A brief summary of the little tiff between James Cameron and Piranha 3-D, for those not following along: In an interview with Vanity Fair about the re-release of Avatar, Cameron is asked whether he’s nostalgic about his two and a half weeks back in 1981 directing Piranha II: The Spawning (before exec producer Ovidio Assonitis fired him and took over), with the current release of Piranha 3-D. He is not.
I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th 3-D. 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.
For someone completely obsessed with the practice, Cameron’s assessment of 3-D’s place in the film biz is puzzlingly off the mark. 3-D isn’t a practice that shows up based on where in its lifespan a franchise or creative team happens to be, but a practice that spreads whenever the technology makes a new leap, and/or (usually a causal and then) the marketplace indicates a possibly successful trend. This is why there are more 3-D films released in 1953 than in the 1960s and 1970s combined. The Friday the 13th series, as easy a target as it may be, was years from the bottom of the barrel creatively with its 3rd/3-D installment, and nowhere near the end of its financial lifespan. So was it coincidental that it came out in the 1982-1983 period alongside Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D? Was Parasite released in 3-D because it was a franchise at the end of its lifespan, because Charles Band was at the end of his career (it was his third film; he’s made ten times that many since), or because it seemed like a plausible moneymaking option in 1982? Piranha is 3-D for precisely the same reason.
After Cameron talked to Vanity Fair, Piranha producer Mark Canton fired back in Movieline.
Jim, are you kidding or what? First of all, let’s start by you accepting the fact that you were the original director of Piranha 2 and you were fired. Shame on you for thinking that genre movies and the real maestros like Roger Corman and his collaborators are any less auteur or impactful in the history of cinema than you. Martin Scorsese made Boxcar Bertha at the beginning of his career. And Francis Ford Coppola made Dementia 13 back in 1963. And those are just a few examples of the talented and successful filmmakers whose roots are in genre films. Who are you to impugn any genre film or its creators?
Canton goes on for some 1200 more words, but that about covers the gist, even if it’s a little low about Piranha II, and maybe a little off the mark in this spot. I don’t think Cameron’s necessarily saying Aja’s a bad filmmaker, for example, or that he won’t go on to better things, only that he doesn’t want his precious 3-D sullied by lowbrow killer-fish movies. Certainly his Piranha II experience didn’t leave him with fond memories of the genre. I just have two amendments to Canton’s points. One, Piranha 3-D is better than Avatar. (I haven’t seen Piranha 3-D yet). Two, this:
If you don’t recognize that distinctive font, it’s promotional material for the fourth installment of Resident Evil, in theaters today. So Cameron’s okay with using his tech and name for Resident Evil: Afterlife 3-D, but talented young Alexandre Aja’s fun-by-most-accounts Piranha 3-D “cheapens the medium”? I have a ridiculous adoration of the entire goofy Resident Evil series, but even I don’t see how it’s necessarily more worthwhile than Piranha.
That said, oh man! Resident Evil 4 is out!
Tags: alexandre aja, james cameron, piranha, resident evil
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