James Cameron On The Real Reason Behind The Success Of 'Avatar', And Why He's Setting The Bar Higher For 'Avatar 2'

After James Cameron's Avatar broke box office records a decade ago, conventional wisdom said that the key reasons for the film's unprecedented success were its jaw-dropping visuals, excellent use of 3D, and the immersive setting of Pandora.

Not so, says Cameron. In a recent interview, he explains the real reason for Avatar's success and why he's driven to raise the bar with the upcoming sequels.

The Real Reason for Avatar's Success, According to James Cameron

Speaking with USA Today for the movie's tenth anniversary, Cameron said that before writing began on the sequels, he and the writers analyzed what made the first film such a hit so they could replicate its success in the upcoming movies. Here's what they found, according to the filmmaker:

"Avatar is about finding our home, finding our family, finding our clan. And fighting to protect that which we found and earn our place in it. That turns out to be a more important part of it than people realize. That's why it spoke to every culture in the world and shot to No. 1 in every market. It was dealing with a universal truth of the human condition that transcended culture."

Avatar didn't immediately light up the box office upon release, but it hung around because of strong word of mouth and eventually marched into the history books. I always assumed that word of mouth was praising the film's technological and visual achievements, but perhaps that's an unfair assumption. Even though pretty much everyone acknowledges that the story was largely a riff on things we've seen before, like Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas, perhaps the simplicity of the narrative resonated with more people than I thought. (At the very least, I have to imagine that the simplicity of it helped make the movie such a global success – the less cultural specificity, the easier to translate worldwide.)

Avatar 2's Hardest Scenes Are 10 Times More Complicated Than the Original's

"Flight was our big challenge on the first film," Cameron said later in the interview. "Now we're working underwater, which is 10 times more complicated. We set the bar higher and higher. I don't do it because it's hard. We're doing it because things that haven't been done before are the most fresh."

"When people doubt, we work harder to prove them wrong," producer Jon Landau told USA Today. "We make movies that are universally commercial and at a very high quality of the craft. We believe in what we're doing."

We poke fun at the original movie a lot here at /Film, but I can confidently speak for everyone when I say we're all interested in seeing what Cameron does with the sequel. I love that he's constantly pushing things forward, and I'd be a fool to underestimate Cameron when he's proven time and time again that he's a singular cinematic force to be reckoned with.

If the current release plan holds, Avatar 2 will hit theaters on December 17, 2021.