1/12/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: McFarland. 229 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP36.50 (UK), $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-6279-7).
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com
As much as writer/director James Cameron is revered, he’s only actually directed seven films, five of which are in our genre. Hardly prolific compared to other directors. This book, ‘The Films Of James Cameron’ has a look at various aspects of them all.
Some I learnt from the introduction is that Cameron has several patents from the underwater equipment used in ‘The Abyss’. I wish more details had been given other than the nature of the helmets so you can see who is underwater. If nothing else, it impresses more on his background that he brings to his films. A later chapter points out Cameron’s school history and his hunger for knowledge across a wide range of subjects, long before he got into film. Maybe that’s a good indicator for any potential director that the more you’ve done, the more it can affect how they direct a film.
I’m less sure about Cameron’s political acumen across his films as explained by the editors/writers Matthew Wilhelm Kapll and Stephen McVeigh in their own chapter. That’s largely not because he hasn’t taken element of conflicts but with a two year time frame, you would have to be very lucky if something remained topical. The reason why some themes remain pertinent and last over the generations and indeed in many films is that it can be applied to any conflict that is going on at the time. I tend to think that there has to be some caution in reading too much into such things without some comparison to other films’ longevity.
The chapter by Dean Conrad looking at the roles of the leading ladies from Cameron’s films lays emphasis on their metamorphosis from one type to another. Although I see nothing new in this, it is a stable of prose fiction after all, Cameron did advance this order in his films. Saying that, the chapter is insightful in how it progresses across Cameron’s films and tends to suggest he likes strong woman.
I do think Roger Kaufman's piece on the lack or hint of gay issues in Cameron's films is a little out of place to what is pertinent here. It would have been interesting to have seen what he had to say about 'Terminator III' considering where the choice of clothes came from. If anything, sexual preference is an irrelevance to the plots and if used, would have been a distraction.
The last few chapters focus more on ‘Avatar’ and neatly, unfortunately, side-steps the fact how different the issues are raised between the cinema and the DVD director’s cuts on his films which should have deserved more attention after just mentioning it.
One thing the editors get a little wrong in their conclusions is that Harlan Ellison didn’t sue over just one of his ‘Outer Limits’ stories being used but two of them, ‘Soldier’ and ‘Demon With A Glass Home’. Despite comments on the Net, you can see elements from both stories in ‘The Terminator’.
The side notes at the end of each chapter are extensive but for the most part can be ignored as rarely do they carry any extra pertinent info and mostly used for book references.
Despite criticisms, there are some insights in this book. I do think on occasion that they could have focused more on the issues Cameron wanted to emphasise than their own issues but the examination of how he depicts his leading ladies is worth looking at.
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