John Connor played by Christian Bale in Terminator: Salvation was a disappointing performance, but one reference to Terminator 2 helped correct his view of the character. It’s no secret that the Terminator franchise has seen better days, and its decline is by no means recent. Every Terminator movie, starting with Doomsday, has provoked at best an ambiguous reaction, and sometimes openly hostile. Perhaps this is the curse of the original greatness, but the bar for what is considered a good Terminator movie tends to be quite high.
In the case of Terminator: Salvation, many fans of the franchise had at least a decent hope for two main reasons. Firstly, the Terminator movie, which takes place during a future war between humans and machines, had great potential as a concept, and many people hoped that this could happen. The second was the casting of Christian Bale for the role of John Connor, as Bale was delighted with his starring role in The Dark Knight. However, despite all expectations, “Terminator: Salvation” ultimately disappointed both critics and commerce.
To a large extent, the negative reaction spread even to Connor Bale, who did not feel like someone who could become the versions of the character of Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl. However, there is one particular scene that gives Bale’s Connor his best moment, in which the resistance leader calls back Terminator 2 using a boombox playing Guns ‘n Roses’ “You Can Be Mine” to lure the Skynet bike, also known as the Moto Terminator. As a sly allusion to a memorable moment from James Cameron’s hit, the inclusion of the track gave longtime fans an Easter egg and showed that the Salvation of the Terminator, despite all its shortcomings, is deeply rooted in the knowledge of the franchise.
As for the references to Terminator 2, this particular moment is one of several that can be found in Terminator: Salvation, but what helps make it work is its relative subtlety. “You could be mine” is briefly heard in Terminator 2 as John and his friend Tim head to the mall, a place where John would later find himself sandwiched between a T-800 and a T-1000. Although the song was also linked to the music video for “Terminator 2”, that video had long been a thing of the past by 2009.
Christian Bale’s John Connor, who decided to use “You Could Be Mine” as part of his strategy to destroy the Moto Terminator, helps connect what was a rather crude one-note characterization with the more innocent John, played by Edward Furlong. This helps establish that, no matter how different this elderly John may seem, he still remembers his childhood adventures and probably chose this song because it brings him a certain level of comfort when she hears it. It also brings much-needed levity to a dark blockbuster action movie. Also, the music seems to remind John of both the mother he lost and the unlikely father figure he found in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed T-800, whom he probably still misses all these years later. It’s far from enough to save Terminator: Salvation as a movie, but it definitely helps save John Connor Bale from being completely written off.