(NYTimes) - For years now, the world's Terminator fans have been comfortable in the knowledge that they would never again be excited by the prospect of seeing another film in the franchise: The last one, Terminator Genisys (2015), was even more muddled than its title.
But in an announcement this week, James Cameron, the series' creator, said another Terminator would soon be rolling off the production line. And he gave the fans two good reasons to hope that civilisation will not be crushed by robots before its release.
One is that Cameron himself will be overseeing the production, having walked away from the series after writing and directing The Terminator in 1984 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991. The second reason is that Linda Hamilton will be back as Sarah Connor, the heroine of the first two films - never mind that she was killed off before the events of Terminator 3 (2003).
You could call Hamilton's appearance a cynical, last-ditch attempt to save a franchise that has worsened with every sequel. But in fact the news is yet another example of Cameron's remarkable habit of staying ahead of the competition, whether he is pioneering CGI for Terminator 2 or advancing digital 3D with Avatar (2009). Hamilton, after all, is now 60 years old - and who else is putting 60-year-old action heroines in their blockbusters?
"It's going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she's become return," Cameron said at an event announcing the casting, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys, but there isn't an example of that for women."
He's right. Liam Neeson, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger are still flexing their biceps and their trigger fingers, but the closest female equivalent is Helen Mirren in Red (2010). Clarice Starling has been silent for years. Tomb Raider is being relaunched with Alicia Vikander, 28, stepping into the desert boots of Angelina Jolie, 42.
Ridley Scott keeps making Alien films without Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. And while the revived Star Wars franchise has given us a glimpse of Princess Leia as the battle-hardened Gen. Organa, the death of Carrie Fisher has put an end to her adventures.
In August, Cameron made headlines by dismissing DC's Wonder Woman as "a step backwards" in terms of depicting big-screen heroines. Despite that film being directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, Cameron declared that it was "just male Hollywood doing the same old thing".
As the director of Aliens (1986) and two Terminator films, Cameron has long been revered for his bench-pressing, villain-obliterating leading ladies, so his "Wonder Woman" put-down sounded like the grumblings of someone who did not want the next generation to get all the credit. But by bringing Hamilton back to the Terminator series, he is breaking new ground in his use of action heroines once again.
Still, don't get too carried away. Cameron has also said Hamilton will be passing the torch to a younger star: He is looking for "an 18-something woman to be the centrepiece of the new story".
So maybe he is not quite as radical as he likes to think he is. The mighty Sarah Connor returns - and then she is elbowed aside by someone a third of her age. If that's not "old male Hollywood doing the same old thing", then what is?