James Cameron Explains Avatar's Success to...Marianne Williamson?!

Flying has a lot to do with why James Cameron thinks Avatar works.
Flying has a lot to do with why James Cameron thinks Avatar works.
Image: Fox

You don’t make some of the most successful movies in history without making some interesting friends. James Cameron, for example, was recently a guest on the Marianne Williamson Podcast. Williamson, as you may recall, is a former presidential candidate and best selling author who tends to get into some very weird shit. Fake quotes, TikTok witches, and, apparently, an intense passion for all things Avatar.

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So, on the occasion of the film recently becoming the highest grossing film ever (again), Cameron sat down with Williamson for over an hour to discuss “The Spirit of Avatar.” This basically means they talked about the lessons they believe Avatar can teach humanity about the awful world we live in now, a topic that frequently went off the rails with them quoting self-help books and pontificating about Middle East peace talks, among other things.

It’s a weird interview, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad interview. There is some interesting insight throughout, including a moment where Cameron explains to Williamson what he believes it is that made Avatar so successful. Apparently before he and a team of writers set out to write the three, then four, Avatar sequels, Cameron felt they needed to get that point straight first.

“I said ‘I don’t want to hear anybody’s new ideas or anybody’s pitches until we have spent some time figuring out what worked in the first film,’” Cameron explained. “What connected and why it worked.”

After days of screening the film and discussions, Cameron and the writers concluded a few things. First was the basic plot worked. Second, the themes resonated. Themes of “spiritualism, capitalism and imperialism, colonialization, human rights abuses” and more. But none of that is what truly set Avatar apart, according to Cameron.

“There’s a level that’s dreamlike. That you couldn’t really express in a sentence...it didn’t have any ‘isms’ to it,” Cameron said. “It was just a dream like sense of yearning. A yearning to be there experiencing that thing. Being there in a place that’s safe and where you wanted to be. And whether that was flying—that sense of freedom, that sense of exhilaration, accomplishment—whether it was being in the forest where you could practically smell the Earth, it was a sensory thing that communicated on such a deep level. Which, to me, was the true spirituality of the film. The yearning you can’t give a voice too.”

Cameron and his team then made sure everything they were doing for the sequels had that quality too.

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“We actually created and rejected many storylines for the second and third film because they didn’t take us to that transportive, dreaming with your eyes wide open, aspirational feeling,” Cameron said.

Obviously there’s a lot to unpack there, much as Cameron feels there is to unpack about Avatar. He is right there’s a certain wonder and tangibility to much of Avatar that’s unique. Whether that’s the secret sauce that makes it a near $3 billion hit is another question. Also, if you get the sense Cameron just really likes to wax poetic about philosophy and spirituality, that’s also correct. It’s probably why he says he and his wife are fans of Williamson and why he agreed to be on her show.

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Williamson, by the way, is mesmerized throughout all of this and in complete awe of the director. She talks about her adoration for Avatar more than a few times, admits to being made fun of for it, and fangirls out about its minutiae in ways I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard—which is wild and weird, but also oddly endearing.

Nevertheless, that first Avatar sequel, guaranteed to make you feel like you’re “dreaming with your eyes wide open” is still almost two years away. It’s currently set to open December 16, 2022. You can watch the full interview (of which this discussion is a little over an hour in) at this link.

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Entertainment Reporter. NYU Cinema Studies Alum. Formerly Premiere, EW, Us Weekly, and /Film. AP Award-Winning Film Critic & CCA member. Loves Star Wars, posters, Legos, and often all three at once.

DISCUSSION

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TRT-X

Oh cool, Academy Award winning director lends his credibility to a new age anti-vaxx whack job.