If I were to ask you what your top ten favorite films of the last 30 years are, chances are high that at least one of them has been directed by James Cameron. Movies like The Terminator (or its sequel, Judgment Day), Aliens, The Abyss, and True Lies all have avid followings and are considered cult-films by many. The real trick is that while Cameron is good at science fiction, he has other strengths as well, including comedy and historical drama. The even more impressive tricks are the technical developments he’s had to make to the movie industry in order to create the films he wants to direct. And let’s not forget that he’s directed the two highest-grossing films of all time which, even after adjusting for inflation, still sit in the top four. This week’s two films will examine James Cameron’s greatest financial successes.
Length: 162 minutes / 2.7 hours
The current holder of the highest-grossing film of all time (at $2.7 billion) has been James Cameron’s dream movie for decades. This is the film he’s wanted to make all these years since he started out with The Terminator. Unfortunately, the special effects technology in 1984 was not advanced enough to bring his vision to the big screen. In fact, even in 1994 when he wrote the first draft of the screenplay, he felt the technology had not caught up to his vision. For years, he bided his time and helped technology advance until he could use it to realize his dream. Even though the advancements in motion capture technology made it so Cameron could create his film, the advancements he brought to 3-D filming technology bolstered that industry into a revival that’s still seeing utilization in films years later.
Created as a mixture of every science fiction idea you could think of, combined with the best adventure stories of explorers in unknown lands, Avatar tells the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine who has signed on with the Resources Development Administration (RDA) to protect the scientists studying the alien world of Pandora. Because the world has a poisonous atmosphere, they must travel in bodies of the native species: the Na’vi. When Jake eventually finds more of this indigenous people, he falls in love with the chief’s daughter while at the same time becoming a full part of their society. Since the RDA’s mission is to extract as many natural resources out of Pandora as possible, an attack is planned against the Na’vi’s home. However, Jake is now switching sides and won’t let the Na’vi surrender their land so easily.
Length: 194 minutes / 3.23 hours
With $2.1 billion to its name, Titanic stood as the highest-grossing movie for a little more than a decade. Of course, as was also the case with the current highest-grossing film, Avatar, Titanic needed a lot of money to make as well as technological advances to recreate the famous sinking of the titular ship. But with a gross as large as $2.1 billion, what’s $200 million worth? And yet, many people had their doubts about this film (which were also seen before Avatar released as well), and were completely unfounded when the numbers started coming in. To think that Cameron started out on shoestring budgets and could create such classics as The Terminator, it comes as no surprise that with more money Cameron could take on the world. When Titanic won both Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, Cameron was definitely “king of the world.”
Titanic is as much about the epic, eponymous disaster as it is about class struggles in the early 20th century. On the maiden voyage of this ship, first-class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is tied up in an engagement that will solve her family’s financial problems. When she attempts to jump overboard, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a third-class, broke artist, convinces her not to jump. However, since Rose’s engagement still stands, her affair with Jack ends up getting him in a bit of trouble. Of course, that trouble pales in comparison to the trouble that ensues when the ship hits an iceberg and starts to sink. Now Jack and Rose must find each other and find their way off the doomed vessel as it sinks into the icy depths of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Since the framing of the film shows Rose as an old woman, we can only wonder if Jack made it to safety as well.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Cameron cash cows
Bacon #: 2 (The Muse / Sharon Stone -> He Said, She Said / Kevin Bacon)