Avatar 2 So Costly It Has To Gross 2 Billion To Break Even.

Recent GQ Interview with James Cameron.

James Cameron Breaks Down His Films For GQ.

It’s not so much the “film geek” fandom that loves Avatar, it’s the general public. If the movie is halfway decent, it will be a huge success.

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I know a college professor who teaches film classes in Kentucky and Avatar (2009) is part of his curriculum. He deems it a masterpiece and screens and dissects it for his students as the summation of his Science Fiction course.

In 2009 Roger Ebert lauded, “Watching Avatar, I felt sort of the same as when I saw Star Wars in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron’s film has been the subject of relentless dubious advance buzz, just as his Titanic was. Once again, he has silenced his doubters by simply delivering an extraoradinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million wisely.”

Ebert continued, “Avatar is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na’vi, as Lord of the Rings did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.”

Avatar’s 82 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes stated, “It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron’s singular gift for imaginative absorbing filmmaking.” That last half defines most of what I’ve read from critics.

A.O. Scott. “I had the feeling coming out of this movie that I haven’t felt since maybe I was eleven years old in 1977 and I saw Star Wars for the first time.” Joe Morgenstern. “Mr. Cameron’s singular vision has upped the ante for filmed entertainment, and given us a travelogue unlike any other.” Kenneth Turan. “Whatever way you choose to look at it, Avatar’s shock and awe demand to be seen. You’ve never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else.” David Denby. “James Cameron’s Avatar is the most beautiful film I’ve seen in years.” Peter Travers. “It extends the possibilities of what movies can do. Cameron’s talent may be just as big as his dreams.” Richard Corliss. “It’s an impossible but completely plausible and seductive world that invites your total immersion. All Cameron asks is that you open your eyes.” Todd McCarthy. “The King of the World sets his sights on creating another world entirely in Avatar, and it’s very much a world worth visiting.”

There was less enthusiastic praise and some negative reviews yet on the whole the critical community was quite enthusiastic and the film went on to be nominated for nine Academy Awards (no small feat for blockbuster entertainment) including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, (and the technical categories) Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. It won three Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. The fanfare went beyond “the general public” and still does today.


https://web.archive.org/web/20091213125500/http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20091211%2FREVIEWS%2F912119998

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And I mean this sincerely. Thanks for your thoughts. Movies rescued me as a child and I give my all when I channel the subject. No offense was intended. This is a topic that hits each of us differently. Everyone has an opinion.

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I appreciate your opinion. Everyone is different, and there’s not a thing wrong with that.

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The Rifftrax for Avatar is hilarious, so many of the references land perfectly for me. The riff about the movie being in 3D but all the characters are 1D kills me every time.

It’s a fun movie, something to watch if you want to turn off your brain and look at the pretty pictures. I’m sure the sequels will be the same.

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I’ve always enjoyed Avatar, I really do think in some ways it is a masterpiece, but for some reason to me it just doesn’t have much staying power. I’ve seen it more than once and always come away saying “Wow, such a good movie,” but I seem to always forget about it when I’m thinking on the subject of really good movies. And I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of other people do the same thing. I mean, if bring it up I’m sure a lot of people will say it’s great, but if you ask people “What’s your favorite movie?” have you ever had anyone tell you it was Avatar (2009)? I could be wrong though — I mean, The Mouse thought it was a big enough deal to make a whole section of one of their parks Avatar-centered, and admittedly it is pretty darn cool.
If Cameron has said he has a very particular story still to tell, that gives me some hope that the sequel will at least be good and not just a cash grab by Disney (but I’ve heard there’s still three more films in various stages of production, so…we’ll see). And maybe if Avatar 2 is spectacular both on a story level and a technical level, it’ll be what the franchise needs to finally dig its cleats in as an actual classic.

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Cameron is fully committed to pursuing his creative muse. And his motivation is what’s left on the table not making money. He’s a unique unusual figure. Gruff, philosophical, with his own sense of vision, he listens to himself and cares little to be popular and works hard to overcome unlikability with absolute brilliance. He’s constantly proving himself attracted by the difficulty and the impossible dream as his fuel to keep on.

Post-Avatar, he couldn’t decide if he wanted to go on telling the story. He details this in the recent GQ interview,

"“There was a period there, about a year and a half, where I didn’t even know if I wanted to make another Avatar film,” he told me. “I knew how all-consuming it would be. It basically took over my life for four years. I had no other life for four years making the first film. And I thought, Do I really want to do this again? It’s the highest grossing film in history; can’t I just tag that base and move on?”

But the problem was, he still had ideas. He knew, of course, on some level, he was running out of time. “When you get into your mid-60s, you start realizing that the ax could fall at any moment. Maybe it’s next week, maybe it’s in 30 years. But the thing is, it wasn’t a decision between Avatar and something else in the movie industry. It was a decision between doing more movies and very probably Avatar movies, or not doing more movies and doing expedition stuff and ocean exploration and sustainability projects, which I’ve been doing on the side the whole time. Why not just do that? It’s more fulfilling.”

Yes, why not?

“Yeah. Why not. Exactly.”

I’m asking!

Cameron said that in the end, the answer he landed on was this: “I’m a storyteller and there’s a story to be told.” In Avatar, he decided, he could explore everything he cared about. His own complicated feelings about balancing fatherhood against the extremity of the projects he can’t help but continue taking on. A people, with the Na’vi, with a communitarian ethos. A way of life connected to the natural world. “And anything I need to say about conservation and sustainability and all of those themes, the pros and cons of technology and where the human race is headed and all that sort of thing, I could say within that greater landscape.”

Cameron told me he’d already shot all of a third Avatar, and the first act of a fourth. There is a script for a fifth and an intention to make it, as long as the business of Avatar holds up between now and then. It seems entirely possible – maybe even probable – that Cameron will never make a non-Avatar film again."

