08th Aug2017

Culture Dump #3: Do People Still Care About ‘Avatar’?

by Simon Bland


Last week, those technical wizards at Weta begun work on James Cameron’s bundle of Avatar sequels. While there’s no guarantee that the futuristic sounding year of 2020 will give us flying cars, meals in pill form or an iPhone battery that lasts more than twenty minutes, what we definitely will get is the first of Cameron’s four planned revisits to his floaty made-up planet Pandora. You remember Pandora, right? Well, you’d be forgiven for forgetting. After all, the last time we saw the place was almost a decade ago when Avatar hit screens and broke records in 2009. With such a long wait between films, the question lingers: Do audiences still care about this franchise?

Let’s just think about it for a second. Eleven years is a hell of a long time to wait for a sequel, something which, by its very nature, is designed to quickly capitalise on the success of its predecessor. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. The upcoming Blade Runner 2049 picks up a whopping 35 years after Ridley Scott’s first introduced us to his smoggy, neon dystopia. Peter and Bobby Farrelly waited a full 20 years to fill us in on what Harry and Lloyd had been up to in Dumb and Dumber To, even though it really wasn’t quite worth the wait. Regardless, films like these warranted follow ups despite large lapses in time due to their deep rooted relationship with fans. Give a film long enough to burrow under the psyche of an audience and if it’s good, smart or culturally relevant enough, it probably will.

Maybe that’s the problem with Avatar and its (count ‘em) four upcoming sequels. Even though it had the better part of a decade to resonate with fans, the film has sort of slipped into that weird ‘meh’ middle ground where viewers might catch a bit of it if it’s on Channel 4 on a Sunday evening and nothing else is on. These days we’re surrounded by opulent blockbusters – even beloved franchises once believed dormant are being brought back to eye-watering life. While Avatar undoubtedly raised the bar and introduced us to a new era of 3D storytelling, it could be argued that it never quite managed to do much else. All in all, it’s not a film that requires or encourages repeat viewings, something that sets it miles apart from its late-sequel counterparts.

Perhaps its legacy is destined to be in the realm of the technical rather than engaging storytelling. Across Avatar’s new four-film arc, Cameron (in true Cameron style) plans to push Weta’s already groundbreaking capabilities to new places, specifically cutting out the specy bit of enjoying a 3D film. It’s a process that’ll reportedly cost Fox a total of $1 billion dollars before their Pandora trip comes to an end in 2025. Will audiences stick around for the ride? Only time will tell. Hopefully Cameron won’t be left feeling blue.

Are you looking forward to the Avatar sequels? Let me know in the comments below!


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