Avatar: Where We Were and Where We’re at


George Merkt, Contributor

Avatar premiered in 2009 to massive successes both critically and at the box office. The epic science fiction film is written and directed by the world-class director James Cameron. You may know him from his other films such as Titanic, or the Terminator series. 

Although Cameron finished the script for Avatar in 1994 (before he even began to film Titanic (1997)), he felt that the necessary technology for the creation of an entirely new world on screen was not available yet. The work on the fictional language in the film, Na’vi began almost a decade later in 2005. Finally, in 2006 the screenplay was finished and production began on one of the most expensive masterpieces ever produced. Estimates for the filming cost due to groundbreaking revolutionary steps in digital design, computer-generated imaging, and an array of new visual effects have reached numbers upwards of 280-310 million dollars and another 150 million for promotion and marketing for the film. 

All of the new technology paid off. The film was critically acclaimed as a world-class performance in visual arts as well as on the screen. Critics and regular viewers alike agreed the film was nothing like anything that had come before and it showed in the box office. To this day it holds the worldwide box office record at 2.878 billion dollars. That’s a billion with a “b.” With its re-release in theaters this past month it is speculated that the film will end up breaking the 3 billion dollar mark.

I sat down to write this article as a refresher on the success, story, and shock of Avatar and the upcoming Avatar 2. Almost 15 years after the box office hit that was Avatar the world was shocked with the news that Avatar is back and not only for a single sequel but a trilogy (coming ~2024)

So, what happened in the first one and what can the viewer expect in the second?

The film is set in the mid-22nd century as humans begin to colonize new planets looking for natural resources to mine to support their growing population. The mineral they are looking for – unobtanium – ironic. However, this colonization poses a particularly great risk to the native population of the moon Pandora. The film is titled Avatar because it is the form the human population takes on to communicate with the native population. Characterized by their tall, strikingly blue skin color and braided locks, the human population can literally walk in the Na’vi’s shoes down to their very bodies. The film follows a soldier that is transformed into one of these Avatars and falls in love with the native population’s culture and people and realizes he must do whatever it takes to defend their land. 

Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects. The film’s success also led to electronics manufacturers releasing 3D televisions and caused 3D films to increase in popularity. 

When speaking to a fellow student this week about the upcoming release this is what he had to say.

I’m so excited to see it, I still remember the feeling I had when I saw the original avatar for the first time. I can’t even begin to imagine what James Cameron has up his sleeve for this one

— Jack Radomski

I know many students feel this way as Avatar was well ahead of its time. With the prevalence of science fiction films in the past few years such as Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Dune we are all looking forward to what masterpiece James Cameron will follow up the original Avatar with.