Category Archives: James Cameron

#3 James Cameron – Terminator 2: Judgement Day

If we were to lose the ability to be emotional, if we were to lose the ability to be angry, to be outraged, we would be robots. And I refuse that.
~ Arundhati Roy

I was reading about how Kubrik, Lucas, Spielberg and Cameron pioneered the cinematic techniques that we now take for granted. And it was motivating beyond an extent. It is so fascinating to know how once what seemed impossible to achieve was made possible, not in theory but in reality. These cinematic geniuses, throughout their career have ventured into some unexplored vistas and built a special place for themselves in the industry.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day(1991) is a sequel to The Terminator (1984), which introduces us to the young John Connor, yet unsure of his destiny. Sarah Connor, after attempting to bomb the early phases of Skynet gets arrested and held in a mental asylum. John was brought up believing in a future where humans have to fight the machines they once created. In the current scenario, John is confused and chooses to believe the easier way out that his mother is a mentally unstable and his childhood was based on a lie. John lives with his foster parents, but fails to have an emotional connection with anyone.

John Connor of the future reprograms T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger)  and sends it back in time to protect his younger self from T-1000, an advanced poly-alloy cyborg. Now the most interesting fact about the film is that Schwarzenegger plays the protector over here and not the antagonist. People loved Schwarzenegger in The Terminator as a villain. And this bad guy to good guy change was publicized with great efforts. The trailer emphasized this sole point.

The film includes multifarious dimensions to action scenes, including a chase, one-man-army sequences, an against all odds sequence in the end, survival, comeback, melee combat, all in one bundle. There is a giant leap in terms of the use of prosthetics, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and natural human motion. If you compare the iconic mechanical face and red eye scene in the first part and this one, you will realize why exactly this film was a breathtaking escalation in visual effects. Needless to say, the film received 6 Academy Awards including Visual Effects, Make-up, Cinematography and Editing.

Another interesting aspects about movies in the science fiction era such as Alien (1979), Back to the Future Trilogy (1985 – 1991) and the Terminator series, is Cinematic liberty. These films pioneered visual effects, but unavailability of certain phenomenons did not restrict them from achieving cinematic brilliance. Alien has very few glimpses of the alien, the alien planet and outer space itself. The first Terminator has the Terminator wearing Sunglasses after exposing his cybernetic body underneath his organic cloak. The whole Terminator series assumed and emphasized that no machines can travel through time unless covered with organic material. It is interesting to see how budget changes the plot and makes it what we see on screen.

As I said in my post about Cameron’s Aliens, Cameron brings out the human emotional aspect in each and every film he makes. The very few scenes of interaction between T-800 and the young John leave a deep impact on you. John, teaches the Terminator to be a little more human to have conscience above objectives. And the machine protects John like a father that he never had. Their relationship develops so eloquently that in the end when T-800 states that he must be destroyed to prevent the war, and slowly starts descending towards his termination, I was touched. I was wretched that John is going to lose his father figure yet again. I kept watching the last scene again and again like a kid, like John wanting to see T-800 again…

T-800: I know now why you cry. But that’s something I can never do.

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#2 James Cameron – The Terminator

“Should I tell you about your father? Boy that’s a tough one! Will it affect your decision to send him here, knowing he is your father? A person could go crazy thinking about this.”

~ Sarah Connor (The Terminator)

I was a bit sad that I did not find any poster with Sarah and Kyle in it. I was expecting at least one poster with Sarah’s photo.

I watched Aliens yesterday and I made a comment that considering The Terminator came before Aliens, I did not find the visual effects of Aliens that interesting. I take my words back. Within two years, there was a giant leap in this matter. The visuals of Aliens must have been even tougher, yet they look much more credible and blending into the environment. Of course we need to consider the budget and the production houses that produced these two films, as The Terminator was produced by a relatively small company, there must have been budget restrains.

As a kid I always remember watching the second part on television and I loved watching Schwarzenegger as a good cyborg. When I watched the original Terminator for the first time (about 7 years ago), I wasn’t totally convinced with a soldier from the future fighting a machine. Now as I think about it, it makes so much sense.

