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Avatar: James Cameron's Movie is Four Stars

Updated on January 4, 2010


The buzz before and after remains pretty much the same, Avatar, directed by James Cameron, is truly a blockbuster and sets new movie making limits. Beneath all the glitter of fame and fortune is always trial and error, failure, diversion, time and lack of money.

Take the legendary Beatles. John, Paul and George were together honing their skills, technique, vocals for at least 4-5 years before finding the right drummer, Ringo. The right manager, Brian Epstien, and lastly, the right record producer, George Martin (who ironically, liked their personalities, wit, and humor more than the demos they first presented). That year was 1962. Still, two years from worldwide legends. The rest is history.

How does this relate to Avatar?

Well, Cameron had a vision of a sci-fi movie done with computer technology in the late 80s. He first started writing Avatar then. It was just a pet project for him until the script reached a finalized version in the late 90s. Meanwhile, Cameron did other notable movies, such as, Alien, Titantic, The Abyss, Terminator etc. All quite good and successful, yet, Avatar was his personal goal to complete. But he had to wait for technology and CGI to develop to the point to where the creatures looked more real than cartoonish. Studios received the Avatar script in a lukewarm fashion, none were "hot" to jump on it because of its scope in development and costs, yet, Cameron just plugged along at it, honing in on the skills and techniques. It was a movie made over an extended period of years with numerous setbacks and hurdles. Because it was his personal vision, more than any other of his films, he simply continued working on it as if he was learning a new language until being fluent.

The movie cost over $300 million, largely sponsored by Fox, but Cameron's own money went into initially, advertising is another $150 million. Its theme is familar, a sophisticated country with modern weapons invades a 3rd world type planet that is like the US is to Afghanstan or Vietnam for its resources. It has little in the way to resist but for its people. The place is Pandora. A jungle like planet (Vietnam?) where the Navi people reside. Since humans cannot enter the atmosphere, they use avatars that look like the real thing but controlled by humans. These avatars experience everything the real Navi do. The humans recruit a paraplegic Navi to be an avatar for them. As an avatar, this Navi can now walk and run again since the humans control it. He is Jake Sully. As Jake is controlled, he is sent into a near death mission and is saved by a real non-avatar Navi, a female named Neytiri, who teaches him the "ways" of peace, sharing, loving of the Navi (think, a cavalry soldier in 1866, captured by a peace loving Indian tribe and the soldier is converted). In the end, the badass Marine and his clan of jarheads are defeated in a David vs. Goliath battle, where the technology edge is lost, allowing primitive weapons to succeed. Jake is then transformed to a real Navi.

The movie is long at 163 min (2 hrs and 40 min) which makes the theatre owners unhappy revenue wise. It is a war movie in the vein of Star Wars, Star Trek. Character development is extensive and one does not realise the movie length when its over ( a good thing). Rated PG 13.

Because it is such a stunning visual experience in 3D, one must see it at least once. So, the old saying of success is never overnight and without hard work remains so true. Look at the two examples I provide. There are hundreds of others.

As of Jan 2010, Avatar has grossed $1 billion (not 1,000, 000 but 1,000,000, 000) dollars worldwide making it only the 5th movie to ever have done it. Cameron is also the only director to have two films grossing this amount, the other was, Titanic.


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