I remember that back in 2010, if you would at any point have a conversation about films, it would most frequently start with the words ‘Have you watched Avatar?’. Such was its popularity at the time, that many people (including myself) eventually watched it to stop being one of the very few who hadn’t, and to have a say when an inevitable debate about the movie would come along. And, while there have been many marketing successes since then in the world of cinema, I still cannot remember a case of one film being so on top of people’s minds as Avatar was back in 2009 and 2010. It might be because I’ve not paid particular attention to this in the last couple of years, or it might be that Avatar (2009) came right at the start of the social media age, and was one of the first viral elements that everyone interacted with in some way, shape or form – before viral stuff branched out in so many different directions. So, either way, I wanted to take a look at Avatar, and at some of the reasons why it was such a big deal back in 2009.
One of the biggest reasons for Avatar’s success was its groundbreaking use of 3D technology. The film was shot using a new type of 3D camera that was specifically designed for the film, giving it a more immersive and realistic feel. The technology used in the film was so advanced that it had to be specially created for the movie. The result was a visually stunning and engaging experience that had never been seen before in cinema. Plus, it was released during a time when 3D was enjoying a new wave of success in cinema – and therefore, it really capitalised on a top moment for the technology before it re-faded away in its own niche.
Another reason for Avatar’s success was the immersive and detailed world-building that James Cameron created. The planet Pandora, where the story takes place, was a fully realized world with its own flora, fauna, and culture. The world was so well-developed that it felt like a real place, with a history and mythology of its own. The attention to detail and the effort put into creating this world paid off, as viewers were drawn into this new and fascinating place. It was the closest thing one would get to a fully-fledged universe, such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. And, with these two not seeing major releases since 2003 and 2005 respectively, it was Avatar’s time to fulfill this specific need.
Avatar’s story revolved around the exploitation of natural resources and the impact it has on the environment. The film’s message about the need to protect the planet struck a chord with audiences, especially in a time when climate change and environmental issues were becoming more and more prominent in the public consciousness. The film’s environmental message was seen as a timely and important one, and it helped to connect with viewers on a deeper level. Also, released not long after Barack Obama’s election, and his own focus on combatting climate change, again came at the right time.
Strong female lead
The film’s lead character, Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, was a strong and capable female warrior. In a time when female representation in cinema was not as prevalent as it is now, Neytiri was a refreshing change. She was a complex and well-developed character who played an important role in the story. Her portrayal was seen as a step forward for women’s representation in cinema and helped to further connect with audiences.
James Cameron’s reputation
James Cameron is one of the most successful and respected directors in Hollywood. He had previously directed two of the highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, so expectations were high for Avatar. His reputation as a master filmmaker helped to generate buzz and anticipation for the film.
Marketing and promotion
The marketing and promotion for Avatar were extensive and well-executed. The film’s trailers and posters teased the film’s visuals and story, generating excitement among viewers. The film was also promoted heavily at conventions and events, generating buzz and anticipation among fans. The marketing campaign was so successful that it helped to generate a level of hype rarely seen for a film before its release.