Avatar: James Cameron’s Too-Long Odyssey

Culture Film

James Cameron’s Avatar was a technological accomplishment and became a worldwide box office legend, so you may think that more Avatar is a good thing. James Cameron thinks it is — the director has announced an astounding four sequels to the 2009 hit, set to be released in 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025. When the second film debuts, eleven years will have gone by since the release of the first movie, but will people still be hyped for blue CGI giants tottering around in loincloths in 2020?

Just to give the scope of this behemoth project, the combined cost of these films will be well over 1 BILLION dollars. Avatar made $760 million when it was released making it the most successful film of all time (until The Force Awakens crushed it recently). So is this massive accumulation of money justification for four more films? Not really.

Let me start by acknowledging that Avatar was a good, impactful film. However it was more of a visual spectacle than an innovation in narrative. The story involves a man adapting to a foreign culture, then choosing the new culture over his own. If you like that, you may as well just watch Dances with Wolves instead. At least that 1990s film treats its plot with more delicacy by sparing your eyes from the overbearing visuals. Trouble connecting with the Avatar characters? Give Pocahontas another watch — its hand animated cast somehow give off more emotion then the motion captured Na’vi (the blue giants).

Cameron is an accomplished director, producer, and special effects master who has made great classics such as Aliens, Terminator, and Terminator 2. These films are classics, but it’s one thing to make one great film at a time — four at a time is totally something else.

Cameron and his team are crafting the storyline and then filming all the films sequentially, leaving little time between each to fix any errors. Lately, a lot of blockbuster were delayed when plot problems arose and directors had to take extra time to do reshoots. In this large four-movie project, one delay would cause a domino effect of scheduling problems for all the remaining films.

What if one of the films becomes a box office dud? Producers wanting big cash cow franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe have led to some tremendously bad movies. The Ghostbusters reboot, the Dark Universe (The Mummy), and The Dark Tower were all set to kick-start their own movie-verses; instead they died in an oversaturated market of franchises with already established fan followings. This series is a huge gamble — even if one crumbles, they are still obligated to continue filming and releasing the remaining sequels.

Cameron has struggled to get this project up and running — initially the first sequel was supposed to arrive to theaters in 2016. Now finally, after a long delay, filming for four more movies has begun, and only time will tell if the wait was worth it. But, most likely, time will only cause this project to rot.