“How are you supposed to know?,” bellows Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day at a man unknowingly responsible for the world’s future destruction. “Fucking men like you built the hydrogen bomb. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death…”
As created by writer/director James Cameron and actress Linda Hamilton, Sarah Connor is an action heroine unlike any other. In a genre filled with violence and death, she’s a true life force, fighting for the very survival of humankind itself. Also setting her apart from other action heroes is the fact that Sarah Connor truly gets to grow and develop as a character. When we first meet her in1984’s The Terminator, Sarah is an average, every-day woman dealing with life’s standard obstacles. When Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hulking, murderous, stop-at-nothing cyborg arrives from the future, however, Sarah Connor is marked for death. She soon learns that in the future she will give birth to the leader of humankind’s resistance against a machine revolution: she is literally the mother of humanity’s future. Through the course of The Terminator, Sarah Connor develops from a diffident young woman into a warrior faced with a burden of staggering enormity.
When we are reintroduced to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she’s a different woman. Paranoid and weighed down with the knowledge of what may still be in store for the future, Sarah is now a muscled, hardened, embittered woman obsessed with protecting her now teenage son and always ready for a fight. “All along we’d spoken of making Sarah crazy,” Hamilton told Starburst Magazine. “I was adamant about that trait, and excited by the prospect. She’s lived with the horror of nuclear war – the certainty that it’s going to happen – for so long now. I needed to show something of that torment to make audiences understand why she’s not a nice woman anymore. I didn’t want her to be the heroine that everyone expected. It was a great challenge for me as an actress.”
Sarah is indeed a million miles away from the timid, big-hearted young woman at the start of The Terminator (“I hated the way my voice sounded,” Hamilton said on revisiting the film. “Talk about Minnie Mouse!”), and it’s a testament to the ever underrated Linda Hamilton (whose physical metamorphosis for Terminator 2 is truly impressive and striking) that the transformation is so believable and so moving. This fine, sadly under-celebrated actress effectively makes Sarah Connor a real rarity: an action character with soul. “A woman who grows and transforms on screen is always a wonderful thing to play,” Hamilton has said. “Sarah went from a vulnerable, normal girl to someone who finds all of her deep reservoirs of strength.”
And may Sarah Connor continue to grow and evolve in the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate…