Style Over Substance and James Cameron

There’s a particular advert currently showing in cinemas that has irked me no end recently. If you’ve been to the cinema recently you may have seen the advert and not thought any more of it, but for me, it represents one of the things that I feel is detrimental to film as an art form.

It features film-maker James Cameron, who is already not one of my favourite people in Hollywood, promoting the new film that he has produced, Alita: Battle Angel, my gripe does not concern this film, although it does look nauseatingly ‘busy’ for me, but rather in HOW he promotes this film.

You see, when pointing out the things the film has to offer, Jim lists: “projection, visual effects and sound” are why people should want to see Alita. Now don’t get me wrong, these things are nice to have, especially visual effects in a film like Alita, but are they what we watch films for? I’d like to hope not.

Had Mr Cameron talked about its ‘worthwhile story, engaging characters and effective direction’ then I wouldn’t have a problem, but apparently these things aren’t important to James, especially if his history is anything to go by.

The reason I believe this is an indictment of the film landscape as a whole is it subtly tell us how filmmakers think cinema-goers are knuckle-dragging Luddites, simply wanting some bright, flickering lights with no subtlety or nuance. Now, don’t get me wrong, not every film has to be a towering, chin-stroking intelligence piece, but don’t treat you audience with such contempt as saying that your film has “incredible sound” and is therefore worth their time.

There are many film lovers who crave films that make them feel something, myself included, films that have a fraction of Alita’s budget but are all the more interesting despite that, granted that’s not what everyone looks for, but that doesn’t mean ‘popcorn’ blockbusters have to be so mindless.

I don’t know how we have ended up here, when the blockbusters are praised if they’re even average, as we expect so much less now, compare the original blockbuster Jaws. It was the summer movie everyone wanted to see, but still had heart and most importantly, brains.

This is a recurring theme with James Cameron in particular, who makes gaudy special-effects laden films and expects us all to lap it up like good little sheep. This is the guy who is currently making FIVE Avatar sequels, despite the first one not being particularly special, it was more special effects show than a film, its story was weak and its characters dull, in the decade since it was released it has been rarely mentioned, until news of its sequels are released, and I expect James Cameron expects us to be excited, but myself I am filled with dread.

It doesn’t just go back to Avatar though, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoy Titanic about as much as a root-canal procedure, but this kind of film and director really gets under my skin, there are countless film-makers with fresh ideas who would sell their grandmother for half a chance to make their vision a reality, and they are lost in a sea of samey, brainless popcorn films, which carry next to no risk as they know they’ll at least make their budget back if not more, but just a few flops and the house of cards comes tumbling down and they’re revealed as the court jesters they always have been.

Now, I don’t want anyone to think this will affect my view of Alita, to be honest, I wasn’t particularly engrossed by the concept to begin with, I will see it, and I’ll give it the same unbiased chance as I give everything, it’s important to see everything in context, I assume everything will be bad, unless it can prove otherwise, that way I am not disappointed, but I will always be wary of James Cameron, and his obsession with style over substance.

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