"Piranha 3D" may not have conjured up a huge number of scares, but the meta-story around the Dimension Films release is turning into entertaining bloodsport.
After first releasing a fake Oscar video from members of the cast, the Weinstein Co. division is now sending out word about one of the producers, Mark Canton, responding angrily to James Cameron's (slight) knock on the film.
In a much larger VanityFair.com interview about his views on 3-D, the "Avatar" re-release and his latest work, Cameron says that he didn't like the way "Piranha 3-D" used the technology. Cameron, who worked for a few days on the sequel to the Joe Dante original before being fired from the production, said that "I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the '70s and '80s."
That was all Canton needed to pounce like, well, a piranha. In a 15-paragraph screed sent to reporters Tuesday morning that led with "Jim, are you kidding or what?" and "Mr. Cameron, who singles himself out to be a visionary of movie-making, seems to have a small vision regarding any motion pictures that are not his own," Canton makes his broadside against the director.
Part of Canton's invective is personal, "What it comes down to, Jim, is -- that like most things in life -- size doesn’t really matter. Not everyone has the advantage of having endless amounts of money to play in their sandbox and to take ten years using other people’s money to make and market a film ... like you do. Why can’t you just count your blessings?"
Part of it goes to Canton's irritation that Cameron is claiming ownership of Hollywood's z-axis craze. "Let’s just keep this in mind Jim -- you did not invent 3D. You were fortunate that others inspired you to take it further."
Then it gets into what Canton, who produced "300" and a host of Hollywood films over the last few decades, really thought about Cameron's piece de resistance. "To be honest, I found the 3D in 'Avatar' to be inconsistent and while ground breaking in many respects, sometimes I thought it overwhelmed the storytelling," he said. "Technology aside, I wish 'Avatar' had been more original in its storytelling."
And finally it comes down to, well, getting attention for the film, of course. "My sense is that Mr. Cameron has never seen Piranha 3D ... certainly not in a movie theatre with a real audience. Jim, we invite you to take that opportunity and experience the movie in a theatre full of fans -- fans for whom this movie was always intended to entertain. ... [You have] no clue as to how great and how much of a fun-filled experience the audiences who have seen the film in 3D have enjoyed."
One gets the sense from the e-mail that Canton is genuinely upset, though it doesn't hurt publicity efforts for "Piranha" to engage in a fight with a much bigger fish like Cameron.
But the real irony here is that Cameron's original comments may have targeted what audiences actually like about "Piranha." Part of the movie's appeal comes from its throwback campiness. Director Alexandre Aja basically said as much when he told our colleague Gina McIntyre that his intention was for an '80s era pop pleasure modeled as a kind of "Gremlins" for adults. The idea, he said, was for "a very simple, efficient concept to reboot or reinvent that kind of disaster movie, creature movie from the '80s, that kind of guilty-pleasure movie that delivers on every front." Canton may have felt it more personally, but Cameron's attack seems largely bloodless.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: An image from "Piranha 3D." Credit: Dimension Films