Fun facts #1: James Cameron was ready to sell this script for one dollar with one condition that he gets to direct the film. Many leading production houses offered him a good sum but did not agree to his condition. Cameron did not have any commercial film under his name.

Fun fact #2: The terminator originally was supposed to be a character with a regular physic so that it could blend into the crowd. The role was offered to Lance Henriksen first and Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Kyle Reese.

The film belongs to either the science fiction genre or action genre. For me the parts which I actually remember are the small moments which the lead actors share together. Watching the film after about 30 years from its release, the novelty of the visual impact fades out but the powerful few lines are mesmerizing. That is what the writer director has done to the film.

A powerful aspect of the film, which is exposed in the second part is the dawn of the cyborg. How Skynet forms the concept of such a machine which leads to the disaster of mankind. The same mechanical arm detached from the terminator sent back in time, leads to the development of an entire generation of machines. So ultimately, the genesis of the whole series could be, a man willing to go into the past to spend a few hours with his love accepting that doing so would endanger the whole mankind. Are we considering a love story over here? Well, it is one way of looking at it!

Like they say about Citizen Kane, the greatest part of the film was that the film happened. We need to look outside what the film is and what it meant for Cameron and all of us. Aliens, Titanic and Avatar followed. And all of these films were only possible because Cameron believed in The Terminator. The film introduced us to a filmmaker, who contributed immensely towards filmmaking in Hollywood. And in the words, of the genius himself,

Street kid: There is a storm coming

Sarah: I know!

#1 James Cameron – Aliens

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.

~ Jessica Lange

Let’s hope that my honesty is not confused with stupidity. I wanted to watch Ridley Scott’s Alien, which supposedly revolutionized visual effects in film. Call it my luck or misfortune that I ended up watching its sequel first. So I am laughing and crying at m situation at the same time.

The Alien film franchise started with Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), Paul Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator (2004) followed and the latest Prometheus (2012) by Ridley Scott is a prequel to the original Alien. And just the way technology advanced, content suffered.

*Talking about the film Aliens, the film is equipped with an uncomplicated three-act structure. The protagonist, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) confirms with Burke “You’re going out there to destroy them, right? All right, I’m in.” and that marks the second act. Similarly, when Ridley decides to go back and get Newt all alone, is where the climax starts shaping.

I would not talk about the visual effects, considering the film was out in 1986, much after the revolution and two years after Cameron’s The Terminator was released. I did not find them too compelling.

This film can be expressed in a flowchart format excellently. Ripley has two options, whether to accept or abort the offer by Burkes. Ripley has a premonition about the android being a traitor, either she is right or she is wrong. Burkes is going to successfully get the alien specimen through the ICC or not. Numerous conflicts form a thrilling composite.

On a negative note, the film started off with absolutely fabulous editing. The tempo of each sequence teased me with the sight of an alien and ended in an anticlimax, which indeed kept me at the edge of my seat. As soon as their mission begins, till the aliens actually show up, I felt the film was a bit draggy and monotonous.

About halfway across the film, I noticed one factor, which gives the film a great advantage over many others in the same genre. A year ago, when I was studying Cinema as a subject in college, I comprehended that any type of cinema, whether it is a neo-realistic cinema or an expressionist one, needs interesting characters. Interesting characters make cinema, an illusion seem convincing and gripping.

Aliens is equipped with extremely well orchestrated characters. We have damsel in distress, Newt; hero, Ripley; lover, corporal Hicks; Judas, Burkes; virago, Vasquez and most importantly, Ripley’s emotional aspect – Ripley as a mother!

I do not know if the makers thought of it while making it or it is a personal opinion about the film. The aliens breed by impregnating. The parasite uses a human body to produce an alien. The climax is a faceoff between the alien mother and Ripley, both trying to protect their offspring. In which Ripley succeeds.

Whether it is Titanic or the Terminator or in this case, Aliens, Cameron always reaches out to a superficial subject and weaves it excellently with human emotions.

*After watching The Terminator again, I realized that I was wrong in judging the visual effects of the film. Visual effects of Aliens are far more superior than The Terminator. Although I couldn’t help but compare the futuristic earth with the Colony in Aliens. Did you use the same set for both Mr. Cameron?