In the third installment of the Terminator films, we find a John Connor (Nick Stahl) who is no longer thirteen, and “lives off the grid.” John is a young adult living on the streets, with no phone, no home, nothing. He is working in manual labor, recalling the past through a voiceover narration. “They tried to kill me,” he says, “before I was born, and again when I was thirteen.”
“I feel the weight of the future,” John narrates at the beginning of the film. “So I keep running.” He is running from the vocation that has chosen him and from the Terminators that may be coming to kill him. We see him next as he is breaking into a veterinarian’s office in the hopes of finding drugs. This is evidence of how far he is willing to go to relieve some of the weight carries.
In the meantime, a T-X has been sent from the future. The T-X is even more deadly and destructive than the T1000 in T2. The T-X has arrived to kill not John Connor, but other resistance leaders of the future. SkyNet has taken a different approach. John Connor is no longer a priority, it is the other young adults who are his followers who will be leaders of the movement.
One of these leaders is Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), who is getting married and has a somewhat estranged relationship her father. She is a vet, who answers an emergency call in the middle of the night. When she arrives at the clinic she finds a high John, whom she locks into a dog kennel. While attempting to calm a distressed cat owner, Kate comes face-to-face with the T-X.
The T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in his usual nude way. After gleaning clothes from a stripper at a ladies’ night bar, he sets out to find and rescue Kate from the T-X. He also has to rescue John.
T-101: John Connor, it is time.
John: Are you here to kill me?
T-101: No. You must live.
John assumes his future-self sent the terminator as he did in the last film. But it was actually Kate who sent him. While running away from the T-X, John and Kate learn a lot about their future together from the T-101. Most surprisingly, they learn that SkyNet still rises to power.
As Kate runs for her life, her general father is battling an unknown virus spreading quickly through the computers. They have a “secret weapon” they have developed that could take care of this virus. Kate’s father, General Robert Brewster, is high up in the federal government who has the ability to tell the Pentagon no, they will not release SkyNet to deal with a major computer virus. His job is actually a cover up for a top-secret security work, which will become important when our three heroes discover that a nuclear holocaust is upon them. Eventually, though, his hands are tied. SkyNet is release, however, instead of destroying the virus, it takes over all the machines.
While this is not the best of the Terminator films, it is still worth watching a few times. The CGI used in this film makes the first two look antique. And the film continues in developing John Connor as a Christ-figure.
“They tried to kill me before I was born.”
As John tries to explain the situation to Kate, he tells her, “Imagine that you were going to do something important with your life.” This line sums up John’s story perfectly. His life is at stake because he is going to do something important with his life. It is his life will save humanity, in the fullness of time. In the first Terminator film, the objective was to kill Sarah Connor in order to ensure that John Connor, savior of the world, does not come to be. In Matthew’s gospel, Mary and Joseph are informed by the wise men that King Herod is planning to kill all the Jewish baby boys. King Herod wants to ensure that no future leader rises against his rule. Mary and Joseph along with the infant Jesus escape the genocide by fleeing into Egypt. At one point T-101 tells John that he will die, which is why Kate is the one who sent T-101 to the past. It alludes to the fact that John gives his own life to save that of others.
“It is your destiny.”
John Connor has a purpose in life. A vocation that the whole world depends on, whether they know it or not. He has a hard time, however, accepting the fact that he will be kept in the equivalent of a “safe house.” As the apocalypse of the computer-age gets underway, Robert Brewster tells Kate of a secret underground weapons control facility. She and John head there. These scenes were actually filmed on location at a decommissioned federal control center in West Virginia.
This underground center could symbolize the tomb of Jesus Christ. It will be after this tomb experience that a new life will be found. Not necessarily an easier one, which speaks volumes to the human condition. While new life is apart of the journey of humanity, it does not always mean life will be easier. Life is still hard. Life is still challenging. Life is still a battle between good and evil.
The greater lesson that John learns is that the person he is now, is not the person he will become. That is the good news about new life. We are becoming into someone new, transforming the old. He is becoming the one who will bear salvation for the world.
The T-X is evil, no doubt about it. She is an agent of SkyNet, which is the big bad in the film. It is not a mistake that the enemy takes on the shape and appearance of a human. She looks like one of us. “And no wonder!” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, CEB). The T-X can take on the appearance of others. At one point she becomes Kate in an attempt to trick Kate’s father. This enemy is deadly and determined to put an end to any possibility of salvation. She does not want there to be salvation. Her mission is to eliminate the possibility of hope.
This hope, however, is not lost. It is while John and Kate are in the underground control center, with computers that are thirty years old, that voices from across the country are heard. They found a radio range that SkyNet did not affect and they call out for anyone else who might be out there. And through these radio waves, the people hear the voice of John Connor, from the walls of a borrowed tomb, offering them hope in the midst of destruction and judgment.