The key moment in Terminator 2: Judgement Day – where the audience learns that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good guy – comes early on in the movie when a teenage John Connor encounters the T-800 in a back hallway of a shopping mall. The Terminator is carrying a long boxes of roses that he drops to the ground to reveal a hidden shotgun. Connor thinks the killer robot is about to murder him, but instead he tells him to duck and begins firing at the liquid metal T-1000. Had the trailer not ruined the twist, it would have been quite a shock to most people since Arnold was the villain in the original.
The T-800’s long box of guns and roses was actually the third GN’R reference in that movie up to that point. When we first meet John Connor and his friend Tim (best known to 1990s kids as Bobby Budnick on Salute Your Shorts) they’re playing “You Could Be Mine” while fixing up his moped. Tim is wearing an L.A. Guns shirt, lead by original GN’R guitarist Tracii Guns. They had a minor hit the previous year with “The Ballad of Jayne,” but even at their peak they were only a tiny fraction as popular as Guns N’ Roses. Use Your Illusion was still a couple months away from hitting shelves when Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out, but anticipation was very high. Having the leadoff single on the soundtrack to the biggest movie of the summer was the perfect way to set it up.
“You Could Be Mine” was actually written around the time that Guns N’ Roses recorded Appetite for Destruction, but they didn’t start playing it live until early 1991. To promote the single, they shot a video in which the Terminator shows up at a Guns N’ Roses concert to target the band for termination. What sort of threat they pose to the resistance against the robots in the future is never explained. At the end, he encounters them leaving the club, but ultimately decides that Axl is a “waste of ammo” and he walks away unscathed after a brief stare-down. If Skynet sent a unit back in time to wipe out Axl Rose and he successfully tracked him down, you’d think a single bullet wouldn’t be too much of an expense for a successful completion of the mission. Also unexplained is the absence of Izzy Stradlin from the encounter, but maybe he saw a Terminator in the audience and got the fuck out of there early. In reality, the notoriously unreliable guitarist probably just didn’t show up for the scene.