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A Question For James Cameron About AVA... Errrrrr, PROJECT 880!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Okay. I guess it’s time to discuss one of the worst-kept best-kept secrets in Hollywood right now.

Word’s been leaking for a little while, little by little, and it’s harder and harder to pretend like the secret isn’t out there. James Cameron has long been rumored to be working on a big-screen adaptation of BATTLE ANGEL ALITA. I know he’s been working on it. He’s worked with other writers, and he’s been working his art department hard, as long as two years ago. And as he gets closer and closer to production, it seemed like BATTLE ANGEL was pretty much a sure thing. James Cameron’s big return to narrative feature filmmaking. An event on the scale of any LORD OF THE RINGS or STAR WARS or Spielberg event. And make no mistake, Cameron’s return film will be a genuine cultural event, no matter what he ends up making. It’s just exciting to know that he’s finally back at work, his head back in the game completely.

But last summer, when word of PROJECT 880 first broke, it genuinely was a secret. Cameron had been quietly taking measures to keep that secret for about six months before that, and in doing so, he sort of gave the game away early. The moment we started seeing those clues, Harry and I both spoke and decided to let it play out a bit before mentioning it. We didn’t want to spook Cameron off of it again.

And “it” is a project that Cameron almost made about a decade ago, a film that I have always mourned the loss of with the same fervor that Knowles bemoans the fact that CRUSADE never got made. I considered “it” to be a genuine loss for cinema in general, and for James Cameron superfans in particular. And it’s funny. I haven’t really ever had a James Cameron film to cover during my time at AICN, so I haven’t spent a lot of time writing about him. I don’t think I’ve ever fully articulated just how insane about Cameron’s work I am.

And despite Cameron’s assurances that we are going to see BATTLE ANGEL ALITA next, we were getting bombarded with rumors about the resurrection of “it,” a film called AVATAR, to the point that Harry had to finally mention it last August.

So is that what we’re going to see in 2007? Is it going to happen instead of BATTLE ANGEL? Are we finally going to get a look at AVATAR? We’ve been talking about this film for pretty much the full ten years that Ain’t It Cool has been around. We’re missing a lot of that first year and a half, but here’s one of our early mentions of the project, and a review from the year 2000 of the treatment, which cracks me up if only because AB King somehow managed to make it all about Arnold Schwarzenengger... again.

But all of this simply raises a question, one that I wish I could ask Cameron directly. I wish I could just say, “My question for you today, Mr. Cameron, is very simple: are we finally going to Pandora?”

What set me off? This e-mail appeared in the mailbox earlier tonight:

All are registered to Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman Machtinger & Kinsella LLP, the law firm that represents James Cameron. All were registered in May or June 2005.

It looks like we'll be able to take a virtual safari of Pandora's flora and fauna once the marketing campaign begins...which sounds pretty awesome to me.

And he’s right. Those domains are registered to that law firm. They were registered last summer, valid through the summer of 2010. At this point, with circumstantial stuff stacking up, Cameron’s starting to make his intentions clear. He has done everything he can to track down and delete every single digital copy of the AVATAR treatment that’s out there, and he’s done a hell of a job. I don’t think there’s a single website where you can still find the treatment available for download, and it used to be fairly readily available.

I hope he really is making the film, and that the reason he tracked down that 90-something page document and did his best to erase it is because he wants to cloak the film in mystery again. Even if people do still have copies of it, there’s no way that’s EXACTLY what you’ll be seeing, or even close to what he’ll eventually make. He’s a different person now, a different filmmaker, I’m sure, and he’s had a decade’s worth of real-life experience that he’ll bring to the table as a writer and as a director.

What’s really interesting to me is how Cameron is doing things exactly the reverse of how George Lucas did them. Lucas has spent a lot of time in the press talking about how he’s planning to be an experimental filmmaker. He wants to make documentaries again. He just wants to follow his own interests for a while. He treated STAR WARS like it was an obligation, something he had to get out of the way before he could do what he really wanted to do.

And that’s exactly what Cameron just did. He just spent a decade making experimental films, testing new cameras and other filmmaking technological innovations while making documentaries about his interests. And now, fit and ready to rumble and excited about his craft all over again, Cameron’s finally coming back to blockbusters.

I know Cameron’s in Santa Barbara today. He’s going to be seeing a lot of people face to face. I’d like to ask everybody who’s going to be there to ask him the same question after they say hello. I’ve waited a full decade so far to see Josh Sully’s adventures on this distant planet, and if there’s even a chance we’re really about to see the Na’vi come to life, then I have to know...

”Are we finally going to Pandora?”

If the answer’s yes, then sign me up.

"Moriarty" out.

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