It wasn't a "snap decision", says James Cameron about his plan to further explore the lush blue world of Pandora that he introduced in his blockbuster movie Avatar with the upcoming sequel The Way of Water. The filmmaker said the humongous box office earnings of the 2009 movie (over USD 2 billion), set on a fictional moon inhabited by a native tribe called Na'vi, gave him an opening to the people's hearts and minds.
"The feedback from the world in all cultures was that we want more of this. That's what people said afterwards. 'It was too short. I didn't want to leave, I wanted to stay there'.
"As an artist, I've already got an avenue right into the hearts and minds of people around the world," he told PTI in a virtual group interview.
The filmmaker said he had to do a lot of introspection before making the sequel as well as further follow-ups, which are already in various stages of production.
"I had to think about it for a few years before I decided to go ahead. It wasn't a snap decision or a no-brainer.
"I had to ask myself as a filmmaker, as an artist, and as somebody who has a lot of other things that I like to do, like exploration and sustainability causes, - is this something I want to do and devote my life to? Because that's really what you do when you make a movie like this. It's a hundred percent." Citing the example of his contemporary Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial", Cameron said as a storyteller one needs a better reason to return to a franchise and it can't be money.
"Steven Spielberg never made E.T., the highest grossing film in the world at that time, but he didn't make another film... We don't want to tempt fate and the gods of cinema. So I had to weigh all this out, but I eventually decided to go ahead and here we are today, not with just one movie, but with another one to follow and hopefully more beyond that," he added.
Avatar followed a paraplegic marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who becomes an unlikely champion for the Na'vi, the 10-foot-tall and blue-skinned, sapient humanoids, in their fight for survival.
The film, which also featured Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, was a colossal success, becoming Cameron's second movie after "Titanic" to raise over USD 2 billion at the box office. It is currently the highest-grossing title of all time.
Cameron said he considers the commercial success of a project as a parameter to measure the appreciation his work has received.
"An artist tries to communicate with other people. You try to take something from within your own perception of the world and you try to write it out for the world in some form - a novel, a painting, a dance, a music, or a movie.
"So I think that's a validation that has to be considered because the movie thematically was about something that I think is quite important -our relationship with nature, our destructive role with nature and our protective role with nature." Avatar: The Way Of Water, which released in theatres on Friday, will see Worthington's Sully and Saldana's Neytiri doing everything they can to keep their family together.
When unforeseen events displace them from their home, the Sullys travel across the vast reaches of Pandora, ultimately fleeing to territory held by the Metkayina clan, who live in harmony with their surrounding oceans.
The movie was in development for the past five years and audiences will witness the commitment of the team when they watch the film on the big screen, Cameron said.
"This is full immersion and full commitment. I do a lot of things that have to do with sustainability and ocean conservation. I've probably made five or six documentaries during that time.
"But in terms of my focus, in terms of big movie cinema, it has been a hundred percent focus in this world... When you see a movie like this, you will see the end result of five years of a creative team creating every detail down to a fractal level. Which is why it seems so rich and so real when you watch it," he said.
Avatar: The Way of Water also features Lang, Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Dileep Rao, along with newcomers Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis.
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