When the blockbuster release hit the theaters, people flocked to see the incredible CGI work and innovative 3D graphics.
Viewers were blown away by how far technology in film had gotten in such a short period of time.
Seeing Avatar in theaters for the first time was an unforgettable experience, especially with how long the movie was.
Why Was Avatar So Successful?
Avatar was a major success that has brought in a total of $2.814 billion.
Although it was temporarily surpassed by Avengers: Endgame, the movie was recently released in China.
During the weekend it premiered with no advertisement or fanfare, Avatar made an additional $23.9 million
For over a decade, no movie had ever made more money than Avatar.
Before Avatar was the most successful movie, James Cameron’s other movie Titanic, which had made $2.2 billion after he spent more than $200 million on the film.
Many factors played into Avatar’s success, coming from all different aspects of the film.
James Cameron led an all-star cast through some of the newest types of acting, all while maintaining the amazing talent that earned the actors their roles.
The advancement in CGI that Avatar managed to achieve wowed fans and filmmakers alike.
No one had ever seen anything like Avatar.
The movie was filled with technological firsts, which allowed it to climb up the top of movie charts everywhere.
Others will attribute the movie’s success to how immersive the world of Avatar felt, especially with the 3D graphics that came in theaters and later for home viewings.
The immersive world of Avatar held your attention for every minute of its nearly three-hour runtime.
Here are 6 reasons Avatar was so successful.
1. The Cast
One of the best parts of Avatar is the acting.
Director James Cameron was able to convey a meaningful and touching story about how when you discover new people and a new culture, you will discover a new piece of yourself.
This all-star cast told the story in an unforgettable way.
Leading this cast is Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, a disabled soldier who inhabits the body of an alien in order to gain intelligence on a tribe of tall, blue creatures.
He had been in quite a few action movies beforehand, such as Pros and Ex-Cons.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Trek star Zoe Saldana was cast as Neytiri.
Neytiri was the love interest of Jake Sully and acted as a peacemaker between her tribe and the humans.
She taught Jake Sully the ropes of how to live in his new body.
Sigourney Weaver played Dr. Grace Augustine, who acted as a powerful voice of reason in the movie.
The Alien star shined brightly in another science fiction film and did an amazing job of making the science believable.
Action star Stephen Lang played Colonel Miles Quaritch.
His intense, lethal stare pierced right through the screen.
His ability to make situations feel more urgent made the ethical questions feel more impactful and rattle more deeply in the minds of viewers.
Fast & Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez played Trudy Chacón.
Rodriguez fit perfectly into a military role with her intimidating presence.
She gave Trudy the strong stature that made her memorable.
The whole cast blended so well together.
They really seemed like they had been serving in a military unit together for a long time.
The cast was able to make the whole story so believable and made even more impressive the fact that a lot of characters they were interacting with were solely digital.
2. The Story
The story is the most important part of a movie, and it can make or break a movie.
If you were to ask James Cameron why he believes Avatar became so successful, he would tell you that it was the story that drew all of his fans in.
In an interview with USA Today, James Cameron was able to look back and talk about why the story of Avatar was so important and how it played such a large role in the movie’s success.
“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”. Cameron told USA Today.
After the market crash of 2008, many people were left feeling lost and helpless.
The idea of being able to find your own place in the world where you belonged hit close to home for many viewers.
Every good story has characters that match.
Jake Sully is one of the few lead characters to be in a wheelchair.
Many disabled fans latched on to Sully and appreciated his representation.
Disabled fans claimed that their favorite hobbies help them feel the same way Jake Sully felt while in the body of the Avatar.
There were some fans of the movie who were not keen on Sam Worthington playing a disabled character.
Many believed that a disabled actor should have played the role instead.
Luckily, the addition of the Avatar softened the blow.
Seeing the character of Jake Sully slowly being accepted by Neytiri’s clan was heartwarming for viewers to watch.
He was an incredibly easy character to get attached to and root for.
The character progression in the movie feels natural and well-timed.
Jake begins to care about the protection of the world he came to destroy.
3. The CGI
The most notable aspect about the movie is what they were able to do with computer-generated images, better known as CGI.
Sixty percent of the movie was done with CGI, which included everything from backgrounds to characters.
What was so revolutionary about the movie’s computer-generated imagery was the motion capture suits that the actors would wear.
These suits are part of what made the actors’ jobs so difficult.
These suits were large and strange-looking, making it difficult for the actors to take themselves seriously.
James Cameron had been waiting for the technology to match his vision for Avatar since the 1990s.
The motion capture suits that he helped develop consisted of unique bodysuits.
They also had head rigs that held a camera in front of an actor’s face to capture every inch of it.
The data collected from the suit and head would then be transferred to another capture that would see the actor in their digital costume.
The set crew would be able to see in real time what digitized costumes and movements were going to look like.
Avatar also used another CGI trick called “Facial Performance Replacement”.
Many tiny cameras are placed around the face to capture any and all facial movements, which were then put through the studio’s software to digital put facial cosmetics.
