James Cameron is a filmmaker who has really pushed the boundaries of what is possible on screen. From re-creating the Titanic to the alien world of Pandora, his films are events. He obsesses over them for years, even decades. February 4 sees the release of SANCTUM, executive produced by Cameron, as using the revolutionary underwater cameras and 3D technology to tell an unbearably tense tale of cave divers in peril. To mark its release, we look down the man’s career to date.
Piranha 2: The Spawning
Like other cinematic legends such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron was given his first work in the industry by notorious B-Movie producer Roger Corman. From there Cameron was hired to do the effects on this cheapo sequel, but was promoted to direction when the original director quit. Cameron had a torrid time dealing with the non-English Speaking Italian crew and was locked out of the editing room, and has since all but disowned the film.
The film that launched not only the Cameron but also star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was originally considered for the hero Kyle Reece, with OJ Simpson as the robot assassin from the future, but as soon as Cameron met with him he realised that he would be much more effective as the bad guy. Made on a modest budget, the film was a break-through success and went on to be become a multi-media franchise extending to comic books, video games, television and theme park rides.
After the success of The Terminator, Cameron was signed up to direct the sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror Alien. Instead of just re-hashing the orginial, Cameron took Scott’s claustrophobic thriller and built it into a epic, explosive war movie in space. The production was reportedly a tense , ill-tempered experence, as the the Pinewood Studios crew were suspicious of the cocky young upstart director, especially since Terminator was yet to be released in the UK.
Cameron’s first foray under the waves is considered a lesser entry in his canon nowadays but is still a cracking adventure none the less. The tale of a diving team who discover an alien species whilst seraching for a sunken submarine, the film features Cameron’s first use of computer generated special effects, showing his dedication to pushing forward the technology of filmmaking to previously unimagined places.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Cameron had originally envisioned a Terminator made of liquid metal when making the 1984 original, and whilst making The Abyss he realised that advances in CGI technology could made it possible. Taking the same approach as Cameron had on Aliens, building an epic sequel from a lean prescusor, the film is generally considered to be one of the best action blockbusters Hollywood has ever produced.
A loose remake of French comedy La Totale!, True Lies saw Schwarzenegger re-team with Cameron as an international super-spy who keeps his profession a secret from his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Eliza Dushku). It’s really the only time Cameron has properly attempted comedy, and the domestic scenes boast some hilarious interplay between Curtis and Arnie. The Harrier jet based finale doesn’t disapoint in the action stakes either.
Does it really need an introduction? The first film to make over a billion dollars, the love story between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio on the ill-fated ocean liner became a cultural phenomenon, wth people returning time and time again to see it in the cinema, and turning the leads into superstars. Just don’t mention Celine Dion.
Ghosts of the Abyss/ Aliens From the Deep
In the 13 years between Titanic and Avatar, Cameron kept himself busy producing these 3D IMAX documentaries on the wrecks of the Titanic and aquatic life respectively. By no means mere travelogues, these films saw him experiementing with underwater cameras and three dimensions which would be vital for his later work. They also stand up on their own as absorbing documentaries on fascinating subjects.
Expectations were high when James Cameron unveiled his first proper film for over a decade. While cynics may crack smurf jokes, it’s impossible to deny the film is a fantastic achievement and a massive step forward in filmmaking. Cameron manages to create the real, living, breathing world of Pandora from scratch, seemlessly intergating live action and CGI, whilst weaving a suitably spellbinding if predicatable tale of warfare, rebellion and sacrifice.
Using the revolutionary underwater cameras from his documentaries and the stunning 3D from technology from Avatar, Cameron executive produces this nail-biting thriller about divers who are trapped in undiscovered underwater cave system. Cameron was very hands on in the production, and the film bears many of his hallmarks. The Australian locations look as epic as anything on Pan dora, and the Cameron/Pace Fusion 3D Camera System, designed to operate in extreme environments, capture the claustrophobia of the caves and will live you gasping for air.
Sanctum is released on 4 February 2011.
Sanctum - Trailer