James Cameron is the kind of director who likes to revolutionize the industry he works in whenever he makes a movie. Shot entirely in a new format of 3-D motion-capture, his Avatar wowed audiences with its visual style and groundbreaking effects, and Cameron is poised to do it again. He announced today that Avatar 2 will be projected in 3-D, but audiences won’t need their glasses.
By sheer chance, last week I spent five days at Disney World with my son’s high school choir, at the same time that Animal Kingdom officially opened its new “Pandora - The World of Avatar” area. Our group was slated to go to Animal Kingdom on Memorial Day, and I was eager to see how Disney had turned James Cameron’s 2009 prog-rock/science-fiction/eco-propaganda experiment into a real-world habitat. So on the morning before our designated day, I opened up the “My Disney Experience” app on my phone to check out the wait times. About forty minutes after the park opened, the line for the “Na’vi River Journey” ride was already three hours long. And the wait for “Avatar Flight of Passage?” Four hours.
It’s been nearly eight years since James Cameron’s Avatar took the global box office by storm, and while it’s become très chic for some corners of the internet to endlessly bash Avatar, I still maintain my stubborn affection for Cameron’s movie. Very few filmmakers can create action-driven science-fiction that operates at Cameron’s level; just look at how many times people have messed up Cameron’s Terminator franchise, a near-flawless formula for blockbuster movies that studios have nevertheless run directly into the ground. We may laugh at Cameron’s planned sequels, but they are both original (technically!) and creator-driven movies. Isn’t that what we claim to want from Hollywood?
With Avatar 2 delayed yet again, it’s starting to sound like we’ll never see James Cameron’s much-hyped return to Pandora and his tribe of blue aliens. That is, unless you can grab yourselves some tickets to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and hop onto their new “Pandora — The World of Avatar” ride. The concept has been teased for months, and today we get our first look inside at all the magic, and, honestly, it looks pretty incredible.
So long as you’re not bothered by the ruthless capitalistic spirit of six-dollar bottled water and don’t stumble into the clandestine torture facility concealed within the giant EPCOT globe, everyone loves Disney’s amusement parks. They earned the title of Happiest Place on Earth through a militant doctrine of mandated cheer, and with a new amusement park based on James Cameron’s unkillable sci-fi series Avatar opening soon, they’ll add the distinction of Trippiest Place on Earth to their pedigree. Today brings two brief sneak peeks at the facility set to open this summer, and it’s like you can already hear the hallucinating 20-year-olds begging to be let off the ride.