James Cameron Once Said Marvel Is ‘Not The Way To Make Movies.’ He’s Nicer Now, But Won’t Credit ’Em For Avatar Sequels

James Cameron in an interview with CinemaBlend to promote 'Avatar: The Way of Water.'
(Image credit: CinemaBlend)

James Cameron has always been unapologetically honest about filmmaking and the movies being made today. The blockbuster director’s films may have some things in common with the MCU. They both have sequels taking place in fictional worlds and use immense amounts of motion-capture and CGI to communicate a vision. However, Cameron has problems with Marvel, claiming they don’t make movies the right way, although now he's being a bit nicer to the superhero franchise.

In a recent interview with People, Cameron talked about his own approach to his Avatar films and pointed out what he believes the MCU gets wrong about building characters. While he thinks the films are visually spectacular, he thinks the dialogue fails to ground the movies. He explained:

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. 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.

James Cameron certainly tries to invigorate these themes in his own films. Avatar: The Way of Water places a big emphasis on family and different dynamics between the characters. In terms of dialogue, Cameron’s films don’t tend to be as winking as MCU films tend to be. The writer/director has more of an interest in making overarching statements and visual language than lighthearted dialogue. The joking tone of the MCU tends to be controversial in the past, so Cameron isn’t the first to offer criticism. The Titanic director also steered away from Marvel when talking about his own blockbuster sequels and his inspiration for world building, saying:

I don’t think the Marvel Universe had anything to do with that. I think it was more looking at what Peter Jackson had done with the Lord of the Rings films, taking that trilogy of books and turning it into something that people are happy to return to every couple of years. And I thought, ‘Well, let’s do that.’ Let’s create a world that’s that intricate, that has that fractal level of detail. Tolkien spent 12 years putting all that detail into the books.

Cameron clearly doesn’t want his mega budget flicks compared to the superhero films that also have big box office draws. While there are similarities naturally made between his movies and Marvel’s, Cameron is embarking on something different with his offerings. For example, the Avatar films act as direct sequels to each other, without having several character offshoots intertwined. Additionally, Cameron places a real value on the amount of time taken to craft the visual effects, which is different from Marvel’s more speedy process.

Cameron isn’t the only auteur director to criticize the MCU as of late, even he's willing to be a smidge kinder to them now. Martin Scorsese famously compared Marvel films to theme parks, critiquing their creative model and the effect the MCU has had on smaller films. Quentin Tarantino also had a lot to say about the MCU’s dissolution of the “movie star” and said he would never want to direct a film in that universe. Even Marvel star Anthony Mackie seems to echo Tarantino’s opinion.

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is currently in theaters now, with numerous sequels in the works already. For more information on other blockbuster films coming to theaters in the next year, make sure to check out our 2023 movie release schedule.

Caroline Young

Writer, podcaster, CinemaBlend contributor, film and television nerd, enthusiastic person. Hoping to bring undying passion for storytelling to CinemaBlend.