James Cameron Presents New Creatures in ‘Avatar: Special Edition’

Movie Talk

%photo11% Can James Cameron single-handedly save the summer box office with the re-release of "Avatar" this weekend? Probably not, as there aren't enough weekends left this blockbuster season, but this does give movie fans an opportunity to see the "Special Edition" -- with an additional nine minutes of new footage -- of the all-time highest grossing film. Of course you'll be able to see it in IMAX and in 3D, but the best reason of all to see it again just might be for the creatures that didn't appear in the '09 theatrical release.

Fortunately, we did get the director to share an exclusive photo of the Sturmbeest, or as the Na'vi call them, "Talioang," whom you'll be able to catch a glimpse of in the re-released version. You'll note these impressive specimens stampeding below the Na'vi in the photo. And like every living thing on Pandora -- and anything from the mind of Cameron -- they are large in scale. Like massive, single-horned, blue cows, the Sturbeests are harmless unless startled by a predator.

Photos: See more of the new creatures in 'Avatar: Special Edition' >>

Furthermore, in honor of the late summer re-release of "Avatar," Yahoo! Movies got to sit down with James Cameron to discuss his real experiences with native tribes, the highly anticipated sequel and if he'll direct a third film, his thoughts on the next cinematic trend beyond 3D, and the prospects of his own signature line of 3D glasses.

Yahoo! Movies: So, a lot of people have seen Avatar.

James Cameron: I think there are some mud men in New Guinea that haven't seen it.

YM: Ah, so that must be why it's coming out in theaters again.

JC: Actually, when I was down in Brazil I was meeting these guys, these indigenous people that live way out in the rain forest and we had to take a boat, like for a couple days to go meet with them. And they hadn't heard of Avatar, they hadn't heard of me. It was really refreshing. It was nice, you know. They couldn't care less about movies. What they cared about was that they were actually, their ancestral homelands were being destroyed by a hydroelectric dam, and they got their bows and arrows together and they were going to go to war to stop it.

YM: It's like real life. "Avatar" for real.

JC: Like really for real. Not those guys, but some other ones even farther south in the upper Shingu [River] actually took a hundred construction workers on another dam project hostage -- with bows and arrows. And it's not that they are using bows and arrows to make some kind of point in the media. That's what they hunt with.

YM: Right, again, this is authentic. I think the film struck a chord with a lot of people. Those of us that are, say, exploring a new shopping mall. Things like that.

JC: Exactly. We all have that wild, feral version of ourselves inside ourselves. I don't know if you have kids, but my three year old, my six year old, and my nine year old all turn into wild animals. Literally. We all have that. And we feel that sense of a disconnect in our lives from nature more and more as life goes on and as time goes on. I mean, when I was a kid, I lived in a little suburban house, but I spent all my time out in the woods nearby, you know. And kids don't do that anymore. At least, not around here they don't. And they're more focused on games and the internet. It really is a disconnect. We're missing something. And we all feel it.

So when we see "Avatar," and it's about that at a thematic level and it's really what the stakes of the whole story are about, it's what their fighting for, then it actually does resonate. I'm just worried that thirty years from now it wouldn't even resonate with people. That we will have become so disconnected from nature that there is no resonance anymore. And maybe nature is so distressed at that point with so many animals extinct, maybe its not 30 years, maybe it's fifty years -- but the coral reefs are destroyed and so many of the animals are threatened. They're either extinct or so threatened that they have to be separated from the human experience. Then we'll have lost that connection forever. And that's the future of "Avatar." That's what the people coming from earth, that's what they're living. They're out a future if we don't do something about it.

%photo2% YM: So are you working on any other projects right now? Or maybe these are just some of the expanded themes for the sequel?

JC: It's a vein that's going to run through the second and third film, and what that all means and how it resolves. It's really a collision of civilization. It's a collision between technical civilization and a philosophy or a value system that actually values nature. And values life in a way that we don't. So yeah, that's going to continue through the sequel and the sequel to the sequel. I mean, "Avatar" will go on as long as it needs to. I'll direct at least one more, maybe two. And then after that, it might get turned over to others. It's an open-ended story, it's an open-ended universe. So why not?

YM: Is there anything specific that you can tease us with that we might expect?

JC: I'm not going to say too much about the sequel because, frankly, I think the fun is in the discovery. The fun is in the journey. If you know where you're going, you don't have to go, sort of thing. But I've already sort of teased with the idea that the ocean is going to be a big part of the second film. And that's true. Frankly, that's a fun design challenge. It's an exciting design challenge to do. Think about the diversity and the color palette and the amazing forms that exist in our ocean here, and then you extrapolate that farther to Pandora to a fantasy biosphere.

YM: You can even get a sense of that with the world you created on land.

JC: Well, that's true. The terrestrial forms felt very aquatic, but that's just because I've spent so much damn time underwater. I've always said: the aliens all exist here on earth already, they just might be that big [puts his thumb and index finger together]. And they might be underwater. But all the amazing forms are already here. It's pretty hard to be more inventive than nature, and that was one of our big challenges when we were designing the films -- how are you more inventive than nature is right here? You can't.

YM: So clearly you're the biggest champion of all for 3D technology.

