James Cameron Explains How ‘Avatar’ Is Different From Marvel and DC

The world has changed so much since the last Avatar came out about 13 years ago. In 2009, the Marvel Cinematic Universe barely existed; Disney had just bought out Marvel and The Avengers was still three years away. Batman was played by Christian Bale, and the notion of a shared DC Universe with the entire Justice League was basically a pipe dream.

These days, Marvel and DC are the big dogs in the world of blockbusters, and Avatar, while holding the title of the highest-grossing film in history, remained silent for more than a decade. But doing the new Avatar: The Way of the Water sequel, James Cameron says he’s trying to do something different from the two or three movies that Marvel and DC now release year after year.

In an interview with The New York TimesCameron opened up about how having children affected her worldview and filmmaking. The way of the water is meant to be a family story, with the characters played by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana now very much the parents of young children, struggling with ordinary domestic issues among their most supernatural dilemmas. And that, Cameron says, will separate the movie from the superhero movies we get. As he said…

I also want to do the thing that other people are not Do. When I watch these big, spectacular movies — I’m looking at you, Marvel, and DC — no matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college. They have connections, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their children. The things that really ground us and give us power, love and purpose? These characters don’t live it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.

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There were a few exceptions here and there – Tony Stark’s young daughter became a major supporting character in Avengers: Endgame, for example – but on the whole, Cameron is right in his assessment of these superhero movies. This review may become less accurate in the future. Marvel is developing a The Fantastic Four movie, and this franchise is very much about family in a way that, say, the Avengers is not. But for now, he’s not wrong. (It should also be noted that James Cameron is a lifelong comic book fan, having spent years in the 1990s trying to make a Spider-Man movie.)

Avatar: The Way of the Water is set to open in theaters on December 16, 2022.

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