"I wanted to create a familiar type of adventure in an unfamiliar environment by setting the classic tale of a newcomer to a foreign land and culture in an alien planet. The story is by design classic in its broad strokes, but we have plenty of twists and turns in store for the audience. It’s an emotional epic."
I wanted the surface layer to be very simple and clear. I think there is a difference between stupidity and cliché on the one hand and clarity and archetype on the other hand. I wanted [the audience] to be firmly located, knowing what type of story they’re watching, and they I felt that these thematic layers with that would work as a countermelody to that. It’s a very simple, clear, primary melody.
The quality of the storytelling started to greatly degenerate as the technology started to progress. It is almost accepted and regular for a big blockbuster to be just an eye candy, a nice package with nothing inside. The big summer blockbusters who cost a fortune today are synonymous with empty characters and no story or heart. It is now the rule of style over substance. Seldom movies broke that rule, and we got Peter Jackson's King Kong and the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy to name a few, but they are just rare examples and instances where the story is as strong as visuals, and where the story is actually present in a big budget extravaganza.
"I love the innovative processes but I never put that before telling a story. I spent a lot of time on the writing, I spent a lot of time thinking about the characters"
Another thing worth mention is the state of current storytelling in general. For some reason, the rotten became popular. Movies which deal with darkness, sadism, cruelty and grim or unresolved endings are most popular in recent years, and so strong in numbers that we almost forgot the old school storytelling which didn't deal with crime and dark and depressing side of reality. Gore, dark mood, sadism and depression ( elements that seem to be favored by today's youth and almost guarantee the popularity of the movie) are ever present in modern moviemaking.
"The story is actually a wonderful, old-fashioned, epic adventure" - Sigourney Weaver
James Cameron, the master of great storytelling and ground breaking special effects mogul, returns with his latest epic adventure Avatar. James Cameron's Avatar is a return to classic old fashioned storytelling. The basic premise is a simple but heartwarming story that has been used several times before in some of the greatest stories like Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai.
Avatar is just what we need now - an original franchise, not a remake, not a sequel, not an adaptation. A brave move. A much needed breath of fresh air in times when cinema is permeated with darkness. Avatar goes in the opposite direction of what's been mainstream lately not only with its classic approach of timeless storytelling with good values, but also by creating a vibrant and colorful visuals and bringing back the most classic happy ending possible, even showing a character flying off into a sunset as one its last scenes
“His contribution, and what is truly inspiring to other film makers, is that he never allows the technology to overwhelm his story and characters. The big budget action, fantasy, sci-fi genre has become stigmatized as loud dumb films with nothing to say—just look at the big budget movies of this last summer—but that’s never the case with Jim’s movies. He cares about his story and characters, and crafts his scripts brilliantly well.” - Peter Jackson
The movie is a message that speaks against the idea of taking resources at any cost. It shows the worst side of greed, by depicting callous destruction of the landscape as well as the brutality of killing or displacing anyone who gets in the way--even if they were there first. The story speaks out just as much against environmentally destructive methods like strip mining or overly aggressive logging, as it does against violence caused in the name of resource acquisition, such as wars for oil or maybe even the violence associated with the diamond industry. The main message is that people must be more responsible in their actions. And one of the visuals would mean anything if we didn't enjoy the characters.
"The reason we made the film was really to connect people back to an almost child-like sense of wonder" - James Cameron
The love story was a secondary story that among other things helps illustrate Jake's increasing understanding and appreciation of the Na'vi. It helps establish that there's no such thing as a barrier between "us" and "them". There were other elements in the story meant to achieve that, but the love story makes it that much more personal.
James Cameron: "The movie asks people to open their eyes. Opening eyes to the fact that you have to make your own choices based on your own moral compass versus what people have told you to do versus what your mission is. You know, and that's the journey that Jake goes on. (...) It's about understanding the other person from their own perspective"
"He gets a lot of points for being a techno-brat, but he is a very emotional storyteller." - Steven Spielberg
Ever since 1986 Cameron likes to play around with clichés. His idea is to take clichés and make them work again, because what is a cliché? Its an overused idea, but overused doesn't mean bad by any stretch. Putting it in a new context will make it work again, and his intended return to the classic storytelling ala Gone With The Wind or Pocahontas is basically requiring the old values from the classic stories to return. James Cameron in Starlog Magazine 1986 #110: "Aliens takes clichés - the bonding between them, what happens, what disintegrates, what gets stronger and all that, which creates an emotional crucible out of a combat situation - and transports them into science fictional context. In a sense, it's what George Lucas did with Star Wars - taking clichés from westerns and other old movies and putting them into a breathtaking new environment, and it becomes viable again. Raiders of the Lost Ark also proved you could do that."
