Highlights from the James Cameron AMA – Terminator, Avatar sequels and Alien 5

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You’ve got to love Reddit. The front page of the internet has a regular feature where big names in industry, entertainment and everything else regularly host Ask Me Anything panels, an event where the fans get to ask a ton of questions. Avatar director James Cameron was the hot topic for the latest AMA, where he spoke about Avatar, Terminator, Captain America and a whole lot more. Here are just a few of those highlights.

James Cameron (1)

So what’s happening with Avatar 2-4? According to Cameron, pre-production is sailing smoothly so far on the massive project:

The second, third and fourth films all go into production simultaneously. They’re essentially all in preproduction now, because we are designing creatures, settings, and characters that span all three films. And we should be finished with all three scripts within the next, I would say, six weeks.

When asked why he was focussing on a ton more Avatar instead of the long-in-development Battle Angel Alita project, Cameron said that it was due to the success of the first film, which had an environmental message, that he was working on the sequels:

My intention when I made Avatar was to do Battle Angel next. However, the positive feedback for Avatar and the support of the message of Avatar, encouraged me to do more of those films.

For me, the success was a factor because I was encouraged by the fact that an environmental film, or a film about nature, could be successful. It’s certainly not just about money. I’m considering success to mean the measure of the ability of the film to communicate. Every director wants their film to communicate. The biggest factor, however, is the drive to continue developing the world– more characters, more creatures with unfettered creativity.

Looking back at the first Avatar film, Cameron reckons that editing the flick together was far more challenging than filming it:

When we were making Avatar, when we started it, we naturally assumed it would be somewhat successful because it had the elements people like, you know, fantastic environments and good characters and a love story. But then as we got deeper into the production, and it became one of the highest costing films of all time, there was genuine concern that it would never break even, that it would never make money. And we had a very difficult post production, because the film was too long and I wound up editing the film for over a year, and we took out about 45 minutes of film. And I think at the moment we released the film, we still believed it was too long. Once it came out, it was clear the film for most viewers was too short, they wanted more of that world.

Cameron directed several other movies before he set off for Pandora. Such as the sequel Aliens, which added more action to the Xenomorphic franchise. The origin of that species finally got a prequel a few years back in Prometheus, which while technically sound, was flawed in several areas in the scripting and logic department. Despite all that though, Cameron enjoyed the movie:

Interesting. I thought it was an interesting film. I thought it was thought provoking and beautifully, visually mounted, but at the end of the day it didn’t add up logically. But I enjoyed it, and I’m glad it was made. I liked it better than the previous two Alien sequels.

Ridley Scott and Cameron almost collaborated together to make a fifth Alien movie years ago, but that project was scuppered in favour of Aliens vs Predators:

[Fox and I] never talked about Alien 3. I don’t remember the timing exactly, but I might have been making The Abyss at that time, also for Fox. What came up was the idea of doing Alien 5, and at one point I pitched that I would write it and produce it, and Ridley would direct it, and we had lunch talking about this, and we were in violent agreement, then nothing happened. What happened was Fox went ahead with Aliens vs. Predator, and I said “I really don’t recommend that, you’ll ruin the franchise, it’s like Universal doing Dracula versus the Werewolf,” and then I lost interest in doing an Alien film. But Prometheus is seen as the A-level Alien, as opposed to rather, the derivative. I don’t think I have anything to offer on the Prometheus sequels, that’s Ridley’s, I think I’ll stick to the Avatar universe.

Alien isn’t the only franchise that Cameron worked on, as his terminator baby has all grown up and is now heading back into reboot territory. Alan Taylor will direct Terminator Genesis, which Cameron shared his thoughts on:

James Cameron (2)

Well, I have to be objective, or as objective as possible about that. I’m not big fans of the films, I think that the big ideas of the first movies – I didn’t make the second film until I had an idea as big as the first film, and it had to do with the moral complexity of the story, and asking the audience by the end of the film to cry for a Terminator. I don’t think that the 3rd or 4th film lived up to that potential. Sarah Connor Chronicles I never really watched much of it, so I never gave it a chance I get to get hooked, like you have to with a TV series. I’m hopeful that the new films, which are being made right now as a reboot, but still involving Arnold [Schwarzenegger], will be good. From what I’ve seen from afar, it looks like they will be quite good.

So which movies did Cameron watch and enjoy lately? Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Gravity are two of his top 2013/2014 picks so far:

This year, 2014, I haven’t seen that much that inspired me yet. My favorite film of last year, hands down, was Gravity, and I was hoping it would win best picture, but certainly happy that my friend Alfonso Cuaron won best director. I did think that this new Captain America was an interesting film for its genre, in that it tackled this idea of digital surveillance and the kind of dark side of our hyperconnected society.

As for crafting actual movies, Cameron is staying in tune with the latest advancements in video that Hollywood has to offer:

48 fps to me is not a format, it’s a tool, like music it’s good to use sparingly and in the right spot. I believe all movies should be made in 3D, forever, but the projection needs to be better, and brighter. I want people to see in the movie theaters what I am seeing in my perfectly calibrated screening room, and people aren’t seeing that. Larger formats. I’d love to see screens get bigger. In terms of storytelling, I’d like to see Hollywood embrace the caliber of writing in feature films that we’re currently seeing in the series on television – more emphasis on character, and less on explosions and pyrotechnics. And I’m talking the big tentpole movies, I think they’re obnoxiously loud and fast… Not that I don’t like loud fast scenes, I just don’t like whole movies that are that way!

Cameron even addressed his recent “appearance” on South Park:

James Cameron (1)

It’s funny. It’s like they were actually on the expedition, except I didn’t actually make the crew sing a song about me.

Last Updated: April 14, 2014

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