Director James Cameron of Avatar: The Way of Water explains why he frequently includes romantic subplots in his films. Cameron’s career took off with the groundbreaking film The Terminator, which spawned a string of successful sequels. Soon after, he directed the blockbuster sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the science fiction films Aliens and True Lies before helming the all-time box office smash Titanic. Then, in 2009, Cameron released Avatar, which grossed over $2.9 billion worldwide to become the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Titanic’s earnings by a considerable margin. Although most of Cameron’s films are works of action and science fiction, the themes of love and loss are consistent across his body of work.
Cameron explained to Empire magazine why he frequently includes love storylines in his films. Even though Titanic is the most well-known of his films to feature a romantic plot, Cameron discusses the origins of his other genre films, such as Terminator and The Abyss. The director first considers “how to create true emotional stakes for the characters,” which leads him to incorporate romantic subplots. Read on for Cameron’s thoughts on the romantic subtext of his films:
“I’ve always said “all of my movies are love stories,” but I wouldn’t say my creative process necessarily starts there, except for the obvious one: Titanic. I pitched it as “Romeo and Juliet on a sinking ship.” So it was a love story from the jump. With others, like The Terminator and The Abyss, they started off as genre stories — “a time-travelling hit man targeted on an insignificant person whose existence has great significance in the future,” or in the case of The Abyss, a high-concept one-liner: “Close Encounters underwater.” But then, as I try to figure out how to create real emotional stakes for the characters, my stories somehow always become love stories. I guess I’ve always believed that to be truly heroic, a character must put someone else before themself and be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary. So, the love story is my path to creating powerful and heroic characters. It may be new love (The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar), it may be a marriage being tested (The Abyss, True Lies), it may be the love of a parent for a child (Terminator 2, Aliens, and Avatar: The Way Of Water). I guess I’m just a romantic at heart.”
Promos for the upcoming sequel Avatar: The Way of Water suggest that Cameron will continue to exploit romantic plot points. Like Harry and Helen in True Lies, Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese in Terminator, and the pseudo-mother-daughter relationship of Ripley and Newt in Aliens, this director has already included love tales in his high-profile action pictures. The debut of Avatar provided the same, with its blend of epic action and a love story between Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri.
In the second Avatar film, Jake and Neytiri have started a family, as evident by the trailers. Cameron has built up the dramatic stakes by making their family dynamic a central focus of the film. There will be plenty of exciting moments, but the story’s meat is the family’s struggle to adapt to new and old threats to their home globe of Pandora, which could put them in harm’s way. Although the love story between Jake and Neytiri appears to still play a significant role, the emotional stakes have changed, and the couple will likely now fight for their children.
Much information concerning Avatar: The Way of Water is still under wraps. However, with Cameron’s earlier films and his focus on love tales to capture the audience, the sequel is poised to do the same in fresh and intriguing ways. So while moviegoers know James Cameron can deliver on the action in Avatar: The Way of Water, the picture is sure to spotlight another love story, keeping audiences holding their breath during each suspenseful moment.