It was great to finally find the time to sit down with Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron and relax in absolute silence with a hot cup of coffee and ingest plenty of information and imagery from my favorite director.
Full disclosure: I don’t read [books] all that often, so when I do it makes it special, and from the offset I knew before even opening the book that Insight Editions and James Cameron wouldn’t be bringing me a mediocre offering.
This book wasn’t just on my radar due to being a Terminator Fan – I have always been in awe of James Cameron’s artwork, dating to back when I was first introduced to his Terminator concept art on the special features disc of the Ultimate Edition of The Terminator (1984), which was released on DVD back in 2001… damn, that’s 21 years ago now and it’s still one of my most prized Terminator possessions.
The book itself is well presented, large and heavy, and if you love James Cameron and his work then this is a must from a collectors standpoint. The art ranges from quick sketches by Cameron through to glossy high quality scans of full color artwork. At numerous points in the book you will encounter 3 page fold-outs that showcase Jim’s art in a way I thought was pretty smart; emphasizing details that a double page spread simply couldn’t achieve.
James Cameron is a master at transitioning concept art into fully realized moving pictures, no matter how impossible a feat the creature or character design may seem, this book instantly sets the rules for James Cameron, in other words… there are no rules! He does his best to not let restrictions, be that technical or financial, get in the way of his imagination and that is perhaps why we’ve seen some pretty far out stuff in his movies – whether that’s an impossible to defeat, bullet absorbing liquid metal Terminator, or a giant imposing Alien Queen.
Although the focus here is the art, there’s also plenty of reading to do and James Cameron has provided many notes, to the point that it feels like you’re reading an art diary or running commentary by Cameron full of information, facts and interesting asides; some are quite amusing in fact.
The artwork itself shows the artistic evolution of the visionary from teenager to fully accomplished veteran film director.
Although the book encompasses James Cameron’s career, I guess most of the people reading this review are here for Terminator, and this book does have the unstoppable cyborg content that you’re looking for. Featuring detailed Terminator concept art, storyboards and concept pieces.
In all honesty the book doesn’t contain much artwork that I haven’t seen before (though I have followed the franchise closely since I was a child), but I’ve never seen the art presented so well and in such large and gorgeous quality. With only a couple of Terminator sketches and concepts that I hadn’t seen before, the book still has some nice information to offer fans of the franchise with enough Terminator content to make it a worthwhile purchase for collectors looking to fill out their Terminator book collections.
If, like me, you like other James Cameron movies then this book covers a lot: Aliens, The Abyss and Avatar to name but a few. For James Cameron’s later movies however, we don’t see much art due to the fact that, as Mr. Cameron progressed up the Hollywood ladder, he started to delegate the art side of his projects to other talented and trusted artists on his team, freeing him up to focus on directing.
It was great that art was a tool for Jim to show people his vision on paper but also to save costs on earlier projects that he could not afford to “fuck up”. After all, had movies like The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss not hit the mark with audiences – then James Cameron may not be the successful legend we know him as today.
There is also something Lightstorm Entertainment related on the hardcover underneath the book sleeve which made me smile.
Insight Editions yet again have done a fantastic job, and although my jaw may have dropped on seeing the initial price of the book ($75), after sitting down and experiencing it I can say the price is fully justified and worth every penny.