Okay, Be Honest: How Excited Are You for the Avatar Sequels and Theme Park?

Image: 20th Century Fox
Image: 20th Century Fox

The same question keeps coming up every time we hear about James Cameron’s plans for a gazillion Avatar sequels all shot at once, or about some new element in the Pandora theme park being built by Disney. And that question is: are people really pumped for this?

Avatar came out in 2009, which basically feels like a hundred years ago now. I was still in college. Rob Bricken was just embarking on a quest to read the worst erotic fanfiction. James Whitbrook was, I’m pretty sure, just a glint in the eye of a programmer trying to build the perfect blogger robot.

It feels, to us at least, that Avatar came and went. The 3D was a big deal, the movie itself generated some interesting articles, and then everyone just... moved on. Avatar wasn’t the kind of hit seemed to inspire a passionate following. We don’t see blue Pandorans cosplay flooding comic-cons. Hell, there’s another thing named Avatar that we see a lot more of.

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So while we wouldn’t bet against Avatars 2-5, the question we have isn’t “will you see it?” but “how excited are you really?” Are you dying for more stories? Or just curious to know if, by the time we see it, Cameron will literally have created the technology to punch you in the face during the film? Or, like most of us, does every bit of news make you go, “Oh, right, they’re still doing that?”

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.

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DISCUSSION

Avatar came out in 2009, which basically feels like a hundred years ago now. [...] The 3D was a big deal, the movie itself generated some interesting articles, and then everyone just... moved on.

Yes, this exactly. First off, 2009 was indeed forever ago. You can’t try to create a new franchise by having the sequel come out almost a decade after the original. Star Wars gets away with it because it has built itself into the pop-cultural fabric. Avatar has not earned that yet.

And it hasn’t earned it because it was so generic. It was a tech demo for 3D filming—a very good one at that! Don’t get me wrong—laid on a cliche-filled story. Nothing stood out. Nothing was incredibly memorable or unique or imagination inspiring (like the original Star Wars was). As people said, it was Ferngully means Pocahontas. We’ve all seen that story time and time again. Looked pretty, had some good moments, but nothing to write home about.

That, mixed with how common the filming tech is now (and how divisive 3D movies are), makes me wonder what fantasy land Cameron is living in where he thinks his Avatar is ever going to be a thing. Stop trying to make Avatar happen, James.

(Cars comes to mind too. Cars is a franchise that’s more successful than it has any right to be, but that’s because it’s geared at small children and cranks out popular toys. And it comes out more than once every 10 years.)