The Good, The Bad & The Badass: James Cameron
This week marked the release of TERMINATOR: GENISYS. Considering how bad the movie was, James Cameron's promise to fans that this is the real “third film” in the franchise seems highly suspicious, although you can likely chalk up his comments to his enduring friendship with favorite star Arnold Schwarzenegger. And what a team! I'd argue without Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger would have never really become SCHWARZENEGGER as listed on the posters for all of his greatest hits and the legend we know and love.
Truly, Cameron is one of those rare directors that's always seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what exactly audiences want to see. Over his career he's taken HUGE risks, from the original choice of using Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE TERMINATOR, through turning ALIENS into an action-extravaganza (the opposite of its moody predecessor) to the massive gambles he took on TITANIC and AVATAR, both or which could have cost him his career but went on to be become literally the two top-grossing movies of all time. Cameron knows his stuff and is seemingly one of the few directors out there who just can't miss.
For me, this really came down to ALIENS vs TERMINATOR 2. As much as I love the latter – which I'd rank among the greatest action films ever made – no blockbuster has ever quite thrilled me the way ALIENS did. While it's probably hip to say Ridley Scott's ALIEN is the better film (and it's a great one) there are few action adventure movies that have so perfectly juggled heart-stopping action and layered, emotional storytelling as Cameron's sequel did (even more so in the director's cut). Sigourney Weaver is so amazing as Ripley, who not only has to face her greatest fear by going up against a planet full of the xenomorphs who slaughtered her crew, but also finds herself driven by a strong maternal instinct to protect young Newt (Carrie Henn). The result is a film that firmly established Weaver's Ripley as the greatest action heroine of all time (Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor is number two). Sigourney Weaver copped an Oscar nomination for this which was richly deserved.
A lot of people view THE ABYSS as a kind of dry run for TITANIC, but it's much more than that. Cameron's only real flop, he took a lot of static for this movie back in '89, but it should be noted that the version seen in theaters was not the real version of this movie. It wasn't until the much-longer director's cut came out in the mid-nineties that people realized how great this underwater alien-encounter movie really was. For some reason, Cameron's movies seem under-represented on Blu-ray (mainly due to Cameron himself from what I hear) but THE ABYSS is a movie that most certainly would shine after being given an HD upgrade (ditto TRUE LIES).
I've never really been on-board with the AVATAR juggernaut. While it's visually stunning, with the best 3D ever committed to film, the story always struck me as too familiar. This was basically a sci-fi twist on A MAN CALLED HORSE, DANCES WITH WOLVES and THE LAST SAMURAI, and I truly never thought it would be as successful as it's become. That said, I have high hopes for the sequels, although I do wish he'd skip the return trip to Pandora in favor of a return to hardcore action movie-making.
Obviously, the no-brainer scene is Ripley's last stand against the xenomorph queen in ALIENS, but as I used this for my column on Sigourney Weaver, I've decided instead to feature the amazing motorcycle/truck chase from T2. The bit when Arnie swoops in on his Harley and plucks John Connor (Edward Furlong) off his motorbike gives me chills every time.
Given that Cameron's gone on record saying that as many as four potential AVATAR sequels are in the works, we can reasonably expect one of those to be coming soon although the dates keep getting pushed (the earliest we can expect the next one is 2017). Whenever we get it, I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.
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