Nearly 15 years after he originally conceived of the project and after more than four years of development, James Cameron finally brings his epic Avatar to the screen. The film explores an alien culture through the eyes of Jake (Sam Worthington), a marine who falls in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), one of the natives on the alien planet Pandora. We caught up with Cameron in London to discuss the massive undertaking that is Avatar.
Q. How important was it to push the boundaries of 3-D filmmaking with this project?
A. Up until now, every filmmaker who’s made a 3-D film has really felt it incumbent upon themselves to constantly remind you that you’re watching a 3-D movie. It’s usually things that are floating or poking out of the screen. If I’m constantly reminding you that you’re watching a 3-D movie, then you’re constantly sitting there reminded that you’re in a movie theatre.
So we approached the 3-D as if it were a window, or a portal into a reality. We didn’t look for opportunities to constantly exercise our 3-D muscle in front of you. Maybe one thing that Avatar can achieve is to become an example of a mature use of stereoscopic 3-D.
Let it move out of its adolescence into a mature acceptance as just part of the cinematic art by serious filmmakers. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m going to make all my movies in 3-D, no matter what the subject matter.
Q. But Avatar is also being released in 2-D.
A. We try not to make the film a 3-D film first. With some 3-D movies, you watch them in 2-D and there’s a shot of a spear sticking out of the screen that they hold on for 10 seconds.
It’s all sorts of fun in 3-D, but in 2-D it looks like the stupidest edit in the world. So we wanted to make sure we weren’t doing that sort of thing. We’re very proud of the 2-D version of the film we’ve put out. But it really comes down to consumer choice. I think of the 3-D as the premium experience of the film and the 2-D as the excellent base-level presentation of the film.
Q. At the same time, there are strong environmental and political messages in the film. How did you work those in?
A. I think it’s less an intellectual message and more something you feel emotionally. I wanted people to feel the environmental message, not think about it, not have it droning on as information.
It’s kind of the exact opposite of An Inconvenient Truth, with the bar graphs and all that. In an adventure film, it’s more important to get these concepts viscerally. Historically, the kind of science fiction that I grew up on had a message. Usually it was a dystopian message, usually it was in the form of some kind of warning. And as much as I loved Star Wars, it was a moment in history when science fiction became more escapist fantasy and less a kind of intellectual medium. Avatar is an attempt to merge science fiction back to its roots of having a warning.
Q. Is there going to be a sequel?
A. I have it mapped out … It all depends on whether we do well with the first film.