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The box-office success of the new Halloween is good news for a number of people, even outside of those involved with the movie itself. As the best Halloween horror opening ever and the second-best R-rated horror bow ever, not to mention the second-biggest October debut in box-office history, it’s a project that proves that movies with female leads, and leads over 50, can attract sizable audiences — something that should come as a big relief for James Cameron and the people behind next year’s Terminator reboot.
It’s tempting to look at Halloween as a dry run for the as-yet-untitled Terminator; both movies are revivals of successful franchises that have run aground in recent years, in which the original cast return for a continuation of the original installment that abandons the continuity of the less successful movies in favor of a back-to-basics approach with the approval and participation of the original writers/directors of their respective franchises. Notably, both Halloween and Terminator went this route after each series attempted to reboot the story from scratch in previous installments (2007’s Halloween, which begat 2009’s Halloween II, and 2015’s Terminator Genisys, respectively).
There are more parallels between the two projects: Both subvert their ostensibly male-centric genres by transforming the primary male figure into an emotionless, unstoppable killing machine, allowing the women in the story to become the point-of-view heroes, for example, and the two revivals feature women around the age of 60 in what are essentially action roles. (Jamie Lee Curtis is 59, and Linda Hamilton will be 63 when Terminator is released.) It’s easy to see why executive producer Cameron, director Tim Miller and everyone involved in the new Terminator project might be breathing a little easier after this weekend.
What might have paved the way for the movies are two dominant pop culture forces, both of which have a common parent. It’s hard not to look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a model for both Halloween and Terminator’s attempts to extend their franchises by bringing back the original cast and using them as a lure to introduce new characters for future installments. It can be read as either a cynical manipulation of the audience’s nostalgia or cannily knowing what the audience is looking for from the series; either way, it’s an idea that apparently works at re-energizing franchises that might otherwise have lost their way.
Part of the reason it does work might be an element from another influence: Marvel Studios, which has brought the comic book culture of completism to the mainstream. Audiences happily show up for movie after movie from Marvel because they are, in theory, telling one massive story which will cross over and interrelate between the different pics.
Obviously, Terminator and Halloween are operating on a different scale, but by bringing back the original cast (and including the original writers/directors in each case), the movies are signaling that they’re emphatically part of that original story, and audiences who want to know what actually happened need to pay attention this time around.
Of course, these models of good behavior are ultimately meaningless if the new Terminator doesn’t live up to the expectations of its core audience. What the success of Halloween demonstrates, though, is that — barring an unexpected swerve into new territory — the combination of familiar faces, simplifying the backstory of the franchise and going back to the core values of the series is more than enough for most people. The future looks good for the Terminator franchise — which is a very unusual experience for something based in post-apocalyptic culture.
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