The articles goes on,

“The movie Cameron says is about family: Many of the main characters from the first film are back, but older and with kids to take care of. “What do two characters who are warriors, who take chances and have no fear, do when they have children and they still have the epic struggle?” Cameron a father of five posited. “Their instinct is to be fearless and do crazy things. Jump off cliffs, dive-bomb into the middle of an enemy armada, but you’ve got kids. What does that look like in a family setting?””

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Avatar was amazing to see on the big screen in 3D. Not many directors know how to create stories and worlds like James Cameron. And YET… Avatar has never stuck with me like his other films. It almost feels to me like a reverse cult film. This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and (dare I say) Mystery Science Theater 3000 started small and became big. But Avatar started huge but became small. At first in 2009 it seemed like it would become a cultural icon like Cameron’s earlier films Terminator 2 and Titanic. But once 2011 and 2012 came around, it wasn’t necessarily forgotten, but it was remembered as just another big, slightly bloated action movie, like one of the Transformer movies. Or like a cool ride you rode on at Disney World but can’t ride back home in Peoria. If if anyone can pull off a huge sequel to a faintly remembered action epic it’s James Cameron. I will go to the theaters to see it in 3D. Do I wish he were directing a non-Avatar movie instead? Absolutely! But I’ll take what I can get.

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That’s exactly right. The impression it left was as a big, slightly bloated action movie, more flash than substance. In fact I feel like all the technical special effects are actually part of why it quickly burned out it’s cultural memory, because that was hailed as one of it’s greatest features — but then action movies with bigger IPs and shinier heroes and higher zinger-to-explosion ratios came out. Avatar was also heavily marketed for it’s amazing quality in 3D — and shortly afterward 3D movies became kind of a gimmick.

The irony is that Avatar had a LOT more substance than other action movies at the time. I think I can name maaaaybe three Marvel movies with stories as meaty as Avatar’s. Avatar’s writing may have been derivative and somewhat predictable, but to me that didn’t really detract from the story because the message Cameron was trying to convey was still poignant and relevant. (The only predictable thing that does genuinely detract, for me, is the whole White Guy Saves the Natives trope. But that’s going down a whole nother branch of complaint and I think it that wouldn’t be a factor in future movies anyways, especially given how the first one ended.) That’s why I think if the subsequent films have a story at least as good as but hopefully even better than the original, that might be what makes them actually stick as true sci-fi classics.

@BruceLeePullen thanks for linking that article, cuz I was kinda meh about the sequel but now my interest has been piqued

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Tolkien had a depth of knowledge both in folklore, as well as decades as a philologist with expertise in language that made him one of the leaders in his field that hasn’t really been equaled before and certainly never since. Couple that with a devoted faith, the desire to tell a story, life experiences in war and peace, and the technical skill to write a story well along with the imagination and wonder to do it enjoyably. JRR was a talent that only comes along once in a millennium.

Cameron is a great director, no question. One of the best directors of his time arguably. But he is no J.R.R. Tolkien. He’s not even close. I’ll go as far as to say Cameron is the lower-tier metaphysical equivalent for modern film that is a distant approximation to J.R.R. Tolkien … but that’s as kind as a comparison as he would deserve.

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I could see it working if Cameron took the concept of the first movie and moved it centuries into the future to tell another story of this planet without having to revisit earlier characters, much like how Jack Katz’ The First Kingdom comic book series went. Now that would be fascinating to see the evolution of a people and their world over a series of movies.

If the second movie can move the story along like that, then I think it has a chance to catch the imagination of the public once again. If it will be simply “here’s these characters 15 years later and still fighting bad humans,” I can’t see it grabbing people the way the first one did.

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It should be said James Cameron is as much a scientist as he is a filmmaker. He’s undertaken numerous undersea diving expeditions including those to the Titanic and being the first to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench which is 6.8 miles down, he’s helped develop and design underwater filming and lighting technology and remotely operated camera equipment, he was personally involved in the development of the 3D Fusion Camera System, is a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, and was a prominent collabarator on the camera currently used by the Mars Rover.

While working as a truck driver in his late 20s, Jim acquired his filmmaking education by photocoping thousands upon thousands of papers he filed into binders and self-taught himself optical printing, front screen projection, the nature of dye transfers, and anything related to film technology from the USC library. He is a voracious reader and learns any subject he finds interesting to an expert level. His love of the arts and the sciences melds a one-of-a-kind perspective which makes him a larger than life figure who will go down in several fields of study. This is why I compared Tolkien to Cameron. Tolkien’s linguistic mastery is comparable to Cameron’s tech savvy. They burst out of one box and are best summarized as singular institutions on their own merits not found anywhere else.

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I’m not one to talk beyond my own personal knowledge. In this series of podcasts. the life of James Cameron is thoroughly researched, disseminated, and matter-of-factly presented. I’ll leave this here if anyone is interested.

Some takeaways:

  • Avatar 3 has already been shot, so it’s highly likely we’ll see it regardless of how well #2 does at the box office
  • The scripts for #4 and #5 are complete and ready to shoot if or when they’re greenlit. Some scenes for #4 were shot during performance capture for #3
  • Avatar 6 and 7, anyone?
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The early reviews are in and they are glowing.

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The reason I’m willing to go in for this film, is because what are two films of Cameron’s that are remembered fondly!

Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

His sequel films usually deal with a family going up against some horrifying evil, and a character in the first film ends up becoming even more bad-@$$ in the sequel.

One thing that bugged me about the first Avatar, is everything seemed to come so easy to Jake (even got Neytiri to throw away her betrothal just to mate with him!). I’m actually hoping to maybe see him in a more memorable light this time.

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