Enter the World’: James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and the Family-Adventure Movie




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In this chapter, I contextualise the extraordinary success of James Cameron's Avatar (2009) by relating it to dominant global box office trends, with a particular emphasis on the prominence of fantasy and Science Fiction films, and of what I have elsewhere labeled 'family-adventure movies'. In doing so, I draw on three themes in recent (as well as older) writing on fantasy film: the relationship between fantasy and Science Fiction (whereby fantasy can be understood both, in a narrow sense, as a genre defined by a specific form of engagement with the supernatural, and, more generally, as a mode or genre cluster, which comprises Science Fiction and horror as well as fantasy in the narrow sense of the word); the close association of fantasy (both as a specific genre and as a mode, and in terms of both content and reception) with childhood experiences and familial relations; and claims that in recent years fantasy has become more popular than ever before in the cinema. I show that fantasy (in the narrow sense of the word) and Science Fiction films have indeed been extremely successful at the global box office since 1977, especially when they deal with dysfunctional families and address an all-inclusive family audience. I also note the increasing importance for global fantasy and Science Fiction blockbusters of computer generated imagery (CGI), both in films that are usually regarded as 'animation' and in those that are still largely perceived as 'live action', despite the fact that much of their imagery is not in fact a recording of sets and bodies put in front of a camera but generated with the help of a computer. I discuss the marketing of Avatar in relation to its narrative structure.



Science Fiction/fantasy, global box office trends, film marketing, animation, narrative analysis


Krämer, P. (2018) ‘Enter the World’: James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and the Family-Adventure Movie. In: Christopher Holliday and Alexander Sergeant, eds, Fantasy/Animation: Connections Between Media, Mediums and Genres. New York: Routledge, pp. 261-275


Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)