James Cameron Compares Himself To Both Peter Jackson And Lord Of The Rings Author J.R.R. Tolkien To Explain The Scope Of Creating Avatar

Na'vi and whale in Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

At this point, it’s pretty hard to argue that James Cameron isn’t an absolutely incredible filmmaker. He has three of the highest-grossing movies of all time as evidence that he clearly understands his audience, and so maybe it isn’t that wild that he recently compared Avatar to Lord of the Rings, not simply Peter Jackson’s film adaptations, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novels as well.

Cameron is in the middle of an undertaking that is, to be fair, something that is at least in the same neighborhood as Peter Jackson’s production of The Lord of the Rings. Jackson made three movies essentially simultaneously, and Cameron did the same with two (and a bit) Avatar films. However, speaking with Time, Cameron points out that Jackson at least had a set of three novels he could use to base his work on. Whereas Avatar was something Cameron needed to write himself. He explains…

I was trying to do a simulation of, OK, I’m Peter Jackson making Lord of the Rings except Lord of the Rings doesn’t exist yet, so I need to go be Tolkien and create Lord of the Rings, and then I can go be Peter Jackson.

James Cameron is many things but modest has never been one of them. To be fair, he’s not necessarily claiming that Avatar is on par with Lord of the Rings when it comes to its importance, at least not yet. He’s saying that what he was doing was on that scale, and that much at least is hard not to agree with. 

And the truth is that James Cameron at least realizes what he’s sort of saying with this comparison to both Lord of the Rings productions, the books, and the films. The big reason that the Avatar sequels took as long as they did according to Cameron was that the writing process was long and complex. If he’d been adapting existing books, we probably would have seen these movies sooner. Cameron said…

A little bit cheeky and ambitious. But I wasn’t adapting some big pantheon of books that existed. I had to go do that.

The quality of the work will likely be debated for decades to come. The scale of it really cannot be. James Cameron certainly has done an incredible amount of work to finally bring these Avatar sequels to life. And the fact that the movie is now the third highest-grossing film of all time says all that needs to be said about its cultural importance, at least at this moment. 

Whether Avatar will even be looked at in the same way that Lord of the RIngs is, only time will tell. It may likely depend on the production of the next two Avatar movies, because Cameron has another big undertaking to complete before his own magnum opus is complete.  

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.