Monday, April 19, 2010

Four hallmarks of James Cameron movies

Alongside the action and record-setting box office numbers that typically accompany a James Cameron movie can be found some consistent themes and motifs. Here are just a few.

Relentless Soldiers
Colonel Miles Quaritch (Avatar), Lt. Coffey (The Abyss), T-800 (The Terminator), and Spicer Lovejoy (Titanic): These guys just don't quit. No matter what happens, they stay focused on the mission, only stopping when they are finally killed or destroyed. While they often fill the role of "the bad guy," they can also be seen as very capable and dedicated. They are all professional and unemotional, unswayed by factors that influence the films' protagonists, but not essentially evil. If they didn't fall on the opposite side of the movie's sympathies, these guys would be heroes.

Evil Corporations
Corporations are the ultimate evil entity in several of Cameron's movies, pursuing higher profit at the expense of human lives. Take, for example:
  • the RDA from Avatar, which destroys a people's homeland in order to mine a valuable mineral,
  • Weyland-Yutani from Aliens, which sacrifices the crew of the starship Sulaco in order to capture the ultimate bio-weapon,
  • Cyberdyne Systems from Terminator 2, caught in the blind pursuit of a dangerous technology that ultimately spells doom for humanity,
  • and the White Star Line from Titanic, which forgoes safety equipment and protocol in favor of luxury and prestige.
Female Heroes
Ellen Ripley (Aliens) and Sarah Connor (Terminator 2) top this list, though Lindsey Brigman (The Abyss), Grace Augustine (Avatar), and Neytiri (Avatar) can also be counted among female characters who are often tactically smarter, cooler under pressure, and more effective at saving lives than their male counterparts.

Advanced Technology
Certainly Cameron's movies are made with groundbreaking technology, but they are also about technology. The plots of The Abyss, Avatar, Titanic, and Terminator 2 are all driven by a breakthrough piece of technology — the underwater drilling rig, the avatars, the world's biggest passenger ship, and time-travelling cybernetic assassins. Each time we are shown a fantastic vision of technology's power — but we are also shown that in the wrong hands, it all goes south.

James Cameron photo used with the permission described here.


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