Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis

Halloween, Terminator, and how franchises are resurrecting their most badass heroines

Contributed by
Jun 29, 2018

A potential trend has started to emerge in Hollywood, and it revolves around some of genre’s most iconic actresses. When you hear the names Jamie Lee Curtis and Linda Hamilton, they’re almost synonymous with the characters they’re most widely known for: Laurie Strode and Sarah Connor, respectively. Today, the original incarnations of those fictional women have not only endured, they’re making a comeback. 

The upcoming Halloween sequel, envisioned by director David Gordon Green along with co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, is positioned to breathe new badassery into long-suffering Final Girl Laurie Strode. It’s been previously established that the new installment in the slasher franchise will take place 40 years after the events of the 1978 original while completely ignoring the events of its subsequent sequels. As a result, Laurie and masked antagonist Michael Myers are no longer related as brother and sister, while Laurie’s established family in the recalibrated 2018 flick consist of a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). From the first teaser trailer, it was evident that this new Halloween would give fans a Laurie who was prepared, primed even, for the eventual return of Michael Myers — a stark contrast to the version of the character Curtis previously inhabited, who lived in fear under a different name in 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. A tightly-edited, weapon-heavy sequence clues us into the fact that this new Laurie is locked, loaded, armed to the teeth, and more than ready to face Michael again. The Final Girl has persevered to the point where she can no longer be considered a girl, but rather a woman — one who's world-weary and been knocked down at every turn, but entirely capable of getting back up. She's not hiding, not anymore.

Meanwhile, the Terminator franchise is also undergoing its own revamp, with two of its most memorable faces set to reprise their establishing roles. Arnold Schwarzenegger is once again starring as the Terminator, but in perhaps more exciting news, Linda Hamilton will return to the role of Sarah Connor for the first time since she played the character in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (She provided an uncredited voiceover in 2009’s Terminator Salvation.) Similar to Halloween, 2019’s currently untitled Terminator 6 will be a direct follow-up to the first two Terminator movies, with the other sequels being retconned to an alternate universe. Photos of Hamilton on set filming her role surfaced in June, revealing her wearing a tactical flak jacket and looking every bit as muscled and tough as she did inhabiting the role over 25 years ago. It’s no surprise that the character who evolved from timid waitress to hardened fighter over the course of only two films would still be every bit as grizzled and defiant as any male action hero reappearing after a long absence.

Curtis and Hamilton’s returns to their respective franchises is thrilling for several reasons, nostalgia factor notwithstanding. In a landscape where reboots and remakes are practically par for the course across all kinds of genre, and roles originated by older actresses are being recast with fresh faces, seeing both women back on screen ready to kick ass and take names is a creative refresh that feels downright welcome. It’s also a move that comes after both franchises made somewhat unsuccessful attempts to reboot themselves; Rob Zombie’s 2007 reimagining of Halloween, as well as the sequel that followed two years later, were negatively received, while 2015’s Terminator Genisys did so poorly at the box office that a planned sequel was eventually scrapped. Fans are tiring of recycled concepts disguised in new packaging, and so if little else, what these new Halloween and Terminator films signal is that there’s nothing wrong with long-running franchises resurrecting their most badass heroines, regardless of age. 

Older female characters don’t often get the opportunity to shine in genre outside a handful of predetermined and overused tropes. They’re the wizened crone equipped with a copious amount of knowledge (sometimes otherworldly in origin) that they cryptically impart to our heroes, or they’re the dirty old woman making inappropriate remarks that are played as humorous, or they’re the literal incarnation of evil. Otherwise, the options are slim. Female characters are frequently replaced as they age up and therefore age out of the role, while male characters typically get to stick around, perceived as credible mentors. It’s that line of thinking, subconscious though it may be, that contributes to permitting the return of a much older Schwarzenegger for Terminator Genisys (albeit with extensive performance capture technology to render a younger version), while the part of Sarah Connor had to be recast with Emilia Clarke. 

In terms of these most immediate sequels, at least, the on-screen maturing of characters like Laurie and Sarah are being mostly perceived as a positive return to form rather than a narrative regression — and, similar to what Star Wars is doing with its latest trilogy, the new Halloween and Terminator movies are appearing to merge old and new characters as a means of passing the torch down to the next generation. This time around, it’s mostly the older female characters who are teaching valuable lessons to their successors about how to survive. The former Final Girls are now warrior women; in the case of the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa, the princess is now a general. For the fans who have grown up loving these characters, it’s awe-inspiring to watch franchises learn that age really is nothing but a number — and sometimes, it's the heroines with the most gray in their hair who also have the most mettle in their bones.