James Cameron: 'Avatar' just as relevant today

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 12, 2021
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Legendary film director James Cameron told China.org.cn on Thursday that his juggernaut "Avatar" is just as relevant right now as it was when it first came out in 2009. The catalog film is set to be re-released across China this Friday.

Filmmaker James Cameron. [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

"We've got climate change, we've got deforestation, our relationship with nature is more at risk than it's ever been, and 'Avatar' is about those things, but it also is a timeless film," the filmmaker said. "Some people criticize the stories for being too simple. It wasn't that simple — it was universal. It was something that everybody everywhere could understand and emotionally related to."

However, Cameron doesn't see the motion picture phenomenon as a product of pop culture. "In its time, it may have sort of been a pop culture moment around 'Avatar.' But it wasn't the result of pop culture. It wasn't responding to trends in music or in film or TV. It was kind of its own thing," he insisted.

James Cameron said he's happy that "Avatar" will come out on about 20,000 3D screens in China, over 700 of which are IMAX screens. The movie will not only satisfy those looking for some nostalgia, but also allow people who never had the opportunity to see it the first time around to discover it in the way it's meant to be seen — "On big screen, in 3D, full immersion, go on the journey," Cameron said. "That's pretty darn exciting."

Originally released in most territories worldwide in 2009, "Avatar" grossed $2.79 billion and remained the biggest-grossing film of all time until 2019. The film raked in $202.6 million in China, an astonishing sum for the local market back in 2010 when the country had only 14 IMAX theaters.

Chinese cinemagoers at a movie theater in Beijing to see "Avatar," Jan. 10, 2010. [Photo/VCG]

The movie also took home three Academy Awards, with its stereoscopic filmmaking marking a breakthrough in cinematic technology, and kicking off the 3D-era for cinemas. 

As the director reflected on how the 3D format had developed over the years, he remained confident that audiences are still eager to watch big types of movies in 3D: "I think people still want that big screen, 3D experience. There are a few technical hurdles that have held it back, such as the brightness of projectors, but we now have laser projectors. We have ways of working around that."

A poster for the 2021 Chinese re-release of "Avatar." [Photo courtesy of The 20th Century Studios]

As China's film market has rapidly grown to become the largest in the world, Cameron feels glad that "Avatar" can return to this now much larger platform.

"Of course, for the new sequels, we're pushing the technology much farther than we did before," he added. 

Cameron and his team are currently working on four sequels to "Avatar," with the first of them to debut in late 2022, following eight delays to its theatrical release in the past decade. The re-release of "Avatar" is therefore a good way to refresh people's memories and prepare them for the upcoming sequels. 

He explained that the sequels had taken so long as he had been busy with other projects. Actual production started around three years ago — with a year and a half for performance capture, followed by the live action filming of the human characters.

Concept art for "Avatar" sequels. [Photo courtesy of The 20th Century Studios]

The director is currently in New Zealand editing the film, although his team lost four months of production last year because of the pandemic, forcing them to push back the film's release again to 2022.

"But that's probably a good thing in the grand scheme of things, because we need to have everybody back in cinemas worldwide," he said. "I'm honored that 'Avatar' is a part of that reemergence of the cinema experience in China. We got to get the rest of the world caught up as well."

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