When James Cameron’s visionary tale of one possible future arrived in 2009, it had the effect of splitting the genre fan base into opposing factions. Those, like myself, that thought it was a brilliant and fantastic film and those that thought less of it and that while it was technically impressive and visually stunning were less impressed by its story (some even went to so far to mock it as being lazy writing). We’ve all heard the mean-spirited jokes about Avatar, ‘Dances with Smurfs’ is just one of them. Yes, the Na’vi bear a substantial similarity to indigenous Americans, but how is that a bad thing?
Mean-spirited remarks aside; Avatar is one hell of a good science fiction movie, with adventure, action, aplenty, and there’s even some mecha. Combined with a memorable introduction to a remarkable alien world, that also includes some spiritual and supernatural themes. This movie has it all and nearly ten years later, its still just plain fun to watch. You don’t have to look very hard to find out there are a great many people that agree with that opinion. This film is still the all-time heavyweight champ at the box office by a massive margin of over a half-billion dollars over the distant second. The film’s narrative continues the time-honored tradition of tackling socially relevant issues and serves as a way to provide humanity with a look at ourselves and how we are treating our world out of greed with no concerns for the long-term price that eventually will eventually come back to bite us on the ass.
I have a theory about why that is the case. For me, Avatar is another example of western movie makers finally waking up to what anime fans have known for decades, that there’s a wealth of material available in Japanese anime to use as a basis for great ‘live action’ films. I suspect Cameron ‘borrowed’ a page from some anime films he had seen. Some of the stories these films and series tell have themes rooted in the Japanese religion of Shinto and reflect having a reverence for nature and one’s ancestors. Just like in Avatar, these stories often portray technology and progress as enemies of nature and the natural world. Some of these stories, which admittedly are sometimes almost fairy-tale like in their approach, have not been as well accepted in the west. These ideas get lost in translation and are easily explained by cultural differences.
As for the series of films Cameron has in store for us a lot is shrouded in secrecy, but he has been pretty generously forthcoming about them in some ways. He describes the films as a generational family saga along the lines of the ‘Godfather.’ He understands its a gamble but believes this ‘new’ approach will make the films more universally relatable
The cast and crew recently marked their 100th day of conjoined production on the second and third films, which Cameron reveals is a continuation of the same characters from the first film but with a multigenerational aspect added. Just like the original movie, Cameron expects to nudge the advancement of the evolving technology used in making these films a little further into the future process of making movies. The first of the Avatar sequels is due to arrive in 2020.