Remember Avatar? That movie with the tall blue cat people and the massive statement on imperialism and mercantilism on indigenous cultures? That movie was the vision of James Cameron, who broke box office records with the film Titanic and then did it again with Avatar. It took 14 year for technology to catch up to his vision, but it looks like it will take much less time for the next three sequels to come out. The folks at Screenrant.com put the story out last week, and the response has been interesting. First the news about the films themselves:
Given Cameron’s success with Avatar, it’s not surprising the studios involved have jumped at the opportunity to make even more cash for their coffers. Cameron has stated that the scripts for all the films are almost finished and ScreenRant hints that Avatar 2 might start filming as early as this fall. What’s interesting is that the bulk of the main characters will return, including two who died in the original.
Viewers of the first film will recall that Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver, was mortally wounded in the first film. In an attempt to save her, the Na’vi attempted to transfer her consciousness into her Avatar, a Na’vi/Human hybrid meat puppet that was designed to allow her to exist among the indigenous life forms. This failed, and Grace died. Or did she? Weaver herself is cagey on what exactly happens, but is hinting that she makes a transformation in each film, suggesting she somehow survives and evolves throughout the sequels.
Colonel Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, also returns, although it’s harder to see how that could happen. Last seen, the cockpit to his powered armor was blown open, exposing him to the toxic atmosphere of Pandora and he was stabbed in the chest to boot. Perhaps in the future there’s a way to preserve the body and rebuild the damage before brain tissue begins to decay? It will be curious how this gets handled.
The real interesting story is the response to ScreenRant’s article, which shows how mixed the response might be for the film. There were certainly positive responses, with one reader complaining that the films will take too long to come out. Others, however, were less excited.
One viewer, Dazz, posted a complaint that, although the film was the highest grossing film of all time, it was basically a 3 hour tech demo. We can’t help but agree. The story to the film was paper-thin and the film itself was designed to showcase the emerging 3D technology. Without James Cameron and George Lucas pushing films that incorporated 3D the 3D film industry would have had a harder time getting audiences to buy into it. What’s more, the film worked basically just as well without the 3D because at that point in time, and some would argue now as well, 3D was just a gimmick. What made the visuals so great was the color and the movement, the camera composition and all the things that make Cameron such a talent. The 3D was just a sort of add-on. It was, however, an important step to jumpstarting the modern 3D film movement.
This is an interesting complaint given Cameron’s history. The idea here is that James Cameron’s Avatar ripped off an animated film called FernGully where a human discovers a magical world and learns the value of protecting the environment while fighting off evildoers who are keen to exploit paradise. Other readers brought up shades of Dune with regards to mining spice while dealing with the Fremen.
What makes this so interesting is that Cameron actually go sued for ripping off another work. His film Terminator, a sci-fi classic. Cameron was forced to settle a lawsuit alleging that he had stolen the idea from an Outer Limits episode Soldier in which a soldier from Earth’s future is sent back in time and is captured. In point of fact, if one were to look closely at Terminator 2: Judgement Day, one would see that Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 have almost exactly the same plot. There are a few superficial differences, but it’s basically the same film. This adds credence to the idea that, while visually stunning, Avatar was simply not that original of a film.
Avatar was groundbreaking for its time, to be sure, but mostly from a technical level. It went on to do so well that Cameron was able to greenlight three sequels, which will either get shot back-to-back or simultaneously. Most of the original cast will be back, although Cameron will have an interesting task explaining how two characters who died are going to live again. Despite the money brought in by the first film, fan reaction seems like it will be mixed for the remainder films, with some pointing out that the story was thin enough to render the movie a three hour tech demo, and others coming around to the idea that Cameron’s story really just recycles ideas from other films both good and bad.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see where Cameron takes us on his adventures on Pandora. Perhaps, now that technology has caught up with his vision, we’ll see something more robust in terms of story as well as spectacle.