JC: I'm a champion of good 3D. I'm not a champion of bad 3D. And I'm very, very skeptical about "Last Airbender" because it was converted very rapidly in post-production. It wasn't creatively authored in 3D. And I respect M. Night as a director. If he wanted to make a 3D movie he should have made it in 3D. It was probably a studio decision. Same thing with "Clash of the Titans." Louis Leterrier is a very talented director. If he had had some 3D cameras he could have made a great 3D movie. As it was, they just slapped it on after the fact.

YM: And it totally shows.

JC: And it wasn't his decision. You know, they did it while he was off fixing the film in England. I talked to him about it.

YM: You tempted all the studios with the financial possibilities.

JC: I think it's a short-term phenomenon. Basically they saw a gold mine, they saw a gold rush in progress and they didn't want to miss it. So they started saying like, 'hey, we can just retrofit stuff we've got.' Hopefully they've learned their lesson, that that's not good enough. We didn't do that with "Avatar." It was natively authored in 3D. Here's the interesting thing. We're just finishing up now a film called "Sanctum" that I'm an executive producer on. It was shot in Australia, Australian director, all Australian crew and cast. But it was made for a tiny fraction of the cost of "Avatar." It's a drama, kind of survival thriller that takes place inside a cave system. Not science fiction, no monsters, no fantasy stuff, not a lot of visual effects. And modestly budgeted. And the point is, if we can do that film, with high quality 3D, and deliver a white knuckle really intense emotional experience in a movie theater, then anybody can make any movie in 3D. It's not that big a deal. The additional cost to make that film in 3D was trivial compared to the cost of most movies in Hollywood. So it can be done. People are still afraid. There's a lot of superstition around shooting in 3D right now. There's a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings.

YM: What do you think some of the biggest negative suspicions are?

JC: Oh that it's expensive, that your post will be twice as long, that it's going to cost you twice as much, that you can't do visual effects blah blah blah. It's a long list. But it's all the "can'ts." I'm never about "can't." I'm about "can." We can do it. Of course we can do it. If can't was in my vocabulary we wouldn't have even started "Avatar" if you think about it. You can't do photo real human expression, CG character. You can't make a major movie in 3D that's a live action film. You can't you can't you can't. We just didn't pay any attention to that.

YM: And you've had to do that a few times, with a lot of your projects.

JC: Yeah, but that's part of the fun. If I'm not challenging myself, then I'm not enjoying myself. It doesn't matter what the hours are or how hard the work is, or how doomed we feel like while we're doing it. It's worth it if you're going beyond, if you're doing something that's innovative or pioneering. Then it's worth it.

YM: You've really got to be fed up at this point with the "can't" people.

JC: It's just a constant, ongoing challenge. To show people how straightforward it is, how easy the tools are to use, how intuitive it is, and just kind of calm their fears. But we've done it a lot of times: "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Hannah Montana," "TRON." You know, we've gotten a lot of people walked through that process and they're making movies. It'll accelerate.

YM: Is it too soon to start thinking about what the next extra sensory experience in theaters will be?

JC: 4D, 5D.

YM: Right, more Ds.

JC: No, I think there are improvements to be made to the basic system of display that we have right now. We've been saddled with this 24 frame for second frame rate for 100 years, and it's inadequate. In 3D, it's really important to keep that stuff to a minimum. So I think we need to speed up the frame-rate, which means we need to shoot movies at a higher speed and play them back at a higher speed. Fortunately, the digital projectors can do that. They're just not doing it right now. So that's just a little bit of a conversion. We need brighter light levels, because when you put the glasses on it cuts the light in half. So we need brighter light levels in the theaters. So there's still improvements to be made, but I don't think there's going to be anything radical. If you think about it, we see and hear the world, we see in color and 3D. So it's taken us a hundred years to catch up with the basic human sensory apparatus. But there's nothing remaining, really, other than taste and smell and those don't really relate well to a narrative presentation. Although I've heard that 4D works pretty well, which is where they give you smells and chair movement and things like that, but it's too expensive to do on a mass basis.

YM: Disney's Califonia Adventureland -- don't they do stuff like that?

JC: Well they have 4D theaters, they've got them in Korea and a couple other places. But they're really expensive to put in, $20,000 a chair or something like that. But apparently it's really cool. You can smell -- when you're in the jungle it smells like the jungle. They do it for certain films. I haven't experienced it myself, but I don't know how necessary that all is.

YM: It might come around, you never know.

JC: It sounds distracting to me.

YM: It does sound intense, but people have said that about the 3D.

JC: That's true. But you're still bound by a frame. Inside that frame you have a moving picture, a moving painting, and the more real that is, the better it is supported by sound. It's like surround sound. Surround sound, abused, can actually pull you out of the movie. All of a sudden you think something is happening with you in the theater and it breaks the spell. You don't want to break the spell. That's why anything that distracts you, and makes you aware of being in a movie theater versus focusing your attention onto the story is a negative. But I'm not going to pass judgment on 4D until I've seen it.

YM: Final question: fashion. Will we ever see the "James Cameron signature Ray Ban 3D glasses"?

JC: You know, it's funny to say -- having made this highest-grossing film -- but that sounds too commercial to me. I just want to be a movie maker. If I'm not making a movie, I want to be doing something else that interests me. And that would be deep ocean exploration or some kind of engineering project. Building a new camera, building some robotics, or something. Or I'm making a movie. I always get uncomfortable when I get into other ways of making money, because that just feels like I'm doing something to make money.

Watch the trailer for "Avatar: Special Edition":