Say what you will about James Cameron (just don't insult 'True Lies' in my immediate vicinity), but there's no denying that the man has a deep and abiding love for spectacle. Like God playing Kid Pix, Cameron mines and furthers technology in his relentless quest to create vivid cinematic pageants on an inconceivably epic scale, and he does so with a guileless sincerity that flouts the snark of our age. Not only does he refuse to wink at the camera, he's probably inventing a camera that refuses to render winks in the first place. In other words, dude takes his popcorn flicks very seriously, and he gets a bit pissed when you don't.
With that in mind, Cameron doesn't think much of Universal's forthcoming $200 million blockbuster 'Battleship,' which isn't a remake of 'Battleship Potemkin' so much as it's a movie based on a board-game so simple that Elle Fanning could reliably defeat Mike Leigh about 50% of the time (note to Universal: I would happily pay IMAX prices to watch that match-up).
Cameron recently sat down for an interview with the German site Spiegel Online (though our report comes via Movieline), and decided that it was high time he let loose his opinion on Hasbro's ambitious adaptation. He began by pronouncing that "We have a story crisis," and then proceeded to make things a bit more personal: "They want to make the Battleship game into a film... This is pure desperation."
As Cameron's brief rant goes on, it seems that he regards 'Battleship' as a particularly sad case of marque taking precedence over merit. He expounded: "Everyone in Hollywood knows how important it is that a film is a brand before it hit theaters. If a brand has been around, Harry Potter for example, or Spider-Man, you are light years ahead. And there lies the problem. Because unfortunately these franchises are become more ridiculous. Battleship. This degrades the cinema."
It's worth noting (albeit unnecessary to do so) that Cameron recently released a movie called 'Avatar,' an original property which laid waste to just about every modern box office record there is. In that light, it's tempting to read Cameron's comments as an ornery manifestation of his ego, as if he's underscoring the sad depths Hollywood has to plumb for franchises when he can conjure juggernauts directly from his own imagination. On the other hand, Universal is making a movie adapted from a board-game so simple that it can be won without even knowing the back half of the alphabet. And instead of varnishing the tentpole flick with a veneer of gravitas, Universal has seen it fit to populate their cast with pop-star Rihanna and tennis enthusiast / model Brooklyn Decker. Director Peter Berg has proven himself quite capable of creating visceral popcorn experiences, but 'Battleship' is certainly targeting the precise coordinates of our collective cynicism.
As for Cameron -- who has a recent history of disparaging substandard Hollywood fare -- the man has earned the right to speak his mind. His films might be waylaid by rather facile plots, but the effort and passion with which he devotes himself to his craft is beyond reproach. That someone of his esteem is refusing to be complacent is admirable, and it's a breath of fresh air for such an icon to be so unabashedly candid. Of course, at the end of the day it's we as the audience who are collectively endowed with the most powerful voice of all: our wallets. If you don't want a 'Battleship 2: The Quickening,' don't see 'Battleship.'
What do you guys make of all this? Are you happy to hear Cameron voicing his complaints, or would you rather he keep it to himself? Are projects like 'Battleship' actively hurting film culture? Am I the only one who's going to moan about it for the next 18 months and then see it on opening night, anyway?