With the big blockbusters of 2009 almost behind us (save for, perhaps, District 9), the one big film left is James Cameron’s Avatar, set to hit theaters just before Christmas. It’s had a gargantuan amount of hype and praise attached to it that’s grown from, “What is Avatar?” to the bold claim that “Avatar is going to revolutionize cinema.”

The footage shown at Comic-Con this year impressed the hell out of most folks who were lucky to snag a seat for the Avatar panel. Our own Rob Keyes was one of those lucky people – he called it a “visual spectacle” that had “a completely realistic and believable aesthetic.” Exciting words of praise, indeed!

One aspect of Avatar that seems to have gone pretty unnoticed amongst all the praise and hype around the visuals and the technology invented for the film, is the fact that it’s a completely original script. This doesn’t have decades-old stories (e.g. Lord of the Rings) or an existing fan base (e.g. Harry Potter) to play off of. Although Cameron will undoubtedly have been inspired by sci-fi films of the past, when it comes down to it, this is a newly created entity that’s about to be unleashed on the movie going public.

Geoff Boucher over at LA Times’ Hero Complex got a chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Mr. Cameron, quizzing him about the various aspects of Avatar, including the footage that’s been shown so far. Boucher reveals in the interview he actually got to see 35 minutes of footage (that’s 11 whole minutes more than the Comic-Con crowds). With regards to Avatar being original, Cameron had this to say:

“It’s simultaneously one of the great strengths and one of the potential weaknesses. We have no brand value. We have to create that brand value. “Avatar” means something to that group of fans that know this film is coming, but to the other 99% of the public it’s a nonsense word and we have to hope we can educate them. Well, I shouldn’t say a nonsense word – it doesn’t mean anything specific in terms of a brand association. And in fact there may be even a slight negative one because more people know about the Saturday morning cartoon, the anime, than about this particular film. We’ve got to create that [brand] from scratch.

On the other hand, ultimately, it is probably the film’s greatest strength in the long run. We’ve had these big, money-making franchise films for a long time, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” you know, “Harry Potter,” and there’s a certain sort of comfort factor in that; you know what you’re going to get. But there’s no kind of shock of the new that’s possible with that. It’s been a while since something that took us on a journey, something that grabbed us by the lapels and dragged us out the door and took us on a journey of surprise.”

Cameron goes on to talk more about the very true fact that he won’t be letting a massive amount of people down if they don’t like Avatar – no one (by that I mean the majority audience out there) knows what Avatar is, no one has been able to read Avatar the novel, or the graphic novel and the majority of people will be going in with a blank slate, free of worry that it won’t live up to the source material… because there ISN’T any.

Hero Complex‘s interview is only Part 1, so we can expect more soon. For the rest of Part 1 of the interview – where Cameron talks how much of his original Avatar story has been left intact from 14 years ago until now – you can head over to LA Times’ Hero Complex.

It’s actually really refreshing to see an original project like Avatar making its way to our movie theaters. So many movies nowadays are based on existing material in some form or another – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to not having any comics, books, TV shows or past movies to hold up against Cameron’s latest effort.

What about you? Are you glad to see a through-and-through original movie of this scope getting made? Do you think it will help or hinder the movie at the box office?

Avatar is set to hit 3D and regular theaters on December 18, 2009. A special 15-minute long presentation of footage is scheduled to be shown in IMAX theaters worldwide for FREE on August 21, 2009, a.k.a. “Avatar Day.”

Mark your calendars now.

Sources: Hero Complex (thanks to InContention)