Steven Spielberg: "The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way it was the first time I saw Star Wars."
"The most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since Star Wars"
"He gets a lot of points for being a techno-brat, but he is a very emotional storyteller."
Fox describes Avatar as "a fully immersive cinematic experience of a new kind, where the revolutionary technology invented to make the film disappears into the emotion of the characters and the sweep of the story".
James Cameron made it clear from the beginning that the special effects are secondary to the story and heart of the movie
CNN: Cameron calls it a classic adventure with a love story
Total Film: Do you worry that Avatar is so cutting edge it will age quickly?
James Cameron: Terminator 2 was cutting edge and it’s easily replicable now. But the film still holds up today because it’s a good movie – it has a good story and you care about the characters.
Total Film: You don’t always get the credit as a storyteller. People tend to focus on the action, stunts and effects.
James Cameron: Ultimately, the box office is the vindication because people don’t enjoy films if the storytelling isn’t good. They don’t care much about how they’re made, whether it’s photographically real, whether you built all the stuff – in the case of Titanic, we built the whole damn thing – or whether you did it all with CG
"I'm not James Cameron and I could never think like that — I don't think he could think like me either — but if I could go into a time machine and think like that and be able to do what he could do, that would be great" - Quentin Tarantino
60 Minutes: It is part cross cultural love story, part high adventure. Characters (are) so otherworldly, yet strangely like ourselves.
What’s interesting to me is that with all of the technical changes, it always comes down to the story
James Cameron: Exactly. It all boils down to the story and to this (framing his face), right in the eyes.
“Avatar” has the best of both, a very familiar story and a very unique vision behind it." - Neville Page
Furthermore, he explains: "Avatar is an epic action adventure, a fantasy, but it’s also a love story. I wanted to create a familiar type of adventure in an unfamiliar environment by setting the classic tale of a newcomer to a foreign land and culture in an alien planet. The story is by design classic in its broad strokes, but we have plenty of twists and turns in store for the audience. It’s an emotional epic."
"I imagine if I like it...my tastes are pretty blue collar, pretty mainstream, people in general are going to like it. I knew it was exciting, it was an adventure, it could appeal to kids but it was a dramatic, emotional story that would appeal to an older audience as well."
"Ultimately audiences don’t give a rat’s ass how a movie is made. When people see the movie, the story will be about the world of the planet Pandora, the creatures on it, the characters—such as the former Marine and amputee played by Sam Worthington—and the huge conflict between the humans and the inhabitants of Pandora. How does it move you? How emotional is it? It’s pretty damn emotional and dramatic. That said, I think we certainly exceeded our expectations in making these characters feel real."
"I love the innovative processes but I never put that before telling a story. I spent a lot of time on the writing, I spent a lot of time thinking about the characters, I love working with the actors fidning the characters"
"Cameron thinks of the effects—along with the rest of the technology (camera systems, for example)—as supporting the storytelling, not the other way around." - Dana Goodyear
"I think that part of myth is familiarity. Myth has to feel like it has roots in prior arc going back through traditions of storytelling and going back way far. People that uh, its always amusing when they say ‘wow, its just Dances With Wolves’. Yeah because Dances With Wolves took place on another planet where people projected their consciousness to other bodies that were 10 ft tall and blue , its like. We intentionally wanted to use familiar touchstones of storytelling that were historical and reflect them through a lens from the future. "
According to James Cameron during an interview with the Telegraph UK, “We’re telling the story of what happens when a technologically superior culture comes into a place with a technologically inferior indigenous culture and there are resources there that they want, it never ends well." “It’s also a love story about an awakening of perception through the other person. That person must teach him something and there has to be a greater reason for him to be in love with her other than she’s a hot blue alien chick.”
