‘Avatar’ Director James Cameron Puts Marvel Movies On Blast For Not Being “Realistic”

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Credit: Marvel Studios

The director for the Avatar franchise movies (no, we don’t mean Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the one with blue people!) does not think very highly of how “unrealistic” Marvel Studios films apparently are.

Jake in 'Avatar: The Way of Water'
Credit: 20th Century Studios

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James Cameron, the world-renowned director of Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) fame, has come out with some criticism slamming the realism of fellow The Walt Disney Company Marvel Studios intellectual property (IP), the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With Avatar: The Way of Water coming out in theaters this holiday season, on December 16, 2022, Cameron is back in the spotlight once again. Avatar: The Way of Water will star returning leads Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri) and Sam Worthington (Jake Sully), while Sigourney Weaver returns as Kiri, Jake and Neytiri’s adoptive teenage daughter. Also starring are Jemaine Clement as the marine biologist Dr. Ian Garvin, Kate Winslet as Ronal, a free diver of the Metkayina, and Stephen Lang returns as series antagonist Colonel Miles Quaritch, whose memories have been inserted into a Na’vi Avatar body following his demise in the first film.

Avatar 2 The Way of Water
Credit: 20th Century Studios via YouTube

In an interview with Variety, the Avatar director was explaining the changes in Zoe Saldaña’s and Sam Worthington’s characters in the upcoming film — Neytiri and Jake Sully respectively:

Zoe and Sam now play parents, 15 years late… in the first movie, Sam’s character leaps off his flying creature and essentially changes the course of history as a result of this crazy, almost suicidal leap of faith. And Zoe’s character leaps off a limb and assumes there’s going to be some nice big leaves down there that can cushion her fall. But when you’re a parent, you don’t think that way. So for me, as a parent of five kids, I’m saying, ’What happens when those characters mature and realize that they have a responsibility outside their own survival?

Speaking on “responsibility” — it appears Cameron doesn’t believe that Marvel Studios’ characters embody it enough, as he changed the subject by using the MCU as an example of what not to do, in comparison to his movies’ approach.

Morgan Stark with Tony Stark
Credit: Marvel Studios

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He starts his comparison by noting that “these big, spectacular films” (referring to superhero movies, not his own highest grossing film of all time), he feels that “they all act like they’re in college”, and despite “[having] relationships, they really don’t”:

When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college. They have relationships, but they really don’t.

Tom Holland as a sad Peter Parker
Credit: Marvel Studios

Cameron continues, stating that unlike in The Way of Water, people in these Marvel and DC films do not make sacrifices for kids, as well as having an apparent lack of “things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose”. He insists that those characters just “don’t experience” all of the above:

They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.

There is a strong insistence from James Cameron here that “that’s not the way to make movies”. It’s strong words coming from someone whose film franchise is often labelled as “bland” and simply something that’s a CGI-heavy visual feast, as many upset fans pointed out.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor (left) and Tom Hiddleston as Loki (right)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Twitter user @Mr_Red18k pointed out how much the human experience was explored in Marvel Studios/Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Films/DC Extended Universe properties, posting choice screenshots of Loki in Thor, Thanos in Avengers, and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2022):

I understand what he’s saying but it’s just hyperbolic and I don’t think he actually watches many of them anyway. Anyone who has would know there are countless examples of marvel and dc characters who are explored through these human experiences. It’s what defines them most.

User @mr_smileypoo concurs, and delivers a jibe at Cameron’s Avatar movie and soon-to-be franchise:

Yeah cause the characters in Avatar were so complex. Honestly Cameron probably doesn’t even watch any of the MCU.

While @lukecage050 adds that this critique from Cameron that not retiring means that the character is not “grounded”:

This is just nonsensical. So if a character doesn’t retire, they’re not grounded? How many millions of single people live their lives and have careers well into their 40’s? Just say get off my lawn and finish up your blue people movie.


And @CrimsonDude7 makes a fairly lucid point regarding the “saving of the world” that the superheroes’ kids are also living in:

Maybe because saving the world so your kids can be safe is a bigger job than James thinks.

In fact, Cameron is no stranger to being compared to Marvel Studios offerings, as 2019’s Avengers: Endgame took his “highest grossing film of all time” crown held by Avatar since 2009. Later on, he regained that title after a rerelease of the same first Avatar film.

@Jayfan34 sarcastically brought up the coincidental timing for Cameron’s statement:

“I have a movie coming out soon, time to shit on other movies for the free press.”

Cameron also uses the opportunity to throw some criticisms Disney’s way, right at the hand that feeds him, as Variety puts it:

When asked what’s gained from shooting in actual water has opposed to the more CGI appraoch taken in films like “Aquaman” and Disney’s upcoming “The Little Mermaid,” Cameron answered, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe that it looks good?”

Gamora's return
Credit: Marvel Studios

Very ironically, his lead star of Way of Water, Zoe Saldaña, is starring in the upcoming MCU film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Saldaña’s character, Gamora, is also the reason the new Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is even happening, as surviving her lover Peter Quill deals with grief and survivor’s guilt during the festive season.

Perhaps there’s a reason that there are so many diehard Marvel and DC fans that have endured over the years — the “superhero comics nerd” is basically the epitome of a particular cultural trope, after all. There might just be something in these works that speak to the human experiences of those fans turning up at the cinemas, at the very least.

What do you think about James Cameron’s statement about superhero movies? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s dramatic ending to Phase Three, Avengers: Endgame directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, saying goodbye to Marvel heavyweights Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wraps things up with Tatiana Maslany as the eponymous She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa send-off Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, November 11, 2022 later this year. The newly announced MCU Phase Five kicks off with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania with Scott Lang as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Janet van Dyne as the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) hitting theatres on February 17, 2023.

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