Everyone has to start out somewhere in life even the self-described KING OF THE WORLD, James Cameron. Of course, Cameron was merely joking when he shouted that line out during his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for “Best Director” (Titanic) at the 70th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 1998. It was a far cry from where his directorial career began on a motion picture called “Piranha II: The Spawning.” The 1981 movie would mark the first time Cameron called the shots on a feature film. Prior to that he teamed with Randall Frakes (who is primarily a writer and has yet to direct another movie) on the 1978 short film Xenogenesis.
Born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, James Cameron has written and directed some of the biggest blockbusters in cinema history…films such as “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” and the previously mentioned Best Director win for “Titanic,” and one of the most expensive movies ever made with an estimated budget, according to IMDB of $280,000,000, the special effects laced “Avatar.” But years before he began to receive accolades, awards, and serious monetary gain for showcasing his creative prowess, he directed the aforementioned “Piranha II: The Spawning.” If he had even an inkling of an idea as to the success that awaited him in the future while directing that sub-par B movie, then more power to him.
From various sources, the impression I get about James Cameron is that he was a true go getter in every sense of the word. He wasn’t willing to settle for the mundane in life, so he strived and persevered until he was able to surpass what he considered to be the banal existence he was living and achieve the life he desired. It just so happened that the life he craved the most was a career in the cinema arts; and on behalf of all you movie geeks everywhere who’ve been watching his films since whatever age you first laid eyes on them, I say a collective “thank you self-described king of the world.”
On a side note, in regard to Cameron’s movies, I admire the fact that through the years he has populated his films with strong female characters such as: Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminators; Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens; and Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana in Avatar. The same can also be said for the times he has branched out into television. “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” (which in my opinion was a good show that deserved more of a chance before being taken off the air) featured actress Lena Headey in the role originally made famous by Linda Hamilton, and the show “Dark Angel” which stared Jessica Alba and had a forty-two episode run on Fox television from 2000-2002.
Billed as a sequel to “Piranha,” the campy 1978 film directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins), “Piranha II: The Spawning” was released on November 5th 1982 and qualifies as a sequel in name only. Written for the screen by Ovidio G. Assonitis (Lambada), who, perhaps sensing that the “sequel” was going to be panned by critics and the general public alike, didn’t attach his name to the movie; instead in the credits he is listed under the pseudonym H.A. Milton. Rumors abound that Assonitis (who is an international director hailing from Italy) actually co-directed the film, and only hired James Cameron because Warner Brothers, who produced the film, insisted that he hire an American director. There are also stories that say he edited the film, and even though Cameron made a valiant effort, actually breaking into the editing room late one night and re-doing the editing work, Assonitis found out about it and changed all of Cameron’s corrections. I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of those stories, and Cameron has always been the one who has received full credit for being the director of the film.
Now in regard to the movie itself, the cast has no one with name recognition except for veteran actor, Lance Henriksen (Near Dark), who prior to his starring role in the film as Police Chief Steve Kimbrough, had been relegated to bit parts in movies such as “Dog Day Afternoon,” and in a handful of episodes as the character Preston Post on the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope.” The plot of the film is ludicrous, and involves the discovery of eggs aboard a crashed ship, carrying, you guessed it…killer Piranha; but what makes these vicious fish even more dangerous is that they can fly, yes, fly! The film is riddled with plot holes, and peppered with characters that contribute absolutely nothing to serving the story in order to move the movie along to a conclusion. The acting is forced and the dialogue borders on the comical in certain parts; most of the actors in the film seem to have been given screen time in an attempt to make the movie longer, and as a much needed filler between scenes that involve the deadly flying Piranha, which appear to be little more than large toy fish that are attached to string.
James Cameron is a man who is known for producing work that showcases metaphorically mind-blowing special effects; but the effects in this film are not even second rate. They are more like a watered down third rate, which in fairness to Cameron could have been directly related to the budget he had to work with, so I don’t think it’s fair for me to knock him too hard on that aspect of the movie. Over the years I’ve actually enjoyed watching a number of these sorts of low budget horror, supernatural, and science-fiction films, but this movie has virtually no redeeming qualities, and would be an utter waste of your time unless you’re a die hard fan of either the director or actor Lance Henriksen.