No, The Avatar Movies Won’t Have A High Frame Rate

Avatar Jake draws his bow as Neytiri watches

Director James Cameron has cultivated a reputation as someone who loves to use cutting edge technology to make films like the Avatar franchise into technical marvels that tell a blockbuster story. So it may surprise you that in a recent interview, the man who seems to invent new technology almost every time he directs a movie will not be using a High Frame Rate presentation to showcase Avatar 2, or any other film of his for that matter.

Cameron explained during a recent roundtable for Terminator: Dark Fate just what he feels is the proper usage of High Frame Rate:

I've seen some clips from Gemini Man. I haven't seen the picture yet because I'm down here in New Zealand. I'm interested to see it. I mean, I have a personal philosophy around high frame rate, which is that it is a specific solution to specific problems having to do with 3D. And when you get the strobing and the jutter of certain shots that pan or certain lateral movement across frame, it's distracting in 3D. And to me, it's just a solution for those shots. I don't think it's a format. That's just me personally. I know Ang doesn't see it that way. I don't think it's like the next 70 millimeter or the next big thing. I think it's a tool to be used to solve problems in 3D projection. And I'll be using it sparingly throughout the Avatar films, but they won't be in high frame rate. But I am curious to see what they came up with.

Rather than rejecting High Frame Rate filmmaking wholesale, James Cameron seems to be using this medium as a fix for certain aspects that leave the 3D experience a bit inaccessible to some viewers. With a typical 3D conversion, moments may seem to ruin the picture’s clarity, leading to some confusion from the eyes. It’s moments like those that Cameron speaks of when he says he’d use High Frame Rate to fix the 3D on a film like Avatar 2, which was strangely enough rumored to be filmed in 60 frames-per-second in its earliest phases.

It’s an interesting outlook on what could be considered a technological achievement as cutting edge to our modern world as 3D seemed to be back when Avatar jumpstarted the world of the third dimensional presentation. In fact, at that point in cinematic history, some folks saw that very gimmick as something that could liven up certain sequences in a film, rather than show an entire product in 3D.

When Avatar’s 2009 release took 3D out of the usual method of showing limited scenes in the format, typically confined to only IMAX presentations, and brought it to full movies, regardless of what theater it was shown in, some looked upon it in the same way as James Cameron told CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg and other reporters he looks at High Frame Rate. While Ang Lee sees Gemini Man as a symbol of what the future of films could be, Cameron sees it as a tool rather than a method of exhibition.

As usual, it will be up to history to prove which director seems to be correct; but so far it feels like James Cameron does have the advantage. Unless the marketplace at large rallies behind High Frame Rate in the same way he took 3D to the masses, the medium could see itself die out before it can truly flourish. Which means that maybe Ang Lee and James Cameron should sit down together in the near future, and put their minds together to find a happy medium.

Gemini Man is in theaters now, in standard and High Frame Rate 3D exhibitions, while Avatar 2 hits theaters on December 17, 2021.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.