Pandora’s Box, by Tyler Smith
It was recently announced that Kate Winslet will be appearing in James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequel. This will certainly inject a bit of class into the proceedings, and I would assume that Cameron would try to create a part worthy of Ms. Winslet’s talents, but, really, who cares?
I was generous a moment ago when I said that the Avatar sequel was “upcoming”. It is slated to be released in 2020, a full 11 years after the first film. And while that film is the biggest moneymaker of all time (yes, yes, not adjusting for inflation; we know), there have been countless articles written questioning the wisdom of an Avatar sequel. Nobody that I’m aware of is positively anticipating the film, and most question whether anybody will be interested when it is released. Hell, Avatar is the most relevant it’s been in 8 years right now, and that’s because of a Saturday Night Live sketch that makes fun of its logo. Hardly a rallying cry for a sequel (and even less so for the third, fourth, and fifth movies).
Undoubtedly, Cameron would craft some wonderful visuals, but I wonder if that’s enough to draw in audiences. Cameron is an innovator, and it’s possible that he will create some new type of technology that will enthrall us all over again. Perhaps it is just my own limited thinking that leads me to believe that there really isn’t anywhere else for Cameron to go in the world of Avatar. We’ve already seen the wonders of Pandora, and his 3-D is unbeatable (likely even by himself), so where is the room for innovation?
So with the visual stylings of the film being old hat at this point, Cameron will have to focus on the story, and nobody I know was particularly excited about Avatar‘s story in the first place. Is there anybody clamoring to check back in with Jake Sully? Will Trudy Chacon continue to be conflicted? And what about strong Neytiri? These are questions nobody is asking, but Cameron seems to think that several more chapters of the story will be exactly what audiences want.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe each new film will top the last, with people coming out in droves to see them. After all, we’ve seen that people like to engage with previously existing successful properties, and Avatar is certainly that. Or maybe the sequel will be released so long after the original that to see it will be a function of nostalgia; a way to recreate for ourselves the cultural phenomenon that was Avatar.
Or maybe James Cameron has fallen victim to the allure of Pandora, just like so many others in early 2010. Perhaps he looked at the current filmmaking landscape, or the potential of his own career, and longed to go back to that beautiful planet, with its simple people and its lush forests. But rather than simply relive the story of the first film, Cameron opted to immerse himself back into that world. Again and again and again.
It remains to be seen how effective the new films will be, or how well-attended, but, as Cameron continues to commit the next decade of his life to this series, it will certainly be instructive either way.