It’s always worth giving James Cameron the benefit of the doubt. Before release, Titanic was widely seen as an overly extravagant disaster in waiting, before becoming the highest grossing film of all-time. In run-up up to Avatar, many were questioning who this movie about weird blue alien cat people would appeal to. It then passed Titanic and became the highest grossing pic of all-time. Are you seeing a pattern here? Despite that, 20th Century Fox’s decision to go full steam ahead with four Avatar sequels feels a teeny bit foolhardy, especially as people don’t seem to be clamoring for them.
But Cameron is still forging ahead with production on Avatar 2 and 3, which will make use of cutting-edge underwater motion capture and, presumably, the very pinnacle of 3D technology. And though he’s a famously decisive, confident director, even he realizes that he’s not invincible.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron talked about what would happen if they released the Avatar sequels and nobody cared, saying the following:
“Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5. They’re fully encapsulated stories in and of themselves. It builds across the five films to a greater kind of meta narrative, but they’re fully formed films in their own right, unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where you really just had to sort of go, “Oh, shit, all right, well I guess I better come back next year.” Even though that all worked and everybody did.2
Part of me thinks that Avatar‘s popularity was just a fad propelled by then-novel 3D cinema and now that everyone’s gotten over wearing plastic glasses to watch movies, the USP of the series is a little lost. When I rewatched Avatar at home, its narrative and script deficiencies were far more apparent than they had been on a dazzling 3D IMAX screen.
That being said, the other part of me thinks you’d be a damn fool to bet against James Cameron. The man has proved over and over again that he knows how to get bums on seats and give audiences what they want. If anyone can reignite this franchise, it’s him.
Avatar 2 is currently scheduled to open on the worryingly Star Wars-y sounding date of December 18th, 2020.