James Cameron is hedging his bets. In an interview with Total Film (or part of a longer interview in the issue that will be available on Thursday), Cameron says that if the second film in his long-in-development sci-fi franchise, Avatar: The Way of Water, underperforms or outright bombs, the next installment can serve as the final word on Pandora and the Na’vi.
“The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘OK, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly’, if it’s just not profitable… We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even… It’s the one-two punch – the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theatre is all about. This film definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a shit now?”
He’s certainly right about that, but not in terms of the moviegoing experience. The question is whether enough people still care about Avatar. For quite a while, it seemed to me like a good number were underwhelmed by the first one and not eager to dive into that world again. But since the trailers for The Way of Water were released, I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm. I tend to think it will be successful, but not on the level the original was. That was built up as a cultural moment, the return of a beloved filmmaker offering a movie that demonstrated the next leap forward in special effects. The Way of Water looks like more of the same, which is fine if you liked Avatar, but if it didn’t knock your socks off, how many of these do you want to see? Total Film makes the point that Cameron has delivered spectacular sequels in Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and that’s correct, but those were sequels to Alien and The Terminator, which were also excellent movies. I doubt even people who loved Avatar would say it’s as good as either of those. But whatever happens with The Way of Water, I admire that Cameron is humble enough to think ahead like this and make sure he’s got a way to deliver the audience a satisfying conclusion if the box office isn’t what he and the studio hope it is.
Are you looking forward to Avatar: The Way of Water? Do you think it will be successful enough to warrant a series of sequels, or will it have to wrap up in the third? Will all of this be worth it for the inevitable South Park jokes? Let us know in the comments, and stick around Geeks + Gamers for more inexplicably long franchises!