It can be noted that most of Cameron's work does center around technology-less natives besting an industrial super power from Skynet in "The Terminator" and “T2” to earth men in "Avatar" the underdog is either puny humans fighting cyborgs, Giger's Aliens fighting the firepower of the Colonial Marines, or forest dwelling natives fighting human space invaders. The consistent theme is that organically formed bonds trump those instilled by artificial discipline, a lesson well learned from history repeatedly. They can also be seen in the light of the industrial versus the natural order. (Hulig.com )
There's also a meaning behind Na'vi's appearance:
60 Minutes: You gave them long tails. Why?
James Cameron: "Tails are very expressive, I mean anybody who own a dog or a cat knows that you can tell the cats emotional state by what its tail’s doin"
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The Canadian-born Cameron said that the Na'vi's blue skin also allowed him to comment on race. "[I was thinking], 'What are the differences that we can deal with, without it becoming a barrier?' Skin color is great, and it's also great thematically, because skin color is obviously such a big issue on our planet,"
There’s also maybe some heritage linking it to “Dances With Wolves,” considering
your story here of a battered military man who finds something pure in an
endangered tribal culture.
JC: Yes, exactly, it is very much like that. 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.
And I think returning to classic tales is a powerful thing. (...) Look, I think it's about finding a balance between story and all of this gimmickry. I think I veer toward classicism, being solidly rooted in the classic stuff. I mean really old-school science fiction.
New Yorker’s Dana Goodyear Cameron always seems to find an emotional drama to motivate the action set pieces, which is probably at least part of the reason women like the films.
Dana Goodyear: Cameron thinks of the effects—along with the rest of the technology (camera systems, for example)—as supporting the storytelling, not the other way around. Here’s what Peter Jackson had to say about that, when I asked him over e-mail how Cameron has influenced film: “His contribution, and what is truly inspiring to other film makers, is that he never allows the technology to overwhelm his story and characters. The big budget action, fantasy, sci-fi genre has become stigmatized as loud dumb films with nothing to say—just look at the big budget movies of this last summer—but that’s never the case with Jim’s movies. He cares about his story and characters, and crafts his scripts brilliantly well.”
James Cameron: I look at other films and the things that impress me are not the big action sequences. They're not the big, hyperkinetic pyrotechnics and CG stuff. Big effects sequences are relatively easy. They're expensive as hell. They're grueling to make. But they're relatively easy because they are what they are, generally speaking. The things that impress me are when a filmmaker can very quickly and efficiently evoke some kind of out-of-body, transcendental state where I'm 100 percent connected to the characters. I know what they're thinking and what they're feeling even though they may not even be saying anything.
The cast and crew share the same sentiment:
Sigourney Weaver: "It was the most ambitious script by far that I’d ever read. And it was really about something very important, which is finding the hero within yourself and finding something worth fighting for."
"Without Sam and Zoe [Saldana], they play the main love story—if they weren’t so good you wouldn’t care about being in that rainforest. To see their relationship flower in that world, that’s why you want to go there. It’s not because the colors are pretty."
"The story is actually a wonderful, old-fashioned, epic adventure"
"It's such a kind of big, hard-core wonderful story about people and worlds and species and so many things, and it's going to take you on a ride like you won't believe. So I hope families from people, like, 85 to 5 see it, because otherwise, you'd have to explain it to the person at home, and you wouldn't be able to do that."
"I think it's great that the Hollywood press didn't just see this as a sort of big entertainment. This movie is a good, solid, very moving emotional story
Michael Lewis from Real D: "Avatar is potentially the Citizen Kane of this medium"
Neville Page, creature designer: "There can be parallels drawn to any love story. It’s who can tell it better, with more compelling imagery. That’s definitely what Jim has done here. People are going to get it. Much like “Titanic.” Was that a unique story, if you're not talking about the ship? No, not even close. It's “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s a classic, classic story. “Avatar” has the best of both, a very familiar story and a very unique vision behind it."
Jon Landau: "I think this is a movie that has universal themes. I think in this movie not only we have Jake Sully which is our lead character but we have three very strong female characters. We have Neytiri who is beautiful and gorgeous and all those things and Jim called her his ultimate action hero character. We have Sigourney Weaver who plays Grace. She's the foundation that grounds us all, she's our compass, both on a moral perspective and just a guide in life. Then we have Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon who, she really understands that its about the choices in life that define who we are"
"Visually enthralling and emotionally rewarding"
Zoe Saldana: “It’s a film about the future but the essential story is very simple: What happens when man gets ahead of himself, defies his own mortality and creates something so perfect that ends up coming back to haunt him? This story is about what happens when we under-appreciate the things we have and we’re forced to take resources from this other place. It’s a very universal story about using and abusing and learning to co-exist.”
