Cameron Talks About Inspirations and the Themes in Avatar
In preparation for Avatar Day this Friday, I've been reading through the interview that Geoff Boucher of Hero Complex did with James Cameron last week. At least 6500 people have seen footage from Avatar, but the rest of the world is still waiting for their first glimpse, which arrives on Thursday with a trailer and on Friday with 16 minutes of footage. Now that we know what it looks like, it's time to delve deeper into the story. "I think I veer toward classicism, being solidly rooted in the classic stuff. I mean really old-school science fiction. This is a movie I would have loved to have seen when I was a 14-year-old kid in 1968."
For those who still don't really know what Avatar is about, it's being compared to Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, in the way that Jake Sully (Sam Worthingon's character) starts to feel sympathy towards this race of aliens on Pandora who are being exterminated by the invading humans. Even Cameron admits to that comparison being accurate: "Yes, exactly, it is very much like that." Although, Boucher explains the overall concept of the movie better than I could: "A battered military man who finds something pure in an endangered tribal culture." Here's a great excerpt from the interview talking about the theme in Avatar.
You see the same theme in "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" and also "The Emerald Forest," which maybe thematically isn't that connected but it did have that clash of civilizations or of cultures. That was another reference point for me. There was some beautiful stuff in that film. I just gathered all this stuff in and then you look at it through the lens of science fiction and it comes out looking very different but is still recognizable in a universal story way. It's almost comfortable for the audience – "I know what kind of tale this is." They're not just sitting there scratching their heads, they're enjoying it and being taken along. And we still have turns and surprises in it, too, things you don't see coming. But the idea that you feel like you are in a classic story, a story that could have been shaped by Rudyard Kipling or Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Listening to Cameron talk is always inspiring, no matter what he's saying. This quote below is another one of my favorite parts of the second half of the interview where Cameron talks about how we've reached a point where almost anything we imagine is possible in cinema. After Avatar, that may certainly be true.
Look, right now is a special time because we can basically do anything we imagine. I mean you have to work hard at it, and you’ve got to have the technique and you have to be willing to throw money at the problem. Sometimes you have to be a little bold and go out on a limb. But if you can imagine it, you can do it. That’s why we’re seeing this renaissance of visual imagination. It’s just a growth. Films look better now than they’ve ever looked.
I highly suggest reading the complete interview with Cameron at Hero Complex - Part 1 and Part 2. I hope these quotes have whet your appetite for things to come. I don't want to continue building up expectations, nor does Cameron (as they're probably already as high as they can be), so look at this is simply a bit of context for what you're about to see on Thursday and Friday. As I talked about in my last article - What's Next for James Cameron's Avatar? - at this point I'm just excited to see what happens this week and how Avatar Day plays out. Special thanks to Kris Tapley at In Contention for first pointing out these quotes.