What’s the highest grossing film of all time? Infinity War? Titanic? One of the Star Wars films? It’s actually the same film is was just less than ten years ago. The 2009, CGI-fest that is James Cameron’s Avatar. To many, including me, it’s a distant memory. But not for James Cameron. For the last ten years or so the highly influential filmmaker has been working to get his Avatar sequel made and put on the big screen. And it looks like after the long wait, he’s got more than what he wished with not a single sequel, but four.
Avatar grossed $2.788 billion at the global box office, half a billion more than the next highest grossing film (also by James Cameron) Titanic. It also beats the highly successful MCU films, including Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther, as well as both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. So, in some ways, it’s actually a surprise an Avatar sequel hasn’t already been forced through by production companies.
However, despite the financial and critical success the film had in 2009, it’s hard to see the sequel repeating the same success. The original’s main selling point was of its visuals and use of CGI; it was marketed as made for 3D). It won three Oscars for those visuals at the 2010 ceremony: Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Art Direction. But think of how many films that are released today with stunning visuals, and how many of them have the success of Avatar? General audiences and critics are no longer convinced by visuals alone, the story has to match; the standards are higher.
It’s taken James Cameron nearly ten years to make significant progress on these sequels, and this year he completed the script for Avatar 5 and recently a lot of the initial shooting has finished for both Avatar 2 and 3. For a lot of people, this news might seem out of the blue, considering little news about the filming has been talked about. Almost all of the cast of the original will be returning, including Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephan Lang (which is surprising considering two of these cast members had their characters killed off). The ranks have also been boosted by David Thewlis, Oona Chaplin and Kate Winslet. Details we know about the plot are that it might centre on the children of Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). It also has been suggested that the sequel will have numerous underwater sequences. The setting of the planet Pandora will of course be retained and further explored.
The sequels have had multiple push backs, but with the amount of filming that seems to have been completed it looks like the current release date will be the actual one. Avatar 2 was initially set to hit cinemas back in December 2014, but has since been pushed back several times, first to December 2017 and then to the one we have now: December 18th 2020. The other sequels are subsequently set for the Decembers of 2021, 2024 and 2025. I’m hoping at least one of them will be Christmas themed, but I’m not holding my breath. On top of that, the titles may also have been leaked. Brace yourself for the following: Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.
Many have already claimed that these sequels will be tragic flops, and while I may not have come across as enthusiastic myself, I do believe there is one thing that has been underestimated: James Cameron himself. As few remember exactly what happened in Avatar, those critics also seem to have forgotten what Cameron is capable of. And as I too have spoken skeptically about the film’s chances, it’s only fair that I remind people that this is James Cameron we are talking about. This man is the master of both sci-fi and big budget extravaganza. He brought us Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, Titanic, The Abyss and True Lies. When James Cameron is committed to something, he delivers. Just look at one of his other passion projects, Titanic, which won eleven Oscars and was the highest grossing film of all time prior to Avatar. So, when it comes down to it, why should we see this as any different? For films on this scale, there’s no-one better than James Cameron.
Image courtesy of IndieWire