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The Cinema of James Cameron

The Cinema of James Cameron: Bodies in Heroic Motion

James Clarke
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of James Cameron
    Book Description:

    This timely volume explores the massively popular cinema of writer-director James Cameron. It couches Cameron's films within the evolving generic traditions of science fiction, melodrama, and the cinema of spectacle. The book also considers Cameron's engagement with the aesthetic of visual effects and the 'now' technology of performance-capture which is arguably moving a certain kind of event-movie cinema from photography to something more akin to painting. This book is explicit in presenting Cameron as an authentic auteur, and each chapter is dedicated to a single film in his body of work, fromThe TerminatortoAvatar. Space is also given to discussion ofStrange Daysas well as his short films and documentary works.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85062-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-28)

    On 12 June 2014 at the Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo in Brazil, a 29-year-old paraplegic man named Juliano Pinto walked and then kicked a football. This moment instigated the beginning of the 2014 World Cup. This moment also resonated as an achievement of invention, imagination, finance, scientific enquiry and technology that resulted in a ‘real world’ event, and image of that event, that echoed a central concern in the films of James Cameron; namely, the interface of the human mind and body with technology. In large part, this book will seek to explore the ways in which Cameron’s...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Genesis: From Short Film Visions to Low-Budget Monster Movie
    (pp. 29-34)

    Cameron’s first film as writer and director was a short project entitledXenogenesis,produced independently. His intention was to show the film to Hollywood studios to demonstrate his capacities as writer, director and, indeed, as visual effects artist. Ultimately, it did fulfil its purpose, serving as Cameron’s calling card for entry into the low-budget film industry. The film, additionally, is of value in terms of its connection to Cameron’s subsequent films. Rather like another science fiction short film,THX 1138: Electronic Labyrinth(George Lucas, 1966), Cameron’sXenogenesisis embryonic in its expression of the themes, situations, images and tonal qualities...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Terminator (1984)
    (pp. 35-56)

    InNew Hollywood Violence: Inside Popular Film, Thomas Schatz affirms that ‘from theGreat Train Robbery[1903] a century ago to the current spate of summer blockbusters, Hollywood movies have been fundamentally about violence’ (2004: 1). It is an observation that sits well in the context of the longer-term view of the development of white American culture’s development. According to Richard Slotkin,

    In American mythogenesis, the founding fathers were not those eighteenth-century gentlemen who composed a nation at Philadelphia. Rather, they were those who tore violently a nation from the implacable and opulent wilderness – the rogues, adventurers, and landboomers; the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Aliens (1986)
    (pp. 57-74)

    On various occasions, whilst discussingThe Terminatorduring promotional activity for its theatrical release across North America and Europe in late 1984 and early 1985, Cameron citedThe Driver(Walter Hill, 1978) as key in his development process on the film. For him, Hill’s film suggested a way to construct a sense of the forward propulsion necessary for the expression ofThe Terminator’s plot. This sense of propulsion also characterises the narrative dynamic ofAliens.

    WithThe Terminatora proven commercial and critical success, Hill, in his capacity as producer rather than director, approached Cameron with an offer to direct...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Abyss (1989)
    (pp. 75-88)

    Writing about the ocean, Herman Melville noted in his novelMoby Dick(1851): ‘Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure’ (1987: 380–1). Cameron’sThe Abysstakes the tradition of narratives of the sea and uses it as a setting for a drama that expresses the increasing human dependence on technology; a dependence that has benefits and deficits. Like the later film,True Lies, technology also serves a particular function in relation to the marriage depicted on screen.The...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
    (pp. 89-102)

    The Abysswas not quite the box office success that the studio had anticipated and with his next film Cameron returned to the story-world ofThe Terminator. WithTerminator 2: Judgement Day(could a title any more overtly attest to a film’s Biblical allusion?), Cameron explored the apocalyptic subject that has been key to his films in the most fully realised way. By the time of the release ofTerminator 2(hereafterT2), Hollywood had released relatively few ‘apocalyptically’-focused movies; although one might claim that the disaster movies produced by Irwin Allen all tapped into a shared fear. SinceT2,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX True Lies (1994)
    (pp. 103-114)

    Film scholar Robin Wood noted in his study of American genre cinema that ‘the fear of nuclear war is certainly one of the main sources of our desire to be constructed as children, to be reassured, to evade responsibility and thought’ (2003: 168). Wood’s comment, whilst originally published at a time predating the release ofTrue Lies, succeeds in sketching out the sensibilities that Cameron’s film manipulates and derives its overarching dramatic effect from.

    As in the postwar cinema of Japan, the force and threat of nuclear weapons has informed so much American science fiction, horror, thriller and war film...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Titanic (1997)
    (pp. 115-128)

    In an interview with his occasional collaborator Randall Frakes, James Cameron noted that ‘I’ve based my cinematic career on creating a sense of unity between the audience and the characters on the screen, through whatever means necessary. I wanted to try the same stylistic approach with an historical event and see if I could create that unity through recognisable emotions and situations’ (1999: ix). This emphasis on the dovetailing of artifice and authenticity reaches its near-apogee inTitanic.

    In terms of its dramatic conceit, particularly in relation to the earlierThe Abyss,Titaniccharacterises the sea as a wilderness where...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Avatar (2009)
    (pp. 129-148)

    InVisions of Apocalypse: Spectacles of Destruction in American Cinema, Wheeler Winston Dixon quotes Paul Virilio: ‘the cinema became the major site for a trade in dematerialization, a new industrial market which no longer produced matter but light, as the luminosity of those vast stained-glass windows of old was suddenly concentrated on the screen’ (2003: 9). Virilio’s poetic observation seems to take on particular resonance in relation to a film likeAvatarwith a production process, aesthetic and narrative that explore alternatives to tangible matter. The combination of the performance capture process used for filming the character interactions and the...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Cameron’s Documentaries
    (pp. 149-152)

    Film scholar Bill Nichols has usefully made the observation that ‘it is worth insisting that the strategies and styles deployed in documentary, like those of narrative film, change: they have a history … the comfortably accepted realism of one generation seems like artifice to the next’ (1985: 259). James Cameron has to date made two sea documentaries,Ghosts of the AbyssandAliens of the Deep, which provide ‘real world’ corollaries to his fantasy dramas and which also deploy a palette of visual effects that elaborate on the sensibility of the marine-focused documentaries of a key influence on Cameron’s sensibilities,...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Cameron as Writer and Producer
    (pp. 153-158)

    In the tradition of his near-contemporaries Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron has a number of projects as a writer and/or producer to his name. There are also a number of feature film projects that he developed in various capacities.

    While writing the screenplay forAliens, Cameron had also been commissioned to write what became the original draft of the sequel toFirst Blood(Ted Kotcheff, 1982). Cameron’s script was entitledRambo: The Mission.Whilst Cameron would ultimately share screen credit with the film’s star, Sylvester Stallone, he has offered several reflections on his involvement with the...

    (pp. 159-162)
    (pp. 163-172)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 173-176)