There Can Be Only One John Connor

(Note: this post was originally published in the months leading up to the release of the Terminator:Genisys debacle. It has been slightly modified.)

When you see people lining up in costume for a new Star Wars, Star Trek, or Harry Potter, you get a sense of how much they love the alternate realities presented in those movie franchises. Who knows why certain stories grab people the way they do, but they usually share a grand, sweeping vision of a world, one that perhaps we’d like to see ourselves in.

Myself, I don’t really need to go to Hogwarts, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have Wi-Fi in Middle Earth. Of the many movies and universes I’ve encountered in my life, none have resonated quite like the Terminator mythology.

Artificially intelligent cybernetic organisms sent back in time to kill the leader of the human resistance?

A never-ending struggle to defeat the monsters we created?

Who wouldn’t want to live in that world?

My only problem with the Terminator universe is that it changes too much. Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter. Harrison Ford will always be Han Solo. But what about the most iconic hero in all of human history, John Connor?

Why is it that he’s never been played by the same actor twice?

It’s time to put a stop to this gross mistreatment of a beloved folk hero. With Terminator 6 slated to hit theaters in November 2019, we’re sure to get yet another incarnation. I’d rather they bring someone back.

Earlier today, I asked around to see which John Connor people liked most. Then, I ignored their comments and ranked the actors according to my personal preference. Let’s start at the top.

1. Edward Furlong

Furlong was a newcomer when he starred in Terminator 2, and some may argue that he’s the best JC by virtue of being the first. But, you’ll find the rest of this list populated by JCs who struggled to accept their roles in life, who were morose almost to the point of being emo. Not Furlong though. Furlong was a punk. Furlong was bratty little kid whose view of the world was shaped by the very terminators he was fated to fight.

My pick goes to one of my first celebrity school girl crushes…. Eddie Furlong

Charlene “I’d Rather Be Climbing a Rock” V.

Watching Furlong on screen, you got the sense that JC was always one sarcastic comment away from getting into a fight. And yet, at the end of the movie, you can hear the pain in his cracking voice when his mother drops him to safety so she can face down the T-1000 alone.

He’s still very much a kid when the story ends, but one who has been given a purpose, one who has embraced his fate.

I order you not to go. I order you not to go. I order you not to go.

Personally, he’s my favorite of the bunch.

2. Nick Stahl

According to the trivia for Terminator 3 on IMDB, Furlong was supposed to reprise his role in the third film. However, a substance abuse problem forced him to drop out, and he was replaced by Nick Stahl.

Stahl wasn’t a new actor, and most people had seen him in his role in The Man Without a Face with Mel Gibson. It’s clear that Stahl is the better actor, but he brought a new wrinkle to John Connor, leaving our hero inexplicably, perpetually confused. You know the face. Even now, you can remember it. And if you watched both seasons of Carnivale, you can hardly forget that face.

Stahl did a decent job, but he spends most of the movie being pushed around, first by the terminator, and then by Claire Danes. Even at the very end of the movie, when he answers the radio call, he still stammers. He’s still unsure.

Perhaps the point of the movie was to show the world coming to an end and to see John Connor emerge, but it didn’t really pan out like that. There’s nothing in the film that tells us JC is stepping up to the plate, or better yet, why he’s stepping up to the plate. At the beginning of the movie, we’re told he’s been living off the grid for years, but that’s not how we left things in T2.

That’s not what Eddie Furlong would have done with his life.

3. Thomas Dekker

When I said emo earlier, did you automatically think of Thomas Dekker? Me too.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles debuted in 2008, and it was the most awesome television show ever conceived. There will never be another like it, and you should feel shame for letting it get cancelled.

I wasn’t surprised that the producers found yet another actor to play Connor. This was a TV show, not a movie, so I gave Dekker a chance. Unfortunately, there’s a reason his mother’s name is in the title of the show, and not his. It only took a few episodes to realize Dekker would be pushed to the back while Lena Headey and Summer Glau took center stage. John Connor was just along for the ride. Sure, he’d occasionally get to take charge, but it was always Cameron doing the dirty work. JC was dragged from place to place, relegated to always being protected, always kept far away from the front lines.

Dekker did go through a bit of a transformation between season 1 and 2, cutting his hair and shedding the emo look all the terminators were razzing him about. He just never broke out of his mother’s shadow.

Sarah Connor, Cameron, and even the producers of the show forgot who the real hero was, leaving Thomas Dekker to get screwed out of a chance to play a proper John Connor.

4. Michael Edwards

Stop acting like you don’t know who Michael Edwards is. Edwards played John Connor for less than a minute in the opening scene of Terminator 2, yet his performance was good enough to earn him the #4 spot on this list. Just look at him, standing there, looking around, not saying anything.

Classic Connor.

5. Christian Bale

Christian Bale is a top-tier actor. He’s incredible. I’ve loved his work in almost everything he’s ever done. Everything except Terminator 4. He had no business being in that movie.

I had wondered as a kid how the rest of the world was handling the robot apocalypse presented in Terminator 2. Were they all fighting the same war? Or was this contained to North America? What were the British and Australian and Russian people doing?

Answer? They were starring in Terminator 4.

Alright, calm down. Don’t take my sarcastically misplaced patriotism seriously.

As I said, Christian Bale is an incredible actor, and I think that was the downfall of his portrayal of John Connor. We didn’t really need that much depth to the character. We needed as much depth as a young Edward Furlong could provide. Bale was too good. He was a Nissan GT-R when a Corolla would have been sufficient.

Get it straight: John Connor is not a human.  He should not be portrayed as a human.

John Connor is a god.

Learn to act like you can’t act, Christian Bale. Jeez.

6. Jason Clarke

Terminator:Genisys is so horrible and forgettable that I often forget how horrible it is and watch it again accidentally. And I just get angrier, again. Everyone in this movie was miscast, even Arnold. It truly was a low point in the series, and I shudder to think of it even now.

As for Clarke specifically, I barely have the words. I want to say something nice like how he’s a fine actor, but when I go to IMDB, the only interesting thing I see is that he played a character named Eddie Furlong in a TV show called All Saints in 1999.

Was that what got him the job?

Five movies in, and we’re still waiting for an answer to who John Connor really is.

The only question we’ve answered is who he isn’t.

One Possible Future

According to the Internet, no one is currently cast to play John Connor in the upcoming Terminator 6. Is it even possible to have a Terminator movie without John? I guess we’ll find out.

Unless they have Eddie Furlong cameo as John somewhere at the end…

That would be dope.

So… who is your favorite John Conner? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: 7.19.2019

Are you fucking kidding me?

Terminator: Dark Fate Panel Announces Edward Furlong Is Back as John Connor and More

We are veering back towards the brightest timeline.