If you think about it – the concept of a sequel is quite creatively bankrupt. You get a half-decent movie which makes a bit of change and the bean counters want to go back to the well at the earliest opportunity. They’ll spend twice the money on something that’ll make half as much financially and critically. It’s money for old rope.
So how does a complete nutcase like James Cameron come along and make two of the greatest sequels of all time? And not just great sequels – two utter standouts in his filmography and generation-defining masterpieces in their own right?
Cameron started out his career with The Terminator. The movie that made Arnold Schwarzenegger the star he is today. We all know it now – but at the time it was a scrappy little low-budget exploitation sci-fi thriller. The little movie that could.
He would then be offered the sequel to Alien. I’d imagine a lot of young directors would be intimidated by that – but not our boy Jim. He didn’t just curl off Alien 2, wipe it onto a tissue and release it in cinemas. No. He did a crazy thing that no one really seems to want to do today.
HE ACTUALLY MADE A FUCKING REAL MOVIE.
And he turned Ripley into a strong female character in an age where the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone were having dick-measuring contests down at your local multiplex. He would also further solidify his working relationship with Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton – making Hicks and Hudson real and believable when any lesser director would turn them into one-liner spouting grunts.
Then there’s Lance Henriksen as Bishop. A character that proves Cameron knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t try to be sly and ironic about the genre he’s working in. This is a man who embraces science fiction in it’s purest form.
Bishop is Cameron’s nod to Asimov. And the story is his nod to Heinlein. It doesn’t matter how big your gun is – if the bugs have taken root then you’re fucked no matter how good an aim you are.
Sigourney Weaver is one of the few actresses out there to be nominated for an Academy Award for a role in a genre film. She didn’t win – but the nomination is what’s important here. Modern-day filmmakers really need to take note.
There was no woke agenda for Cameron to bow down too. There were no boxes to be ticked, no focus groups to please. Cameron did this because it was right for the story. This is not some parable about the little woman that who made it in the world of the big bad man.
No. She was a fierce warrior. On a mission of destroying old demons (figuratively AND literally you could say) and embracing a maternal instinct to protect an innocent child. That’s her goal, that’s what she gives a shit about.
So next time some romantic comedy is released all about a woman who must prove herself to all the big, bad mean men around her? And everyone is going on about how “progressive” and “modern” it is? FUCK THAT.
Watch Aliens. Cameron makes the point by showing us that when the shit hits the fan it doesn’t fucking matter. If women heroes ARE truly marginalised in films then it’s movies like this that are successful in addressing that balance. Not some piece of shit starring Matthew McConnaughy and Kate Hudson.
After The Abyss, Carolco hired Cameron to make his next sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which I think arguably is his best movie. Again – he doesn’t churn out the same shit again. Like I said before The Terminator is a tight, lean little thriller.
But T2 is a sprawling sci-fi epic. It’s obviously an iconic film now that is easy to take for granted – but turning a T-800 into the movie’s hero was quite a bold move! Not even Schwarzenegger was convinced that Cameron could make it work!
But make it work he did. First, he used cutting edge FX technology to create an even MORE dastardly villain in the T-1000. A bad guy who’s scarier because it’s a bit more difficult to see him coming. He can kill you wearing the face of your wife, your friend… your PARENT.
With this movie – Cameron picks up themes he left behind in Aliens.
A kid in danger – with a fierce mother (or mother figure) whose only motivation is to protect. A mission to prevent an oncoming disaster – and a cybernetic supporting or main character who learns the meaning of sacrifice and virtue in order to become something close to human.
Proof that humanity does overcome technology. Proof that human ingenuity can enable us to overthrow any problem thrown at us by a faceless machine – or other unsympathetic enemies.
And whilst Linda Hamilton wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her role in T2 she sure deserved it.
Conner and Ripley are two peas in a pod. Characters whose past experiences have made them stronger, formidable – and pretty handy with a gun.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see these kinds of sequels again. It seems that today’s audiences don’t want something that’ll progress a story further. Just want the same thing repeatedly which is a damn shame.
Will Cameron do it again with Avatar 2? Who knows?
As it stands though – this man has written and directed two of the most iconic follow-ups in the history of modern movies.
Plus – there are lots of explodey bits too and that’s always good!