James Cameron is such a baffling director, in so many ways. What isn’t baffling is that he started out working on art and designing, this is a perfectly normal route into directing. I completely believe this of James Cameron. However, to have only directed 8 films in his whole career?! Sure, Tarantino hasn’t done much better, but this is the billion dollar director we’re talking about here, I’d expect him to have Woody Allen level experience. This guy also went from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) to Titanic (1997) in two small steps. Is it just me who thinks James Cameron is the most confusing director around?! How did he manage to break box office records twice and create such widely diverse films?
I have seen four out of the eight films James Cameron has directed, these include: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Titanic and Avatar (2009). I’m going to go through each of these films and suggest reasons as to why he’s he’s earned such an elusive title in Julames Cameron!
The Terminator & Judgement Day
I haven’t seen Piranha Two: The Spawning (1981) but I’m going to guess that this wasn’t Cameron’s Reservoir Dogs (1992) or his Moon (2009). The Terminator however is a pretty effing great Pulp Fiction (1994). The Terminator and The Terminator 2 were such huge successes, Cameron proving that a sequel can be even better than the first. Cameron also paved the way for pretty freakin’ awesome female protagonists. With amazing sci-fi narratives, on point sequels and fantastic female frontwomen, Cameron was out doing what many film-maker’s weren’t, whilst still giving the audiences exactly what they wanted (because films with big returns don’t necessarily mean they’re good, look at Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)…)
As our American friends might say, boy did this film come out of left field. One of the most romantic films of all time written and directed by sci-fi helmer James Cameron?! So odd. But what do you know, the cyborg does have a working, beating heart after all. Another faultless narrative (or not, if you’re a fan of Cinema Sins on YouTube), this film swept up at the Oscars and became the highest grossing movie of all time and the only film at that point to reach the $1 billion mark with $1.84 billion. It was also a game changer CGI wise, as Cameron had been working with Digital Domain throughout Judgement Day and The Abyss (1989) to progress digital technology and CGI to the level he required. This proved vital in many of the film’s epic scenes, not least fabricating people falling off the Titanic in post-production.
Does it seem like Avatar came out six whole years ago?! It doesn’t to me! I saw it in IMAX when it first came out and it was the first film I’d ever seen in IMAX. Cameron continued to push technology further so he could achieve exactly the look he wanted with Avatar, even waiting ten years to make the film so the technology could catch up with his visions. So much time and work went into Avatar to make it the masterpiece it became, and my goodness did it pay off. The first film since Titanic to pass the billion dollar mark, Avatar grossed a whopping $2.8 billion, which is kind of what you’d expect when production cost around $300 million with millions more on top of that for promotion. It goes to show when you don’t rush your projects, take the time to work on them, have faith, and producers that have faith in you so they give you heaps of money, you can go very far indeed.
Whilst writing this post I realised I have only ever seen all of these films once. Just once! But I know that I remember them so well, definitely more so than a lot of other films I have only seen once. It seems like the key factors to James Cameron’s success is quality over quantity, perhaps if Woody Allen cared about box office returns he’d do well to take a leaf out of Cameron’s book.
What’s your favourite James Cameron film?