The blockbuster game has changed since “Avatar” came out. In the span of almost an entire presidency, we’ve observed the meteoric rise of the Marvel cinematic universe, the domination of the box office by young adult sci-fi mega-franchises like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner, a whole new trilogy of “Lord of the Rings” films and the return of Star Wars as not just another film in the series but basically an entire entertainment industry of its own.
It seems like no one really cares about “Avatar” anymore. Most people have left it behind as a fun afternoon they spent with dumb plastic glasses on at the theater, while others have joined the recent wave of backlash against it. “It’s just like Pocahontas,” they say. “The plot is so dumb.” “It’s just like Dances with Wolves.” “You can’t remember a single line of dialogue from it.” “It’s Just like FernGully.” We hear the same criticisms over and over.
It’s been tough to be an “Avatar” apologist over the last few weeks (while I agree the film’s ideology is certainly far from complex, I still think it’s one of the best action movies of the millennium and a tremendous example of cinematic world-building). The backlash hit fever pitch a few weeks ago, when Fox announced that “Avatar 2” would be delayed until 2018 to avoid competition with “Star Wars Episode VIII,” which had recently been moved into the December 2017 slot to accommodate a script rewrite.
“My God!” one IGN commenter wrote. “By the time (Cameron) releases this movie either: a) no one will care b) everyone will have forgotten Avatar was even a thing (from seven years ago by the way).”
“If there was ever a movie that does not need a sequel it's Avatar,” wrote another. “Cameron you are a better filmmaker than this. Do something else!!”
This is a cycle we’ve been through. Actually, we’ve been through it several times already: 20th Century Fox announces a new James Cameron film. It goes way over budget. The hate comes pouring in. Everyone says that THIS is the film that’s going to ruin Cameron’s career. The film comes out. It’s critically acclaimed, and it makes more money than a small country’s GDP. Then another Cameron film is announced a few years later, and it begins again.
“Titanic” was expected to bomb. When analysts and critics heard that Cameron was creating a 90 percent scale model of the infamous ship, they laughed and laughed. No one had spent this much money on a movie before, and on Cameron’s obsessive little pet project about a shipwreck? There’s no way that will resonate with people.
I know this is an article, but I bet you can still hear my eyes rolling so hard they hit the back of my head.
“Avatar” was also expected to bomb. Go back and look — people were throwing so much shade prior to the film’s December 2009 release. It’s just the nature of the Internet — if it’s not clearly a calculated rehash of something fanboys already like, it’s going to fail.
Both movies killed it, to say the very least. In case you’ve been living in a sunken ship or on a far-off planet for the last few decades, “Titanic” and “Avatar” are the top two highest-grossing films of all time. Why do we keep doubting Cameron when literally every time he tries, his team puts out something that’s a smash cultural hit?
“Avatar 2” will be huge. The “Avatar” sequel trilogy will be as celebrated as the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, will advance film tech by years, and will make an absolutely stupid amount of money. If you’re rolling your eyes at this article and already typing out an incensed response, consider that you might just be acting like the people who were wrong about “Avatar.” And “Titanic.” And “Terminator 2.” And “Aliens.”
I’m just saying, we’ve been here before, and we’ve been wrong every time. Cameron and his team are the best blockbuster filmmakers in the business. Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but let’s try to use some foresight this time.