Earlier today you caught some rather hypocritical gems from James Cameron, who was doing the press rounds prior to Avatar: Special Edition arriving in theaters this past weekend. First, his opinion that DVDs are wasteful was balanced with Avatar seeing 3 different DVD releases in the course of a year. But that happens all the time in Hollywood, and is a decision that stretches beyond Cameron's control. (Though one would hope that he'd at least fight the idea.) But then there was another goodie. Though he told Vanity Fair that "I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus," he went on to not only chastise Piranha 3D, but say that it's "exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3D."

Cameron continued:
It just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3D horror films from the '70s and '80s, like Friday the 13th 3D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that's not what's happening now with 3-D. It is a renaissance -- right now the biggest and the best films are being made in 3-D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3-D. Disney's biggest film of the year -- Tron: Legacy -- is coming out in 3-D. So it's a whole new ballgame.
This from the man who, in the same interview, said: "People just get a little bit too full of themselves."
Let's backtrack. Last year, the record-breaking Avatar hit. It was a wild success that took on many fans, though just as many seemed dissatisfied beyond the impressive visuals, likening it to a new FernGully rather than an original feature. It was, in no way, an original story. Rather, as James Cameron waited for technology to catch up with his visual mind's eye, he took many cinematic mainstays about primitive cultures, made sure there was a heavy dose of environmentalism, and Cameronized it with hair-braid camaraderie and nine-lives foes. It's classic Cameron entertainment -- light on the story and big on the visuals. When I pondered the idea that films like Avatar help end the art of storytelling, even many of the film's fans didn't think much of the cliches, the story, or the dialogue. The film fits a niche where fans are willing to forgive certain weaknesses for the story, or rather visuals, they want to see.

The same can be said for Piranha 3D. It knew what it wanted to be, and it saw an opportunity to use improving technology to re-frame our ideas about 3D pulp fare. It hit, it entertained, and it even got a number of really solid reviews. Yes, it sure does remind an audience about old-school third-dimensional fare, but the masses weren't coming out of the movie and ruing 3D. They loved it, right down to Jerry O'Connell's package becoming the fishies' gourmet dinner.

There's no question about it. Cameron is full of himself to think that 3D is in a renaissance and that films like Piranha 3D taint his precious three dimensions. If that attitude is cool, we might as well strike Avatar from the books too, since it eschews serious storytelling and cinema for an effects-heavy affair. Holy elitism, Batman! The fact that Cameron is desperate to have 3D be reputable and respectable, and fears any link to the old-school red-frame/blue-frame experience, isn't an excuse. Nor is the fact that he was fired from Piranha 2, which makes his comments reek of still-bruised ego.

Pushing aside the argument of how good or crappy Avatar is, consider the rest of the 3D films out there. Does Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland constitute a renaissance? There's Step Up 3D. Then the animated fare of How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, and Despicable Me. Some of these films are good. Some are quite bad. Many have been slapped with the "you don't need to see it in 3D" post-movie reaction. In fact, wasn't this spring overflowing with chatter about 3D conversions like Titans cheapening the medium? But here Cameron is attacking one of the films that is praised for its use of 3D, which our Peter Hall called "The Awakening" after "The Darkness."

3D does have Tron: Legacy on the way, plus Martin Scorsese's upcoming Hugo Cabret, both of which Cameron is quick to mention. But a few notable upcoming titles do not make a renaissance, and certainly don't make an elite, hoity-toity club to which Piranha 3D can't be a part of -- especially when the latter managed to create excellent post-viewing buzz, which can only help soften anti-3D hearts.

But what do you think? Do you agree that horror films that use new technology for old-school fright are cheapening 3D? Is it fair for Cameron to take such a high-brow opinion of the medium? Should he be attacking other films instead?
categories Movies, Cinematical