"The entire world has been so fixated on the technology because it's so groundbreaking and everything but the technology only compliments the love story. And if there's one thing that we've known Jim to do throughout his career is to tell amazing stories and bring character to life that you find it hard to part with at the end of the movie, and this film is not deprived of that, that James Cameron essence"
Sam Worthington: "Look, all the 3D, the technical wizardry , put that all aside the movie's nothing if it doesn't have a heart. That's the biggest thing I've ever learned. I think Jim Cameron's movie has heart"
Michelle Rodriguez: "He's just really amazing at doing grandiose things with like technology and just filmmaking overall but I think at the end of the day the guy's a really amazing storyteller and that's what I took from the whole thing"
Stephen Lang: "It's a beautiful, beautiful love story and it's an emotional journey.(...) By no means is this a techno toy story for boys. I think there are elements of that but you know Jim Cameron is a very , very candid filmmaker and if you look at the history of the movies he's made, he really appeals to the widest audience possible and that's what he's interested in doing."
Joel David Moore: "All of these gadgets, all the bells and whistles of the world of Pandora is all just the sugar on top of the cake that he's, you know, made, which is the story. Everything's about the story"
James Cameron: You have to rely on good storytelling to create an emotional reaction. And people cry when the tree falls. And so its working. (...) there's an emotional connection to the film and some would even say a spiritual connection to the film and if those things weren't working the film wouldn't have been as successful.
By Adrian Czarny
Taste of the positive reviews (which make up the vast majority of the reviews) mentioning the story:
It's a powerful, inspiring film that demonstrates movie-making at its best
Much of the press about Avatar has focused on the special effects, the motion capture and the 3-D presentation. These are modern filmmaking marvels, for certain, but the film succeeds for a far more important reason: Its story
the Jurassic Park (dinosaurs)... (believe) the world of Pandora does indeed
exist. Then there's the better news: the characters and story are just as
Rebirths the old fashioned action epic in a era of soulless marketing machines, desensitizing shock pieces, and overrated indie-art imposters. Cameron's vision exceeds the hype.
The story is so entertaining
Cameron has successfully made a digital blockbuster feel as warm as an old-time movie, where blood temperature was more important than pixels
Combining beyond-state-of-the-art moviemaking with a tried-and-true storyline and a gamer-geek sensibility -- not to mention a love angle, an otherworldly bestiary, and an arsenal of 22d-century weaponry -- the movie quite simply rocks.
Somehow it all works wonderfully well, thanks mainly to Cameron's story-telling skills and to the movie's fantastically detailed vision.
Love and acceptance are at the heart of this megabuck megapic; while our hearts are opened by the Emotion Key, our eyes are dazzled by the visual spectacle, enhanced by remarkable 3D. An event of a film, a spectacle that allows us to live the fantasy.
A brilliant, visual extravaganza that's simultaneously thrilling, provocative and surprisingly moving
A spectacular flight of fancy that has a strong enough story to keep up with and be enhanced by the OMG technology.
Atlantic City Weekly
A mind-bending epic that's both visually spectacular and emotionally involving.
Shadows On The Wall
It's the breathtakingly beautiful CGI landscape that somehow pulls the audience in on this tale of profit and progress versus nature's power and infinite variety.
Avatar is a richly symbolic, captivating and immense film which laces together some of the great mythical stories of mankind into a contempo action adventure fusing its sci fi genes with spiritual and ecological themes. And it pivots on romance
With Avatar, Cameron has created the first great epic of the 21st century and a new benchmark in filmmaking.
It's thrilling and lovely and sad and explosive in all the right ways
The movie is gorgeous, funny, fun, and engrossing in a way that a lot of movies aim for but few achieve
Even if this is old-fashioned storytelling, there’s a lot of it -- and it has Cameron’s directing DNA in every scene.
Avatar is as old-fashioned and romantic as Titanic, and thrillingly, just as wonderful to watch.
You care about the CG characters. It tugs the heart. It makes you shout. And it is an overwhelming feast of visual artistry unlike anything you have ever seen before.
This is spectacle with soul
The detail, the depth, the jaw-dropping boldness of Avatar simply bowl you over.
This is London
The most astonishing visual effects yet seen on screen and blends them seamlessly into a mythical sci-fi story.