By Jason Carroll
Say what you want about "Avatar." Here's what you need to know about James Cameron. When he decides to tell a story, he's one hundred percent committed. He proved that when we showed up to interview him about "Avatar."
Cameron told me it's a classic adventure much in the mold of "Lawrence of Arabia." That may sound odd for a science fiction tale, but that’s how Cameron describes "Avatar."
"I want to take people to another world, I want to take them out of their daily lives on a fantasy journey," Cameron said. "This is an experiential journey, it's highly immersive and you're gonna see things that you probably haven’t seen other than in your own dreams."
"Avatar" is an expensive dream, costing $237 million so far and counting. It could end up being the most expensive film ever made. Does Cameron feel the pressure? You bet. "I think pressure's good for filmmakers. It makes us think about our audiences and what the audience wants. It makes us in a sense beholden to the audience."
And that is where the commitment comes in. When we met up with Cameron he was still tweaking "Avatar," (in fact, he still is by this posting) still adjusting sound and making edits to the film, which opens December 18th.
He gave us behind-the-scenes access, allowing CNN's cameras into an editing session where I watched Cameron do his thing. At one point, Cameron telling the editors how he wanted an explosion to sound. "... if you use explosions with a longer attack and decay, like a BOOOOOM kind of sound, then they all merge in to on big BOOM BOOM BOOM."
The question is, will "Avatar" be a bomb? Some bloggers who have seen the film's trailer say Cameron's giant visioned Avatar's look more like Smurfs. I asked Cameron if that made him nervous. "I think if everybody was embracing the film before the fact the film could never live up to that expectation."
Cameron, who hasn’t made a feature film in ten years, says he hopes to meet expectations with his visual masterpiece. The story takes place on the planet Pandora, a hostile planet where humans cannot survive. So they use avatars as a medium to live, fight, and mine the planet's valuable resource.
There is a love story between an avatar and one of Pandora's native beings to drive the story, and its all in 3D. But Cameron says his 3D is not like anything audiences have seen before. The technology didn't exist when Cameron started making his film so he developed 3D cameras to meet his creative needs. The film is a combination of 3D, computer-generated images, and live action. Cameron sat with me at an AVID editing facility and showed me how it was done.
"We challenged ourselves on this film to go beyond what we collectively knew. We wanted to go outside the circle of light, outside the safe ... out into the wilderness so to speak." Cameron said, "It felt, almost in a scary way, but in a fun way too."
Ultimately, Cameron hopes to prove the early critics wrong like he did with "Titanic." He says "Avatar" will be fun and appeal to someone who is eight or 80-years-old. But given the time and money spent on this artistic endeavor, his detractors are watching and waiting."