I am sure everyone would like to say that they saw Avatar’s success coming miles away, but that is just not true. James Cameron’s Avatar was a film that many people said could be a flop, or at the very least not make back its massive budget. However, as we all know now, it was not a flop, in fact it was the highest grossing film of all time, not including inflation that is. Even taking inflation into the equation, the film still went leaps and bounds beyond anything anyone expected, so much so that Fox is re-releasing the film in late August.
Love it, or hate it, it is impossible to deny that Avatar has changed filmmaking for ever. This starts with the huge number of films that have been, and are still in the process of being up-converted to 3D, as well as all of the new announcements of films being shot in native 3D. However, Avatar has not only just added another dimension to filmmaking but has changed the way studios make films. This is most evident with Twentieth Century Fox, that appear to have changed their entire way of thinking when it comes to filmmaking, possibly for the better.
As of late, people have considered Fox to be a studio that continuously makes bad decision after bad decision. They were a studio who would allow almost no director final cut or even much control at all. Not only that but they would hire people who were obviously wrong for their jobs. It appears that after Avatar, the studio has drastically changed their stubborn mentality.
Since the release of Avatar, a number of possibly blockbuster films have been greenlit, and each one of those is a great example of why Fox is changing for the better. Possibly the most exciting for fans would be the Ridley Scott directed Alien prequels, yes, that is prequels, two films. At one point in time, before the terrible Alien Vs. Predators films were made, James Cameron was working on a Alien 5 script that Ridley Scott would direct. This would have been a fan dream come true, not only that but also an almost guaranteed success. This would team up for the first time two of the most successful directors of all time, not to mention the two best directors of the Alien series. However, during the writing process Fox announced to Cameron that they were going to make the Alien Vs. Predator film, this quickly made Cameron and Scott back out.
Now the AVP film wasn’t a box office failure, it was a huge fan and critical one. The Cameron/Scott film would almost guarantee a massive success for Fox, one that AVP could only imagine to have. After these unfortunate circumstances occurred Scott stated he would never return to the franchise. However, today we have Scott coming back for two films, both of which are being backed with great crew and not to mention being filmed in native 3D.
It is debatable why Scott has decided to return, however the most likely factor is control. Something that pre-Avatar, no director at Fox had. With Fox seeing the potential of huge success with giving proven directors full control, as it did with Avatar, they are giving more and more projects much more promising potential.
A huge sore spot for fans was the X-Men franchise, where Fox delivered two great films and dropped the ball on the next two. After Singer left the third film to direct Superman, they hired newcomer Matthew Vaughn, who left after being pushed too hard to make a film which was not ready in terms of script. They hired Brett Ratner instead, a choice that is fair to say, all fans were against. The choice for this bad director was time. Ratner had a reputation for doing films quickly and on budget. However what fans got was a terrible film, which ruined two one of the most beloved X-Men story lines, the phoenix and the cure stories.
It seemed that we would never see a Vaughan-directed X-Men film. That was until a couple months ago, just after the release of the very well received Kick-Ass, when Vaughan was announced to direct the next X-Men film. X-Men: First Class is a prequel, being written by Vaughan’s writing partner, Jane Goldman. It begs the question, how did they convince Vaughan, someone who doesn’t appear to be making it for the paycheck, to direct the film. The obvious reason seems to be control over the film, which so far is quite apparent. They are casting top notch young actors, and Vaughan has his own writer scribing it.
Another example, maybe on a slightly smaller scale, would be the new film in the Predator franchise, appropriately named, Predators. This film, directed by relative unknown genre director Nimrod Antal, is a hard-R sequel to the 1980s, Schwarzenegger action film. What makes this different than the other Predator prequels, is this one brings it back to its roots. Jungle, bad-asses, gore and aliens. As I mentioned above, when Fox last tried to put life back in the franchise they made AVP, which was PG-13, not to mention terrible. This time, they put a competent genre director with real vision in charge and let him make the movie he wanted to make, one fans and critics have both enjoyed.
The last example I will raise is the reboot of Planet of The Apes. Rise of the Apes was recently announced as a prequel to the Apes series, directed by Rupert Wyatt. Wyatt is a relatively new director, especially when it comes to big budget effects-driven pictures like this one, as his only other feature is the great 2009 low-budget thriller The Escapist. It is hard to know why Fox would choose someone like Wyatt to direct this film. It would lead us to believe that Wyatt convinced them by pitching a fresh and interesting vision of the film, which is something I do not think they were really looking for before Avatar.
While it is true a lot of this is my own personal speculation, it is, however, speculation based on what we have all seen. It is quite obvious that Fox has changed its strategy when it comes to tent pole films that deserve high quality talent behind them like the ones I have mentioned above. We have not seen any of these films yet, so it is impossible to talk about the quality, however I think it is fair to say that these films will bring original and interesting spins to franchises that were all driven straight to the ground with bad decisions. It will be interesting over the next couple years to see if Fox really learned its lesson, especially for fans of the Alien, Apes, and X-Men series of films.