

I admit, I’ve been a bit nicer in my interactions about this subject on Facebook than I’m going to be here, mostly because getting down to the nitty gritty seems better done in one place. Less energy and time, too.

Despite James Cameron’s descriptions from the beginning that this new movie is going to center on Dani Ramos (initially referred to as an “18-something woman”) as well as a more recent statement from him that it’s “very female-centric,” many hold Natalia Reyes as Dani Ramos photos via IGNon to the belief that John Connor must be the Savior of Humanity. This may not be surprising because despite the obvious (because we all survived August 29, 1997 before these came about) fact that Sarah, John and “Uncle Bob” changed the future (“at least one possible future”) by delaying Judgment day all the, yes, very forgettable post T2 movies, the terrible TV show, various novels and most (but not all) comic books continued the idea that no matter what, it’s all about John’s leadership in the future. It is also not surprising that many fans are obsessed with making this about a man.

And, yes, that is there, even if most (but clearly not all, as some are so proud of it, although most of them seem only capable of vile yet boringly repetitive “tr***y” jokes about Mackenzie Davis, which do not deserve any more energy than this) of the fans doing this would not consider themselves being misogynist about it. They likely are first thinking of wanting a beloved character to return. But it is effectively , it is effectively negating the importance of Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos. Something which we have seen continually happening in various ways starting with early reports that Mackenzie Davis was the new central character, some even billing her as Dani Ramos, while Reyes’ involvement was largely ignored or reduced for weeks (in some cases months) by many fans and much of the English speaking press. Essentially, these theories precisely reduce the importance of Dani Ramos as contingent on her supposed relationship to John Connor.

Most of the fan theories start with the issue that John has not been mentioned by anyone, aside from the leak that Jude Collie did motion capture for at least one flashback or dream scene of young John. Apparently, this lack of mention must mean John is so important and this is going to be so amazing that they are keeping it a big secret. This leads to a lot of hope in many hearts that Edward Furlong is going to return to the role, in a big reveal.  Furlong having gone into rehab last year around the time filming started, has strengthened this hope. Some are willing to face it might be someone else, but again, a big reveal at the end. Usually the idea is that John must be in hiding from Skynet, likely bunkered somewhere.

But not all fans are satisfied just this theory, because there is the “problem” of the Dani having some importance. One theory that  “explains” Dani Ramos’s “seemingly” central role popped up in several fora after the release of this behind-the-scenes video that shows (at 0:43) Natalia Reyes wearing a short wig. This theory is that Dani has short hair because she is meant to be a decoy “John Connor” to lead Gabriel Luna’s Terminator from the real thing. This is perhaps the most transparent attempt to invalidate Dani’s importance that I have seen so far. It also makes no sense when, from early filming photos and such, it was clear that long haired Dani was actually being targeted. But, what ever.

But another, more popular attempt, is goes with John more hiding in plain sight and is based on the Diego Boneta photo via IGNfact that 28 year-old Mexican actor Diego Boneta’s character has not been named publicly at this point. His character has been noted several times both officially and in his own social media accounts as Dani’s brother. So, obviously he must be John Connor! Uh…yeah. The idea is that Dani is just his half sister, Sarah having married and settled down in Mexico city. Or maybe that happened later and they’re only step-siblings. Or maybe he was adopted or fostered by the Ramos family. But obviously the only reason she could be important is proximity to her brother.

There are so many reasons it seems unlikely. He’s younger than the character, actors are typically actually older than the character for some reas (and the Terminator franchise has itself tended towards this).  Boneta also left filming early, when principal filming that included Arnold Schwarzenegger was still going on in Hungary Boneta was in South Africa already filming Monster Hunter. Although he did get a photo in the group released to IGN by Paramount Pictures on April 4, 2019, which I use here, he was not present at the CinemaCon and included in the Ensemble Award (but then Schwarzenegger didn’t receive the award either but was there for the presentation) But the fun part of this theory has been that all of these reasons to doubt can be explained as part of the great ploy to hide the fact he is John.

This theory also feels like it’s negating Boneta’s own Mexican identity. Boneta is the only Mexican born actor in the main cast and it’s clear on his social media that he’s very proud of his culture. Gabriel Luna was born in Texas although he seems strongly connected to his Mexican roots, Natalia Reyes is Colombian. Many of the other Mexican characters are played by Spanish actors, as much of the “Mexican” filming was done in Spain, as well as likely some Mexican and other Latin American actors. While Edward Furlong apparently has some Mexican ancestry and John Connor spent his childhood in Latin American countries, it is a stretch to claim that John Connor is culturally immersed Mexican person. This theory seems to essentially say that the actor’s Mexican identity is just another “Red Herring” to fool us into thinking he’s not John and that’s really …problematic.

However, the Boneta is John theory should now be put to rest, although some are holding strong which is really why I’m writing this, by the descriptions of one of the clips at CinemaCon of what sounds like an amazing entrance by Sarah Connor:

At that moment, a truck speeds into the scene. It does an aggressive slide and out pops…Sarah Connor, who has a huge ass gun. She fills the human-looking Terminator with shells, much like the did at the end of Terminator 2, and then takes a bazooka off her back, and uses it to blow the shit out of the endoskeleton Terminator. “Who the fuck is that?” asks the girl (Reyes/Dani). “I don’t know,” says Davis.
– Germain Lussier, The Terminator: Dark Fate Footage We Saw Featured Some Serious Cyborg Upgrades,” io9 my emphasis

This makes it pretty clear that Dani Ramos doesn’t know Sarah, so obviously not mother/daughter, step or biological. It’s even unlikely that if John were her foster or adopted brother that, if they were at all close, he’d not have told stories. Or that the family wouldn’t know of his past, even if they think the whole time travel and killer robots things was all his mother’s delusion around two men who were trying to kill/save them. I’d think it would far more a “shit, you’re really real!” reaction instead of “who the fuck is that?”

But aside from Dani’s response busting the sibling theory, it’s overall more telling that Grace doesn’t know, or at least suspect, who Sarah Connor is either. If John was still the Great Military Leader Savior of Humanity, if he was one of the targets she was sent to save, she’s certainly have known about his mother and realize “that must be the Great Sarah Connor!”

“Some legend, huh?”

Which brings me to my own actual theory:

Since the events in Terminator 2 pushed back when Judgment Day happens by at least 28 years, John Connor is no longer the Savior of the story. He isn’t the one who saves humanity. Sarah is no longer the mother and teacher of the Savior. I know some fans have said that if John is not centered then the first two movies had no point, but I say that that was exactly the point of T2. Sarah succeeded in her obvious goal to save John from having to bear this burden, even if we now find she failed at stopping Skynet all together. “No fate but what we make,” is the key there. T2 changes their fate.

Dani Ramos is not being targeted by Terminators because she’s somehow in proximity to John, she’s targeted because in the timeline (“one possible future, I don’t know tech stuff”) Sarah and John created she’s the Chosen One. Either the Great Military Leader who Saves Humanity or the ass kicking mother of said leader. Neither John nor Sarah are targeted at all. Sorry, folks, this really is about Dani Ramos.

Yes, this does mean that John may not be in this movie or any that might follow at all (I do see riots if that’s the case, so it might be better if fans got use to the possibility sooner than later). He might be dead. He might be a Senator as in the alternate ending of T2 (he was a kid, as far as anyone knows he was kidnapped by his crazy mother and a guy has an established habit of shooting things up and disappearing, his other exploits are “youthful indiscretions, because he had a crazy mother, which he overcomes”). Maybe no longer being the Chosen One fucked him up and he’s in and out of rehab. Maybe he still thinks he’s the Chosen One and is hiding from Skynet for no actual reason. Maybe he’s an okay guy who just isn’t in the movie or comes in at the end, not because he’s the Chosen One but because it’s the right thing to do. Or maybe he’s an otherwise okay guy, who doesn’t show up at all because he no longer feels that’s his life.

See, that brings up what I hoping for with Sarah. That she no longer is any sort of target for the Terminators, but she puts herself in the fight because …she can. It’s why I  am totally good with the idea that she and John are not the Holy Savior Family any more. You might think that I’d be upset with that, but I’m not. I’m fucking excited by this possibility!

Because while she was always a better (for my liking, ymmv) Chosen One than some, because she 1) accepted her Destiny with only minimal whinging at first that she then stopped and went out and learned so she could prepare John, 2) came to question her and John’s Destiny and instead used that training to try to save him from it and 3) did this with no superpowers (I like superheroes, too, they’re fun; but it’s always cooler and far more inspirational to me to see someone “normal’ train up to kick ass). But she still did all of that because she felt she had to. Whether accepting their Fate or storming against their Fate, it was the duty she’d be stuck with.

Now, if my theory is correct, she no longer Fated to fight Terminators. Oh, the whole “Dark” part of Dark Fate is thought to indicate she might feel responsible due to changes her choices have caused. Cameron said that she has gone through much more tragedy that has “hardened” and made her “Maybe less likable, but stronger.” A line that has led to “her choices killed John” theories. But even guilt isn’t the same as Fate. In fact, if you feel that your actions made things worse, it can lead to you inaction rather than action. (Hmmm…we’ve seen that somewhere before, seemed to upset a lot of supposed fans of another franchise)Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor via IGN

So when she comes storming into the battle and saves Dani and Grace, she may be doing this without any sense that it’s what she has to do. She may feel it’s what she should do because she might feel it’s her fault. She may feel it’s what she should do because she is one of, maybe, two people who know what the fuck is going on. She does, after all, have a rather rare skill set that allows her to fight killer robots. She may feel it’s what she should do because she’s not a damn bystander hoping someone else will anymore, it’s just her nature. But she wouldn’t be doing this because she’s the Chosen One. Or because she herself or her child is in danger, because if they aren’t the Chosen Ones, Skynet doesn’t care either.

And this would make her even more interesting, make her more relatable. How many of us feel we are Chosen Ones? Well, okay, I know a few people who do but still, really, I think most people know they are not.  But we might act on something due to guilt, we might act on something because it’s something we’ve prepared for and we probably all hope that when the shit goes down we would act on something because our nature is to act and not be a bystander.

So if John is still alive in this world, and he may not because that would be an easy (lazy, even) way to make sure Sarah is even more traumatized, and no longer fated to be This Great Military Leader, will he choose to act? Will he show up at the end of this movie, preparing to be in the next ones, because he was trained all his life to fight this and he could be helpful, without be the Savior? Or will he just not.

I do think people should be prepared for the possibility that John is dead. Honestly, I don’t want to find myself in the middle of a violent riot on opening night…I mean, I try to always be ready for things to throw down if they do, but I kind of hope to just have fun that night. But either way, I think some fans need to face that this is about Dani Ramos now, it’s very much not likely that it will give you a surprise twist where John Connor is again the focus. T2 did change the future, obviously, and to be the true sequel to it that we crave, that is something we also need to accept.

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