The New Yorker took the slow boat to Australia, and I just got the chance to read its profile on James Cameron from the October issue in hard copy. Here’s the online version: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_goodyear
As everyone knows, it is more than a decade since Cameron’s last movie and if you don’t believe me you can compare photos from his past two films:
The man is getting old, and I reckon he’s getting mellower too. Once upon a time, to be in a Cameron film was to spend months in a pitch black tank of water or sleeping on your feet in between takes on a tilted replica ship, but now you just don a black suit fitted with all sorts of gizmos, hook yourself up to a trapeze and get it on in a nice warm studio.
Nevertheless, Cameron is still very combative. As the New Yorker article points out, he seems to revel in having people hate him so that he can shove it up them when he succeeds. Is it too cynical to suggest that that’s ultimately why he goes for twee storylines now? The special effects and the sappy endings make vast masses of humanity happy while simultaneously infuriating film critics and those of us who think that Aliens and Terminator are among the finest sci-fi films ever made.
Of course we know that the reality was a little more conventional: Cameron was setting out to do things on celluloid that no one had ever done before. Storyline be damned. The other thing that he wanted to do, as George Lucas points out, was to create his own universe. The greatest ever fictional universe was created by JRR Tolkien (not George Lucas, as Lucas immodestly implies), and so Cameron copied Tolkien’s playbook and created (or had created for him) a whole language for the Na’vi. He also created beings seemingly very different from us: they were in tune with nature, had tails and could control animals with their minds. And yet there is something derivative about these massive blue people. Almost all of the main Na’vi characters were portrayed by black or Native American actors. Seeing as these humanoid characters were inevitably going to have similarities with humans (they are, of course, played by humans), it is interesting that Cameron did conceive of an “uncivilised” race as one with a more white sensibility. Now that would have shown some originality. Instead he just made them all left handed. Perhaps, though, Cameron felt that – to make sure that we got his anti-colonialism message loud and clear – he needed to make all the managers and leaders white men and all the natives non-white. Just like the old days.
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