When it comes to bringing forth sheer spectacle in a darkened movie theater, James Cameron is the self-proclaimed King of the World. When Titanic won 11 Oscars and then moved on to dominate the box office with a total lifetime gross of nearly one billion dollars worldwide, the title was very deserving. That was 12 years ago.
During his hiatus, he has dedicated oodles of his own money in order to bring us the next big thing in filmmaking. While 3-D technology has provided its fair share of the good, the bad, and the overrated (Up, Jaws 3-D, and Coraline), it is here to stay.
With a $241 million worldwide opening weekend it appears that while no one would say it’s the most strongly plotted film ever, its shortcomings in the story department are more than made up for as writer/director Cameron ushers in the next decade with visuals of the likes you’ve never seen before. Finally, 3-D technology is used to completely immerse the audience in this futuristic world instead of simply using gimmicks to throw objects in your face.
Cameron has never been the greatest storyteller and that’s not what his strength is even if he’s written or co-written all but one of his features. What Cameron brings to the table with each film is a new sense of shock and awe to the senses. Sure, there are elements heavily borrowed from other films, mostly Dances with Wolves and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, but since when do directors have to be completely original to tell a compelling fantasy?
Titanic gave us a fictionalized account of the infamous sinking ship filled with stock characters and a generic romance. What brought me back three times was to witness the audacious moments as the boat goes down. True Lies gave us Cameron’s third Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that was simply a family dramedy where the father happens to be a spy.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a huge step forward for both sequels and computer-generated special effects. While a robot was able to make a fanboy cry over the sight of a thumb sinking into molten steel, the plot was not what drove the film. Anyone who’s crying foul should turn back to the sci-fi classic and take it all into account again.
When he gave us both the theatrical and director’s cut of The Abyss there were many on both sides of the fence who felt shortchanged with the two radically different endings. Aliens was essentially one of the most well-made action films set in space, the original Terminator was very basic and a true classic thriller with sci-fi overtones, while the less said about his only guilty pleasure entry, Piranha 2: The Spawning, the better.