Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ask Me a (Hero Complex) Question: The Terminator w/ James Cameron

This weekend marks the Los Angeles Times' 5th annual Hero Complex Film Festival, 3 days of genre films and special guests.  In years past I've seen Robocop w/ Peter Weller, Serenity w/ Nathan Fillion, Dick Tracy w/ Warren Beatty and The Mist w/ Frank Darabont and Thomas Jane among others.  I must have missed Year One...Taking place again at the Hollywood Chinese Theatre, this year is James Cameron centric with a double bill of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day tonight followed by Ridley Scott's Alien and Cameron's Aliens tomorrow with star Sigourney Weaver in attendance.  Tonight's Terminator double bill with Cameron appearing for Q&A sold out quick in spite of the ticket price increase to accommodate two double features.  For the fan willing to shell out extra, two rows of couches were added to the front of the theater for an up close look at special guests.

Like last years genre festivities at Cape Town and Hero Complex, TNT's Falling Skies sponsored the event with posters, patches and promos on display.  After a quick introduction, it was time for 1984's The Terminator.  If you're keeping track, this is the 5th time I've seen it on the big screen and arguably the most pristine showcase, no doubt at Cameron's request.  I'm guessing this is a cleaned up Digital Print as the image was gorgeous and the sound was terrific letting me notice things I never had in a theater or at home (blue and red police like lights on the Hunter-Killers, Henriksen's cop with leaked ink on his shirt pocket?!).  If you've never seen The Terminator but still read this then stop what you're doing and get yourself a copy, watch it, lock it in a box for a week then watch it again and repeat until you bow down to the gritty, B-Movie, Tech-Noir masterpiece that is James Cameron's first full directing effort.  Real quick: The Terminator is the story of a seemingly unstoppable cyborg sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman whose son will have tremendous future influence against computer defense network Skynet.  Lone soldier Kyle Reese is sent back to protect Sarah from the machine and hopefully save humanity in the process.  It was a bit of a subdued crowed with no applause for Arnold's title card but we got it going for Biehn, reminding the audience that we're all here to watch a 30 year old movie we love, so let's have some fun and make a great atmosphere full of energy and nostalgia, shall we?

Watching it again, the film's unrelenting pace was in full effect with the mystery of who The Terminator aka the T-800 aka Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kyle Reese aka The Father of the Future aka Michael Biehn really are and their implications on the life and future of Sarah Connor aka Linda Hamilton.  Foot chases, shootouts, car chases, crashes and explosions on the dirty streets of Los Angeles to Brad Fidel's pulsing, powerful crescendo filled soundtrack had the hairs on the back of my neck tingling.  Of course being one of my favorite movies, I had a smile on my face for most of the duration as there's just so much to love and remember in this movie from Arnold and Biehn's naked entries into our time, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson as hilariously outfitted punks to the 80's hairdos, phenomenal post-apocalyptic Future War action sequences, Nike Vandals product placement, Rick Rossovich's pervy-funny boyfriend, Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield's quirky cops, shotgun blasting, UZI spraying club shootout, doomed yet beautiful love story and plastique for dinner!

Post film, writer and director James Cameron took the stage for a smooth 45 minute Q&A with time for questions from the audience.  Strangely, the discussion topics were generally broad with much of Cameron's time devoted to talking about technology and his 3 Avatar sequels even though he said he was there to talk about Terminator.

- Arnold was submitted for Reese, Cameron went to lunch with The Oak intending not to like him but found him charming and intelligent and saw him as The Terminator
- Cameron had just watched Terminator and it's sequel recently with his 10 year old son to head off the boy seeing the R rated affairs without his consent
- Had no idea Linda Hamilton would be able to make the change, physically and dramatically, for the character of Sarah Conner in the sequel which finds her hardened by life and preparation for war

- Movie was shot for $6.5 million, proudly in the style of Roger Corman's low budget features using every trick in the book and Cameron thinks it looks like a movie with twice the budget
- Special effects budget for the first film was a slim $1 million bucks for all make up, opticals etc
- Told his story and for a brief moment in the 90's contemplated bringing Terminator to Fox but had moved on after Titanic
- Approached Aliens as a fan of Alien, carrying on what Ridley Scott set up and Ripley as lone survivor versus killing her off and doing his own version.  Loves David Fincher but didn't like that Alien3 killed off majority of characters built up in Aliens.  Hicks lives!
- New producers approached him but says his involvement is uncredited, behind the curtain stuff, just giving his thoughts on what could be and how Arnold's character can evolve
- Loved Spider-Man as a kid and wrote a long script-ment but Carolco went bankrupt and he didn't pursue the rights
- Says the L.A. Times erroneously stated that The Abyss was most expensive film ever made but his next film, T2, was.
- Uncharted waters on Abyss and T2 as the glimmering, water tentacle f/x were cutting edge using an optical printer on Abyss then taken further on T2 for the T-1000's liquid metal man's 42 digital shots
- Wouldn't re-release Terminator in 3D but has considered Judgement Day for conversion
- Thinks technology has already taken over and cites the overabundance of people looking at their phones at any given time as an example
- Personally would like to see a niche movie watching experience utilizing Virtual Reality that lets the viewer decide how the movie plays out
- Writing 3 Avatar sequels with 3 separate co-writers, sat down for a year and pumped out 1500 pages of notes to build the story and world
- Avatar Land at Disney World is going to be something special, complete with floating mountains and animatronic figures with 60 some points of articulation where many have 12 today
- Wrote Sarah Connor as an Everywoman who is tapped on the shoulder and faced with a great task
- Stripped away Connor's support system; friends, cops, Reese, ability to run, to make her strong
- For sequel, gave Arnold script on plane to Cannes film festival, at breakfast Arnold couldn't believe his Terminator character didn't kill anyone but he trusted Cameron and went along

Cameron was eloquent, funny, informative and casually brilliant throughout.  Like I said, it was a bit of a general conversation with technology and Avatar being primary topics and I could have used more anecdotes about the films themselves or just stories of working with Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton.  Because let's face it, Biehn, Henriksen and Paxton are fucking awesome and a big part of that reason is because of Cameron using them multiple times in his films.  Of course much more was discussed but hey, you had to be there.  Which won't be totally true since I'm sure a video will hit the internets soon enough.  Since we just saw Judgement Day, we opted not to stay and while waiting for the elevator, received quite a surprise when the doors opened and Cameron was there with his handlers and security.  Hopefully he saw the shocked expressions on our faces as I wanted to yell "Put Biehn in Avatar 2!"

See ya tomorrow night for more Biehn and Henriksen on the big screen!

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