I looked around for a thread like this, but aside from great Aliens and The Abyss discussion there isn't anything about James Cameron's entire career.
So I watched The Abyss, the theatrical cut, yesterday for the first time in about a decade. I watched the theatrical cut because the older I get the more I feel more isn't better. I like the crew and feel an instantaneous camaraderie with them, so I didn't need more of it, as I'm in the minority when it comes to "hanging out" in a world.
So this is still a really great movie, and like how I noticed with an Aliens rewatch a few months ago, it's Cameron still flexing with his influences. The man started with FX work on Escape from New York, and has always had the anti-authoritarian streak of Carpenter but the difference is he trusts the military, just not their superiors. After all, Coffey is just following orders, and his comrades are perfectly affable guys by the end. There's also a blue collar, working class hero aspect that very much reminds me of Alien, but Scott is much more cynical. I always felt like the crew there aren't necessarily friends and, especially Brett and Parker, are mostly looking out for number one. There's also a hazy atmosphere and camerawork, especially with the establishing shots, that's very reminiscent of Scott. But mostly this is Cameron in full-on Spielberg mode, with a sense of wonder and sentimentality that isn't perhaps on display again until Avatar.
I did have a little discussion on Facebook about how Cameron is surprisingly a romantic. I don't know why this didn't click before, but for all the hoopla about him just wanting to play with his tech toys, his movies are mostly love stories. And they plot out an auteur's life. It's passionate early love in The Terminator, but by The Abyss the honeymoon period is over and it's trying to make a real relationship. True Lies is about having kids and getting to middle age trying to rekindle that old flame. And Titanic is coming to the end of your life and mulling over regrets, specifically the one that got away. Very telling for a guy who has been married and divorced like four times.
Avatar is whatever.
So what's more to be said about Cameron? There was a stretch of years in my youth where it was just accepted that he was one of the greats. But sometime in the last decade there has been not only a surprising backlash against Aliens but Cameron himself. Maybe it's because of his arrogance or that he doesn't work that often, but people have become very dismissive in a way that baffles me. The man has directed only seven movies, but they all range from good to classic.