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March 08, 2010

Comments

Niall

I found Mendelsohn's take on Cameron's oeuvre disappointing. Just a couple of points:

The themes of humanity vs. machines, and the transcendance of the human condition, are foundational themes of science fiction. That they appear in Cameron's scifi films, therefore, is not really a comment on Cameron's aesthetic. He is just plundering scifi for its most popular tropes.

There's no way the idea for "Terminator" came to Cameron "in a dream", unless he was dreaming about reading Harlan Ellison's "Demon With a Glass Hand", and Philip K. Dick's "Second Variety". In other words, the stories from which he stole the idea for Terminator (Ellison later won a lawsuit against Cameron on this very point). This has been well known for decades, so it's odd Mendelsohn is unaware of this. The true provenance of Terminator also supports my point about Cameron's themes being taken from the wider concerns of science fiction as such.

Avatar is not based on or a reflection of The Wizard of Oz. As everyone else has seen, it's a remake of Dances With Wolves.

Reducing Cameron's aesthetic to the triumph of the mechanical just doesn't work. Aliens was not about the triumph of the mechanical, but about the triumph of the human over the alien. The movie is based on the contrast between two concepts of motherhood: The nurturing human form, and the parasitic travesty of that love embodied by the aliens. Ripley's whole fixation on Newt in the movie comes from the fact that she knows her own daughter died 60 years before she was rescued from cryo-sleep (a crucial piece of information that was not in the original theatrical release of the movie. You can see the scene in the re-release version).

This theme continues in Avatar, where "the mechanical" is given an entirely negative meaning, where the conflict is precisely between the mechanical and the organic, with the organic being the big winner.

Cameron is not a deep thinker, and his persistent themese are not that complicated or subtle, so it's odd that Mendelsohn got so lost in trying to analyze them and their significance.

WNC

I'm with Mendelsohn in this: Cameron's story's would seem, often, to be about humanity's triumph over the mechanical (Alien, Avatar, Terminator) but the experience of the movie is all about selling us on how cool and superior the mechanical is. In the same way that Cameron believes Titanic to be a "communist" movie about the superior humanity of those in steerage, but the the experience of the movie is all about how cool the big opulent ship is -- and even more so, how really cool the big expensive movie-making machine is, that can recreate this drowned behemoth. In Avatar, I think the movie works slightly better, because the movie is about the triumph of Cameron, again, as visionary film creator, and in that role he is a better mix of the mechanical humans and the digital, web-based world the film purports to be celebrating.

Niall

I think that this argument confuses two very different concepts: "technology" and "the mechanical". They overlap, but are two different things. Avatar capability is definitely technology, but the result isn't something mechanical. This is a distinction that Mendelsohn also seems to ignore.

pandora

There's no way the idea for "Terminator" came to Cameron "in a dream", unless he was dreaming about reading Harlan Ellison's "Demon With a Glass Hand", and Philip K. Dick's "Second Variety". In other words, the stories from which he stole the idea for Terminator [url=http://www.pandorabeadsjewellerymall.com/]pandora[/url](Ellison later won a lawsuit against Cameron on this very point). This has been well known for decades, so it's odd Mendelsohn is unaware of this. The true provenance of Terminator also supports my point about Cameron's themes being taken from the wider concerns of science fiction as such

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

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