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The James Cameron Inflation Effect: Why His Movies Keep Getting Bigger

If there is such a thing as “good” inflation, this is it.
The James Cameron Inflation Effect: Avatar The Way Of Water
By  · Published on June 9th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores The James Cameron Inflation Effect and the impact of the ever-increasing scale and cost of James Cameron’s filmography.

History has taught us a couple of hard truths that have held strong over the years. Never get involved in a land war in Asia — but only slightly less well-known is this: never, and I mean never, make a bet against James Cameron.

Canada’s most lucrative export (don’t quote me on that) has proven time and time again that he knows how to get butts in seats. Sure, his budgets keep inflating. But name a director who is more reliable about actually putting his money where his ambition is. His budgets are enormous, sure, but you can see the money on-screen … which is more than most of his peers can say.

If you don’t include Piranha II: The Spawning (which you shouldn’t, as Cameron was fired after two-and-a-half weeks and has largely disowned it), Cameron has made eight feature films. And three of those eight are currently in the top five of the highest-grossing films of all time. Each film he has directed has cost more than the last (from Terminator‘s modest $6.4 million to the hundreds of millions of dollars it took to make Avatar: The Way of Water).

So what? Is Cameron’s exponential growth a feature or a bug of how he approaches filmmaking? Does it have something to do with the way he treats movie-making like it’s the exploration of uncharted waters? Or does it start and stop with him looking his accounting team dead in the eye and saying “Shut up it’ll look cool”? (Trick question, it’s both).

The following video essay may look and sound a little different from what you may expect from the format. There’s no narration or script. Just clips of Cameron discussing the trajectory of his career, which, taken together, highlight some recurring trends in a filmography that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Watch “when your films keep getting bigger and bigger”

Who made this?

This video essay on why James Cameron’s movies just keep getting bigger and bigger is by Archer Green, a UK-based content creator who makes some pretty dang nifty essays about all things film. You can subscribe to Archer Green’s YouTube account here. And you can find the person behind the channel, Lawrence Mason, on Letterboxd here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.