“I’m here to protect you,” the man said in a deadpan voice.
“Who sent you?”
“You did. 35 years from now.”
“This is deep.”
The 13-year-old John Connor is right, this is deep. Terminator 2 has similarities to it’s parent film, while being very different. The T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has returned, but not, as the dialogue above suggests, to kill, but to protect. The Terminator and John set out to rescue Sarah from the mental ward where she has been caged in.
The T-800 is there to protect John and Sarah from the newer, advanced prototype T1000 (Robert Patrick), the new and improved terminator made out of liquid metal. His mission is to kill John Connor to prevent the resistance from forming in the future.
The mission in T2 becomes stopping Judgment Day, which is still going to happen in 1997. In the process, John and the T-800 form a bond that is like that of father and son. We could, as other commentators have done, spend some time here exploring how John never really had a father figure in his life. Cameron does an excellent job of making that theme obvious. It is clear that this relationship with the machine is going to shape who John Connor will become.
But it also gives us a glimpse as to who John Connor is. John is insistent on the T-800 not killing people, a stretch for the cyborg for sure. But because the terminators mission involves following the commands of John, he controls himself and does not kill anyone. Though, that does not limit the violence in the film. The relationship between John and the T-800 present a larger theme/question that Cameron seems to be dealing with: what is the difference between man and machine? Or, what makes humanity human?
John asks the terminator, “Are you ever afraid?” The terminator responds, “No.” The terminator has no feelings, emotions are not a luxury he can afford. Later, the terminator notices water in John’s eyes. “Why do you cry?” he asks. John’s simple answer is, “When it hurts.” As a 13-year-old, John is coming to terms with a vocation that has been placed upon him. One that he may not have chosen for himself had the circumstances been different. These interactions only strengthen the father-son bond (a theme that will become a foundation for the third film).
These machines that come from the future started out to be something that was suppose to improve the life of humanity. Instead, they are destroying humanity. After the final battle between the two terminators, John ask, “Is it dead?” “Terminated,” the T-800 answers. “It’s over,” Sarah observes. “No,” the T-800 says. He explains that there is one more chip on earth that needs to be destroyed in order to prevent this from happening again. His chip. The T-800 gives John the signal and he lowers the terminator into the fire to be melted and the future erased.
“The unfortunate future rolls before us,” Sarah Connor’s narration at the end of the film says, “If a terminator can learn the value of human hope, maybe we can too.” Yes, there is hope.