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‘AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’ a new docuseries featuring director

‘AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’ a new docuseries featuring director
03 May
2:43




What: Six-episode docuseries in which the filmmaker explores the evolution of sci-fi from its origins as a small genre with a cult following to the blockbuster pop-cultural phenomenon. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and Christopher Nolan are among those interviewed.

When: 10 p.m. Mondays (debuted April 30).

Where: AMC.

“We live in a science-fiction world,” explains James Cameron, the acclaimed filmmaker behind “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and “The Abyss.”

While fans are waiting for the next four chapters in the “Avatar” franchise, he is celebrating the science-fiction genre he’s found so much success with in “AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.”

The six-part docuseries, which premiered April 30, gave Cameron a chance to sit down with other cinema giants — like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro — to talk about sci fi and what inspired them to make their films.

One thing the stories have in common is their fascination with the genre began in childhood. In the third episode — called “Monsters” — Spielberg tells Cameron, “I think that what inflamed my imagination most as a kid was fear.”




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Cameron, who grew up in rural Ontario, Canada, notes that a lot of his own creative process begins with dreams and nightmares. “It’s all about getting out those childhood terrors and just making everyone else feel it.”

The filmmaker says he thinks science fiction gave all of them an “unlimited, unfettered” way to express themselves.

In the series, Cameron says, he also wanted to celebrate early sci fi writers — “the Asimovs, the Heinleins, the Bradburys who should be household names.”

He, of course, is referring to writers who helped the genre cross over into mainstream acceptance — Isaac Asimov (“I, Robot”), Robert Heinlein (“Stranger in a Strange Land”) and Ray Bradbury, whose novel “Fahrenheit 451” has been remade into an HBO movie premiering May 19.

“Every year, fantasy and sci fi films are the biggest draws at the box office, but very few people know their roots,” says Cameron. “Few people would make the connection between ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert and ‘Star Wars.’ Both were about interstellar empires and started on desert planets. Everything we do we build on the shoulders of those giants.”

Besides “Monsters,” the episodes are “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.”

Not wanting to be too simplistic or too nerdy, Cameron says, the series attempted to take a middle ground.

“We tried to pick a few milestone pieces of culture — TV shows and movies — and then go back to the origin of the ideas and see how those ideas evolved over time.”

This allows the series to touch on everything from cheesy ‘50s movies to Netflix’s hit “Stranger Things,” as well as darker fare like “The Walking Dead,” “Westworld” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“I specifically asked for a segment on monsters, because what is science fiction without monsters?” asks the filmmaker.

“So much of the way science and technology manifest in our collective imagination leads us toward this idea of negative ramifications, and it usually becomes personified in a monster,” he says.

“I also wanted to draw some subgenre boundaries around science fiction for the casual sci fi fan who just enjoys a good piece of entertainment and may not be crystal-clear about what is the difference between fantasy, science fiction and horror.”

Of course, a number of his own films like “Terminator” and “Aliens” are covered in the series and fall into more than one category.

Others interviewed for the series include Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver, as well as film critics and commentators.

Cameron also wanted to establish the connection between science and sci fi. So scientists and astronauts are part of the series.

“We also wanted to show that there was a kind of feedback loop between science and society,” he says, “where terminology gets picked up and put into regular use because it resonated with people and how many over at NASA were inspired by the sci fi they saw as kids and actually after went after it.”

Early on, Cameron observes, sci fi was a “bunch of white guys talking about science and putting in beautiful women,” but by the 1960s social issues became an important part of the visions being put out, as seen in episodes of the original “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone.”

“Soylent Green” and “Planet of the Apes” were mostly warnings, Cameron says. “Then George Lucas made science fiction guilt-free and fun. Science fiction became kind of neo-myth.”

That has led to our current pantheon of superheroes crowding screens.

“It’s so popular because I think we need that mythology,” says the filmmaker. Now with new computer-generated technology, “the imagery is so powerful that what we are seeing today is a waking dream.”

That leads Cameron to the question: Are we letting our visual imaginations overwhelm our emotional artistic expression?

“The audience’s way into any story is through the human heart and the human condition,” he says, adding that a lot of science-fiction films today fail because they forget that point.

The filmmaker, however, believes there is plenty of room for smaller films to make it.

“If you look at a science-fiction film that delivered a hell of a punch with a very small budget, look at ‘Ex Machina,’ a beautiful film, and it asks a very profound question about, what would an artificial general intelligence equal to or greater than human beings do? Would it defend itself?”

Or revolt, perhaps. By the way, Cameron says the idea for “Terminator” where the machines take over the planet came from a dream.

“Our social contract with others is changing just because of the technology in the last 20 years,” says the director. “So we are science-fiction creatures essentially.”

He then mentions the singularity, a theory that artificial intelligence will trigger runaway technological growth, causing unimaginable changes to human civilization. (Well, maybe not unimaginable to sci fi writers.)

Some see it happening in 15 to 50 years. “That’s an eye-blink in terms of human history,” Cameron points out.

‘AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’

What: Six-episode docuseries in which the filmmaker explores the evolution of sci-fi from its origins as a small genre with a cult following to the blockbuster pop-cultural phenomenon. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and Christopher Nolan are among those interviewed.

When: 10 p.m. Mondays (debuted April 30).

Where: AMC.

Source: http://morningjournal.com/arts-and-entertainment/20180503/amc-visionaries-james-camerons-story-of-science-fiction-a-new-docuseries-featuring-director

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