In the wake of the breathtaking Avatar: The Way of Water soaring past the $2 billion global gross mark, the James Cameron-directed epic scored a best picture nomination, along with noms for production design, sound and visual effects. The snub of Cameron’s monumental achievement in the best director category continues the franchise’s complex relationship with Oscar.
Cameron surely breathed a sigh of relief when the film performed as robustly as he hoped it would, clearing the way for three or four sequels as Avatar is set up for the next few years to establish itself as a massive franchise on the order of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Many felt that it was perhaps the biggest bet — the bulk of the sequels were shot at once — since LOTR, when New Line chief Bob Shaye rolled the dice and empowered director Peter Jackson to shoot all three installments in one massive shoot in New Zealand.
The first two films got a swarm of nominations including best picture, but the film’s triumph came in 2004, when it swept the 11 awards The Return of the King was nominated for, including best picture. Jackson also took home awards for best director and best adapted screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
Maybe Cameron — who had the same Oscar winning experience for Titanic — will have the same experience with one of the upcoming Avatar films.
The original Avatar, on the road to becoming the biggest film of all time with a $2.92 billion global gross, drew nine Oscar noms and came away with wins for art direction, cinematography and visual effects. Cameron was snubbed that time for best director and best director by his former close colleague and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow. In a true David versus Goliath reprise, The Hurt Locker, which cost a fraction of Avatar and had turned in a modest theatrical performance, pulled off the upset.
Cameron will surely be able to console himself with the affirmation that moviegoers still prize plunges into the Avatar universe, and Disney will do so also in the feeling that it will help justify its oft-criticized acquisition of Fox from Rupert Murdoch.