With every movement the actors made, Cameron ensured that their characters made as well.
This helped give the CGI characters more lifelike and helped them behave like living creatures.
For the movie, Cameron even used his own special camera that had a six-inch boom microphone, so animators could use the audio to perfect the characters’ lip movements.
When Cameron decided to make the movies 3D, he used a technique he had learned from the remastering of old movies.
4. The Immersion
The longer your movie is, the harder it will be to hold the audience’s attention the entire time.
The best way to combat this is by making your viewers as invested and immersed as possible.
Avatar is an excellent example of how this can be done right.
Avatar is a science fiction movie.
This genre is best supported by having a world that viewers want to dive into.
The alien planet of Pandora, which is the setting for the entire movie, is vibrant and colorful.
Cameron did an amazing job of making the world believable and filling it with life.
Any scene that takes place in the jungles of Pandora is filled with out-of-this-world plants that make the viewer feel just how different this planet is from Earth.
The entire world looks like it’s teeming it with magic.
The creatures that live on the planet actually look like they come from the area.
While some may complain about the animals being the same color as the backgrounds, animals in real life are often the same color as their surroundings, which is referred to as natural camouflage.
These tiny details helped Pandora feel like a real place where fans would want to explore or become a member of the clan like Jake Sully.
While the scenery and the creatures that interact with the characters help create an immersive world, it’s the characters who help create an immersive story.
In previous movies, CGI had a bad habit of looking fake or plastic.
When CGI characters would move, everything about them felt unnatural.
Cameron knew he needed the CGI in his movie to not interrupt the immersion, so we put the CGI over real actors.
By putting CGI over actual people’s movements, the characters were able to breathe, talk, grab things, move limbs, and walk.
5. The Soundtrack
A movie’s soundtrack can help define scenes or make a movie more memorable.
The soundtrack that was composed and conducted by James Horner for the movie fit each scene perfectly, adding to the intensity of emotions during different scenes.
James Horner was known for being able to create music that deeply reflected the feeling of different scenes.
Before Avatar, he had composed music for movies such as The Boy in Striped Pajamas, The Mask of Zorro, and Titanic.
While the songs may not sound like much, they offer an incredible ambiance that pairs beautifully with the scenes themselves.
For example, the song that plays as Jake Sully enters the world of the Avatar makes you feel on edge and frightened, much like how Jake Sully feels as he treks through the jungles of Pandora for the first time.
When the twinkling lights begin to fill the screen, the music becomes tranquil and mystifying.
The sound of orchestral bells twinkled just gently as the glowing, blue lights of the world of Pandora.
It helps you feel the wonder that Jake feels entering this strange, new environment.
The movie’s score begins to swell with triumph as Jake begins to get closer to the inhabitants of the planet.
The music becomes sweet and gentle whenever Jake and Neytiri are together.
When Colonel Quaritch begins plotting the destruction of Neytiri’s homeland the music takes a dark and sinister turn.
It helps intensify the scenes with the colonel and keeps the viewer’s eyes on the screen.
Once the fighting has begun, Horner adds more drums and layers to his score.
The reason that Horner’s ambient music fits so well with Avatar is that it doesn’t overwhelm or overtake the scene.
He used music to supplement whatever scene was composing for.
6. The Cinematography
Avatar is one of the most creative pieces of cinematography and has made more things in film achievable.
CGI has made it possible to create entire worlds and scenes that could never have been achieved with traditional effects.
The movie has many sweeping shots that excited viewers with the soaring view of Pandora.
The camera often follows creatures and characters as they move quickly through the jungle.
Part of what made the digital scenes and the traditionally shot scenes was the lighting.
The lighting crew for Avatar used ultraviolet lighting to blur the lines between what was real and what was made with CGI.
Thanks to the ultraviolet lighting, they were also able to get rid of the green light that would reflect off of all of the green screens that were used for the movie.
Almost every single set was covered in green screens, including the ceiling.
Light sources were strategically placed to mimic the sun in each scene, which also had to be planned out.
Cameron wanted complete control of how the lighting would look in each scene, so they never used actual sunlight.
This level of control and detail allowed them to create a completely unique world.
In science fiction films, there is often a problem of making the scenes truly feel like they’re on another planet, due to the way that sunlight hits the Earth.
Cameron resolved this issue by creating his own lighting for the world he created.
The light sources were one of the only physical tools that the production crew had on hand for the sets, so they made sure that each placement was perfect and well thought out.
They did an excellent job of hiding the flaws of CGI and strengthening what it did best.
Avatar Is A Piece Of Film History
Nobody knew what an impact that Avatar would have on the technology and software that is used in film.
The idea that it would be the best-selling movie for over a decade amazed people in 2009.
The opening week was rough for Avatar, but the movie quickly became a hit shortly thereafter.
Those who study cinematography look at Avatar as the best example of a movie that was done mostly with computer-generated imagery.
The world wasn’t ready for the advancement in technology that managed to bring the world of Avatar to life so vividly.
Avatar makes you wonder what the next greatest movie is going to be capable of.