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The surprising film Roger Ebert said was “predestined to launch a cult”

Roger Ebert emerged as one of the most prominent film critics of his time due to his ability to praise gems that would be revered by future generations as well. His approach to film criticism has been attacked by some scholars but it introduced a lot of people to the wider world of cinema and film appreciation.

Of course, like many other great critics, Ebert also denounced many masterpieces that would survive the test of time. Although he gained recognition for championing fresh projects like Bonnie and Clyde, Ebert also criticised monumental works of art such as Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry which is now regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

Ebert had a different kind of prediction when he first saw James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar, a production that became a cultural phenomenon. Praising Cameron’s ability to construct a truly immersive cinematic experience, Ebert claimed that Avatar would gain enough popularity to actually launch a cult.

Commenting on the film’s pioneering achievements, Ebert wrote: “Avatar is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings.”

According to Ebert, Avatar had everything in it to join the ranks of other cult classics such as the Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski – a masterpiece that inspired a new religion based on its slacker philosophy. The cult Ebert was talking about here was the reinvention of the cinematic medium and the future of the big Hollywood spectacle.

Explaining Avatar’s establishment of a new visual grammar, Ebert added: “It invents a new language, Na’vi, as Lord of the Rings did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.”

He was definitely right about the impact of Avatar because it has been more than a decade since its release and the film has remained an important part of the general discourse. In fact, many people are currently revisiting the original while anticipating the release of the much-awaited sequel which will come out soon – Avatar: The Way of Water.

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