James Cameron has been working on relaunching the Terminator franchise, and the original Sarah Connor will be returning in the first new film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cameron announced yesterday that series star Linda Hamilton would be reprising her role in the as-of-yet untitled film, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. The last time all three collaborators worked on a film in the franchise was some 26 years ago — in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Ever since that movie, a number of sequels and attempted reboots have rolled off the assembly line, but none of the efforts were as memorable as the two original films. The most recent entry, Terminator: Genisys, tried to reboot the franchise with an alt-timeline take that recast Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke in the Connor role. That film tanked at the box office, and plans for subsequent films were scrapped.
The return of Cameron has resulted in an entirely different game plan. According to the Reporter, the new movie will be a direct sequel to Judgement Day, ignoring all subsequent non-Cameron entries, and will kick off a trilogy of new films designed to transition the franchise from Hamilton and Schwarzenegger to a younger cast. Cameron and Deadpool’s Tim Miller, who will be directing the first sequel, assembled a writers room to break the story for the new trilogy. Some of those involved included The Sarah Connor Chronicles creator Josh Friedman, Dark Angel co-creator Charles Eglee, and prolific TV and film writer David S. Goyer. It’s the same kind of workshop approach that Cameron used for Avatar, which in that case resulted in a total of four planned sequels.
During the Terminator announcement, Cameron reportedly touted the cultural importance of the Connor character returning, particularly in an older incarnation. "As meaningful as she was to gender and action stars everywhere back then, it’s going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she’s become return," he’s quoted as saying. "There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys, but there isn’t an example of that for women.”
As my colleague Tasha Robinson noted in a recent conversation, that would seem to indicate that Cameron hasn’t been keeping up with Helen Mirren’s work in the Red franchise. But it’s also somewhat difficult to take his statements at face value given recent comments he’s made about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. Last month, Cameron was criticized for calling that film “a step backwards” for female heroes because Wonder Woman was portrayed as both powerful and attractive, something that has always been an intrinsic part of that character.
The comments about Connor’s return almost come off like the filmmaker trying to capitalize upon a cultural moment in which strong female heroes are being brought to the forefront. That said, given Cameron’s larger track record — he not only created Sarah Connor, but turned Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley into a gut-toting warrior in Aliens — there is definitely reason to celebrate Linda Hamilton’s return to the franchise in this way. And anything that erases the last three Terminator sequels from memory is more than welcome.