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The Directors: James Cameron (1998) – DVD Review

AFI The Directors: James Cameron DVD cover art


Written by: Robert J. Emery
Directed by: Robert J. Emery
Narrated by: Michael McGlone


  • Filmography and award list

Released by: Wellspring
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Unless you’re a huge Cameron fan, avoid it.

Whether you love him or hate him, James Cameron is one of the more popular and profitable directors of the 80’s and 90’s. He was one of the first filmmakers to incorporate CGI into his movies and you have to respect someone who took on the overwhelming task of making Titanic and producing an Oscar winning film. A documentary on his work makes sense. It’s a pity that The Directors: James Cameron lacks any sort of real analysis or criticism. All we get is an hour-long love letter to Cameron’s genius.

[ad#longpost]The documentary follows Cameron’s career from his start with Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and his impressing producers by making mealworms wiggle on cue. Then we follow to his directorial debut, Piranha 2, which he worked on for only eight days. Seeing how bad that experience was, Cameron took the bull by the horns and wrote, produced, and directed The Terminator. After its cult success, Cameron builds on his reputation by making technically ambitious, effects-heavy blockbusters such as Aliens and True Lies. Stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Leonardo DiCaprio all chime in on how wonderful Cameron is as a director. We get to see many clips from his movies, all seven of them. Cameron talks about getting Schwarzenegger to be the Terminator, working in the underwater sound stage of The Abyss, and believing in Titanic so much he gave up his salary and was willing to give up his share of the profits to get it made.

While all this is nice, there’s no depth to this piece. There’s no discussion about how he tries to balance the special effects with his actors’ performances. There’s no insight into why he shoots for one angle and not another. There’s no analysis of how his directorial style has changed from The Terminator to Titanic. One interesting fact the documentary doesn’t mention is that Cameron wrote or was part of the writing team for each of his movies. Would he consider directing a movie where he wasn’t involved in the script? We don’t know, the documentary never brings it up. All we get is Cameron spinning some anecdotes and his stars singing his praises.

The Directors: James Cameron

The DVD extra features are anemic. The Awards list only has the awards he won for Titanic, even though his other movies won Oscars, albeit for technical achievement. And the filmography is wrong. The release dates for The Terminator and Aliens are reversed. Are these people too cheap to have Quality Control? I’m sure there are better sources on Cameron as a filmmaker, so find them and avoid The Directors: James Cameron.

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