During an era when so many new directors come from the worlds of advertising and music video, catering to increasingly shorter attention spans and relying on gaudy visuals to engage audiences for seconds at a time, Oscar winner John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, not Monday Night Football) is a throwback to a time when dramas drew their strength from the spoken word.
Summer is slowly winding down, giving Hollywood just a few more weeks to unload the last of its annual sequels, prequels and remakes before Oscar season begins in earnest. The bad news, for some: School will be back in session soon. The good news: August packs a promising lineup of big-screen spectacles, including:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)
The primates: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis
Sam Worthington can’t compare his latest effects-heavy blockbuster, a bruising, 3-D remake of stop-motion innovator Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans (1981), to the one that made him the star of the biggest movie of all time – James Cameron’s Avatar. But playing Perseus, the fearless Greek warrior charged with saving humanity from the wrath of vengeful gods, presented its own set of challenges.
“Nothing compares to Avatar, and you can see that at the box office,” says the English-born actor, 33, who spent his formative years in Western Australia. “It is its own beast, its own juggernaut. For all I know, filming hasn’t stopped. James is probably still working on it.
No discussion of Avatar would be complete without mentioning its $230 million budget and the 15 years James Cameron devoted to making it. Fairly or not, such investments raise expectations: For Cameron, who directed The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986), and anointed himself “King of the World” upon winning 11 Oscars for 1997’s Titanic, anything less than a masterpiece might be branded a failure.
By now, the story of Avatar is well known: James Cameron, who, along with George Lucas, has done more to revolutionize the moviegoing experience than any other filmmaker during the past quarter-century, began writing the sci-fi epic in 1994 and has been developing the photo-realistic 3-D technology necessary to realize his ambitious vision since the 1997 release of Titanic. After postponing the $200 million project on several occasions, his much-anticipated tale of human imperialism on an alien moon is due Dec. 18.
Terminator Salvation holds the rare distinction of being both a prequel and a sequel, set 34 years after James Cameron’s 1984 original, whose backstory it seeks to explain, and picking up more or less where Jonathan Mostow’s underappreciated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines left off.
If you’re already scratching your head, don’t worry. Salvation, which chronicles man’s struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world governed by malicious super-computers, isn’t a movie to be understood so much as experienced.