Almost 13 years on from its release, Avatar remains one of the most popular movies of all time. The 2009 science fiction film directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron is the box office’s highest-grossing film – an achievement it looks like it will only solidify as it prepares for re-release.
A new version of the movie with its visual effects restored in 4K High Dynamic Range will be released in theaters for a two-week run worldwide this September, ahead of the release of its sequel in December. As Avatar embarks on this historical feat, director Cameron has shared his thoughts on why it still remains so popular all these years later.
"I think any film is only as good as the people in it," he says at a recent press conference also attended by main cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver. "And you see in front of you five individuals who brought their hearts and souls to that film."
"I think it took us out of our day-to-day problems," he continues. "It took us out of our day-to-day political discourse and the chaos and disorderliness of real life. And it took us to a place where, yes, there's conflict, there are all sorts of important things going on. But it's all through a lens of fantasy or science fiction. Whatever culture you're in, whether you're in China or Japan, Europe, or North America, it doesn't matter. People saw some universality of their lives and these characters through this lens of science fiction."
The groundbreaking visual effects also helped create this distinction, according to Cameron. "I think in the first few minutes, people just gave up trying to figure out how it was done," he continues. "Because we mixed so many techniques it took us years to develop and so they just kind of surrendered to a sense of immersion in a world and a fantasy."
The final theme that the director hopes will still resonate with viewers new and old when the movie reaches cinemas again is the preservation of nature. It’s a key aspect of the original 2009 film, but in the decade since its release, climate change has only become more a undeniable and present feature of our everyday lives.
"I think when we're kids, we just innately love nature," Cameron says. "We love animals. We love being out in nature. And as our lives progress, we come more and more away from nature and I think society at large anywhere in the world is suffering from nature deficit disorder of some kind, to some degree. I think that [Avatar] puts us back into that childlike wonder about nature, about nature's grandeur and complexity and beauty."
Avatar is re-released in theaters on September 23, 2022. Elsewhere, Sam Worthington and his fellow cast members shared their initial reactions to the script.