I’ve written down some of the best and worst things that have been said about Avatar, and I want to run a few of them by you.
James Cameron: Okay. I finally found my favorite one-line quote in a review. It was from some little tiny paper. Somebody sent a clipping to my mother, and my mother sent it to me. The last line of the review was ”Avatar is the first film of the rest of your life.”
Well, here are a couple more. ”I can imagine Robert Zemeckis watching Avatar with an expression on his face not unlike F. Murray Abraham’s Salieri listening to his first Mozart composition in Amadeus.”
JC: Okay, I want to comment on that, because I don’t feel any competitiveness with Bob Z. We’re friends and certainly we’re respectful colleagues. Bob pioneered this process. My first [assistant director] worked with Bob on Beowulf and Polar Express, and we just literally took a lot of what they did just as basic day-to-day operations. Bob essentially is making animated films using an actor-driven process. His visual choice on Beowulf didn’t require photo-realism. Avatar is a different kettle of fish. We were intercutting live-action footage with CG footage, so our CG had to be interchangeable with photography.
”This movie in all aspects was the best movie ever, the Holy Spirit spoke to me all the way through…. I am convinced this was of God.”
JC: Well, that’s nice. Forget about the divine or the mystical. I think it’s really more about being in touch with the unconscious. I can’t tell you right now why I felt it was important for Jake to carry Grace in her human form. Why is that inversion of the mother figure with the son — why is that important? I don’t know. But the more you are in touch with that kind of unconscious dream state, the more you’re in touch with the audience. I get studio notes. My instinct is to tear them up, but I read them because I think, all right, this is a valid piece of outside information about my movie. I know I am making decisions on a movie that I cannot defend verbally.
The next ones aren’t nice.
JC: That’s good. We’ve got to respond to those, too — as long as they give me their address.
”Cameron fashionably denounces the same economic and military systems that make his technological extravaganza possible. It’s like condemning NASA yet joyriding on the Mars Exploration Rover.” JC: Yeah. There’s an interesting irony that we use all this technology to create what people interpret as an antitechnology sentiment. But the reality is that we’re a technological civilization, and we have to grapple with what that means.
”Avatar is the perfect ecoterrorism recruiting tool.”
JC: Good, good, I like that one. I consider that a positive review. I believe in ecoterrorism.
”[Avatar made] me want to hurl abusive insults at my cat and go outside and punch a tree.”
JC: [Laughing] I can’t help that person. I don’t make movies for that guy. And you know what? He probably wasn’t on my Christmas list anyway. The movie does seem to sort people into those whose hearts are closed — whose views of the world are f—ed up — and those whose aren’t. But then that’s me speaking, and I made the movie.