James Cameron Questions VR Success & Calls It A “Yawn”

Question: Can virtual reality make it in Hollywood?

The futuristic sci-fi thriller, Strange Days, first hit the screens in late 1995. It was not received warmly by audiences and featured a hero named Lenny Niro, a former LAPD officer that left the service to deal illegal virtual reality tapes, called SQUID recordings. The movie was co-written and produced by none other than Hollywood giant James Cameron, and undoubtedly served as the early beginning of the director’s obsession with high-tech in film, an interest that would eventually lead him to create the technological masterpiece, Avatar.

Cameron has always sought new ways to challenge traditional methods of film-making, and technological advancement has been his primary tool for telling increasingly convincing and strange tales. Indeed, Strange Days was curiously insightful in terms of the VR boom that we’re experiencing today; consider Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, and the rise of VR headsets, apps and cheap viewers like Cardboard.

Avatar was the acme of Cameron’s tech-engineered films. When it premiered in theaters worldwide, audiences and critics alike were blown away by the 3D and computer animation that was used to illustrate the fantastic world of the Na’vi (a spiritual alien race that inhabits the planet of Pandora). To this day Avatar is ranked as the highest grossing film ever, bringing in a total of $2.8 billion in box-office sales worldwide.

Now a sequel to Avatar is in the works, and during a Wall Street Journal panel in Laguna Beach several months ago, Cameron discussed the new film, and also made some comments about virtual reality. Actually, he went so far as to call virtual reality technology “something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly.” According to the renowned director, the technology is not yet “mature”, and he questions “when is it going to be accepted by the public at large, when are people going to start authoring in VR and what will that be?”

It seems that Cameron does not envision virtual reality playing a major role in the film industry. Coming from such a big name, that statement is one worth noting. “If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever. Oculus Rift is fine, it’s got a good display and that sort of thing,” said Cameron.

Thus it is evident that the director of Avatar has placed VR technology in the realm of interactive entertainment such as video games. Perhaps the question to ask now is whether or not that sphere will ever overlap with the movie industry; will VR ever have its golden shot in Hollywood? When it comes to technology in filmmaking, if a tech-legend like Cameron is not willing to adopt virtual reality, then who will?