James Cameron is one of Hollywood’s biggest name directors. The Terminator, True Lies, Titanic, Aliens, The Abyss… All box office-busting goliaths that every cinema-goer knows.
But outside of those big hitters, there are other James Cameron projects that have gone under the radar, shall we say...
(Co-writer and co-director)
Long before James Cameron started messing about with multi-million dollar budgets and cutting-edge CGI, he wrote and directed this modest little short about a couple travelling on a giant sentient starship searching for a planet to live on.
Only 12 minutes long and obviously produced on a pocket money budget, there are still themes, like how humans and technology co-exist, that Cameron would develop in his later films.
Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
1978’s Piranha was one of the better exploitation flicks, as well as one of the most successful, released from the Roger Corman stable (Corman was a filmmaker notorious for producing quick, cheap and mostly rubbish ripoff movies), and plans were swiftly set up for a sequel.
Cameron was, at the time, working in the special effects department on Piranha II but found himself promoted to director after the sequel’s first director, Miller Drake, was sacked.
But clashes with the movie’s producers meant that Piranha II wasn’t quite the feature film debut Cameron might have wished for. Despite him calling it "the finest flying killer fish horror/comedy ever made" it was a box office bomb and currently holds a miserable 7% rating on reviews website Rotten Tomatoes.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
James Cameron got the gig of penning the follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s uber-violent Vietnam vet movie from his pal David Giler, who’d done uncredited rewrites on the first film.
Unfortunately for Cameron, though, Stallone rewrote his script, jettisoning the character of Rambo’s new sidekick and ramping up the action.
Strange Days (1995)
In 2017, a movie written by James Cameron and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) would be headline news. But Strange Days was, mystifyingly, a flop when it was released in 1995.
Quite why is anyone’s guess as it plays to the strengths of both its creative parents – it’s an engrossing techno-noir thriller directed by Bigelow with a documentary-like urgency.
Ralph Fiennes is the ex-cop-turned-street-hustler who accidentally uncovers a conspiracy in Los Angeles in 1999, with able support from Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis and Tom Sizemore.
Although a box office dud at the time (it grossed only $8m from a $42m budget), its reputation has ballooned in the years since and it’s now regarded as a minor SF classic.
Dark Angel (2000-2002)
(Creator, writer and director)
Co-conceived by Cameron, Dark Angel arrived on TV screens in 2000 to a deafening fanfare. Starring the then-unknown Jessica Alba as a genetically enhanced super-soldier in the near-future, it justified the hype for its first year, winning rave reviews and impressive ratings for the Fox network.
Cameron only directed the show’s final episode, but his influence is all over the series (he kept a beady eye over every element of the production). Sadly, even having James Cameron’s name in the credits wasn’t enough to save Dark Angel's falling ratings during its second year and it was axed in 2002. He hasn’t been near another television show since.
Expedition: Bismarck (2002)
Cameron’s first foray into documentary filmmaking follows an underwater expedition to the German battleship Bismarck, complete with digital reconstructions of the events that led up to the ship's sinking during World War II.
As a plus for Cameron nuts, it's narrated by none other than Lance Henriksen, who of course played Bishop the android in Aliens.
Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
Cameron’s most famous feature documentary riffs on his most famous film, as the director and his crew, including actor Bill Paxton, film themselves travelling to the wreckage of the Titanic.
Using two small, purpose-built remotely operated vehicles, nicknamed Jake and Elwood, the movie takes us inside the famous ship revealing details unseen since 1912.
Alita: Battle Angel (2018)
(Producer and writer)
A creative hook-up between Cameron (as producer and writer) and Sin City director Robert Rodriguez Alita: Battle Angel is a manga-inspired sci-fi epic set in a post-apocalyptic future and focuses on a cyborg who has lost all of her memories and her attempts to patch together her past. American Horror Story’s Rosa Salazar is the titular Alita, with Christoph Waltz as the scientist who acts as her caretaker.
Are you looking forward to not only James Cameron’s Avatar sequels but also his return to the Terminator franchise? Let us know @Cineworld.