Dreaming Aloud: The Life and Films of James Cameron, Christopher Heard

Doubleday Canada, 1997, 260 pages, C$21.95 tpb, ISBN 0-385-25680-9

In the last minutes of March 23rd, 1998, James Cameron brandished his Academy Award for Achievement in Movie Directing above his head and exclaimed before a few hundred million viewers, “I am the king of the world!” Despite the fact that this hyperbole was quoted directly from his script for TITANIC, it was a sentiment that a lot of Cameron fans could share.

James Cameron, born in Kapuskasing, (Ontario, Canada) had come a long way from his humble origins. In fifteen years, he has produced some of the most stunning movies the world could have imagined. His cinematography reads like a box-office hit top-ten: THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, THE ABYSS, TERMINATOR II: JUDGEMENT DAY, TRUE LIES and finally, especially TITANIC. He has broken the most-expensive-movie-ever record not once or twice, but thrice. His movies consistently push the limits of moviemaking technology, and yet he seldom contributes substandard material. His movie, as shocking as it may seem, are techno-marvels built upon human emotions.

Cameron, like the best folk heroes, consistently goes against impossible odds. Many people thought him defeated after the saga of TITANIC’s making. 500+ million dollars of US gross box-office revenue later, Cameron proved them wrong. But if the skeptics had read Dreaming Aloud before doubting Cameron, they might have thought differently.

Dreaming Aloud chronicles Cameron’s life from his Kapuskasing Days until the eve of TITANIC. He see Cameron during his stint at Roger Corman’s B-flick studio, where he directed his first feature film (PIRANHA II). Then it’s his chance meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, future wife Linda Hamilton and fate with the first TERMINATOR movie. The remainder is known and expected, but author Heard makes it interesting. Whether it’s about his films or his marriages (Linda Hamilton being Cameron’s fourth wife. As the author says, “Marriage is something Cameron believes in but isn’t very good at himself.” [P. 188]) the style is completely readable (very possibly in a single sitting), especially for confirmed Cameron fans.

An index, a cinematography and a few photos complete the account.

But even despite the appeal of Cameron’s films and the breezy style in which it is written, Dreaming Aloud is at the same time far from being satisfying enough. A look at the bibliography reveals a scant six books and seven magazine articles used to write “Dreaming Aloud” This reviewer has read (heck, has written) essays with more sources than this. Dreaming Aloud may or may not be a compilation of these thirteen sources, but in retrospect it is also a very distant biography. We never get the sense that Heard has actually talked to Cameron, or done extensive legwork on his subject. The extended plot summaries (4-5 pages for each major movie) are not interesting for Cameron fans (who already know these movies by heart) and may feel out of place for the remainder of the audience. The usefulness of their length is doubtful.

Dreaming Aloud closes while pondering the after-TITANIC for Cameron. Given the success of the movie at the Academy Awards (11 Oscars, tying BEN-HUR’s record), this is a surprisingly powerful finale.

Fortunately, we now know that Cameron has taken his deserved place in the Hollywood hiearchy. He is in the enviable position of having dared the gods, and won. He can do whatever he desires next: it will be seen by millions. At the moment he is truly, as grandiose as it may seem, King of the (Hollywood) World.

Millions of fans cheer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *