James Cameron is now working on not two, but three new Avatar movies, to be filmed as one production and released once a year. But do enough people even want to see them?
Questioning the wisdom of sequels to the all-time biggest-grossing movie may seem naive, especially when sequels to far less successful films get made without hesitation. But I think Fox and Cameron are the naive ones here, because cultural cachet is the better indicator of how well these particular films will be received.
By the time the first sequel comes out in December 2016, seven years will have passed since Avatar. Kids who saw it as they were leaving primary school will be starting university, and adults would have needed to form a serious bond with the film to stay excited for seven years. We’ve formed such bonds with the Avengers series, the Dark Knight movies, the Daniel Craig Bond films, the Harry Potter franchise, and TV shows like Game of Thrones. They have all stayed in the cultural conversation more or less constantly, and all but Game of Thrones started before Avatar came out. Granted, they’ve maintained momentum with continuing installments, but they’ve all been more and more successful rather than strung along to comparable or middling returns.
Avatar has had no such test, but its complete absence in discussions of film and pop culture is more telling anyway, from film buff discussion to chats in the lunch room. I don’t think it’s rash to conclude that there’s hardly a groundswell of adoration for this movie. Our feelings for it have diminished rather than grown.