Monday, March 18, 2013

Should James Cameron Stop Talking About Avatar Sequels?

Yes, we know, James Cameron. You are making sequels to Avatar. Maybe keep that quiet for a little while.

Cameron has been talking again about his planned series of sequels to Avatar, which he has been promoting pretty much since the first movie became the highest-grossing movie of all time back in early 2010. Apparently, he's still writing them (even though he had originally announced that he would be done with the scripts early this year) and is "pretty deep into it" and "living in Pandora right now." The sequel, once announced for a 2014 release date, isn't going to hit screens until 2015 at the VERY earliest. Even that seems unlikely, considering the amount of post-production work that needs to be done on a movie as CG-heavy as this. 2016 seems more likely at this point, which will be seven years after the original came out.

I guess we can't really blame James Cameron for talking about Avatar in the press, since that's all anyone is going to ask him about. He has to give an answer, right? The problem is that the answer is always something different -- a variation on "it's happening, but later than the last time someone asked." He keeps moving the goal post. That's his prerogative, of course, and there's no denying that this is a massive undertaking. He wants to get it right. This is the same guy who made Titanic, then the highest-grossing movie of all time, and then waited 12 years to release another feature. He's a perfectionist, and he's not going to rush things on his follow-up to Avatar.

So maybe just say that.

When someone says "What's the status of Avatar 2?" just tell them "It will be out when it's out." Every time you push the date back further, it makes people lose confidence in the movie a little bit. Some will determine that you're stalling out of fear. Others will just decide that you don't know what you're doing. Hopefully, you will prove them wrong when the movie comes out, just as you have done in the past. The people that are excited about the movie will still be excited about it when it comes out. The people who forget about it will go into it with lowered expectations. I guess you win either way. But it's all just a little reminiscent of the years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, when all anyone wanted to talk about with George Lucas was whether or not he was making his planned series of prequels (well, that and "What the fuck is the deal with Howard the Duck?"). Lucas's credibility started to dissipate over the years, because it seemed more and more like he was talking out of his ass. What's worse is that the finished movie failed to live up to 15 years worth of promotion.

At a certain point, you have to stop talking about making the movie and just make the movie. And if you're not going to make it, that's ok, too. But then don't talk about it.
Of course, being James Cameron, he had to say something shitty and obnoxious, too, because it's not worth talking to the press unless you can remind people you're kind of a dick: "I was talking the other day with Peter Jackson, and said 'You had it easy, dude. You had the books when you did the second and third Lord of the Rings.' I had to create my own books in my head and extract a script from it."

First of all, James Cameron is a total name dropper.

Second: ok, ha ha, good joke, James Cameron, I know you're being kind of tongue in cheek when you say that Peter Jackson "had it easy." At least, I think so. This is your idea of being funny, which helps explain why all of your movies are so hilarious. So let's not blow the comment too far out of proportion. But even the hint of the idea that what Jackson did was easier than what Cameron is doing is ludicrous for a whole lot of reasons. Let's ignore the fact that adaptation has its own unique challenges that are totally separate from writing an original work. Let's not talk about how Jackson was working with some of the most beloved source material of all time and was facing an INSANE amount of pressure not to mess it up and piss off Tolkien's very, very passionate fan base. Notice how Cameron makes a point of saying "when you did the second and third books?" Weird, right? Because Jackson also had the book when he made the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. But that gets to the heart of Cameron's ignorance, because he's only talking about the sequels.

Cameron is planning to write and direct sequels to the biggest movie of all time. That's a lot of pressure, but it's also pretty much a forgone conclusion that the movies will succeed in a big way -- financially, at least. Jackson found financing and began shooting an entire trilogy of movies before the first one was even released. Yes, he was working with popular source material, but it was a hard sell. Fantasy had not been acceptable since the early 1980s. It was a huge, difficult universe he had to get to the screen, and it was pretty much untested at the time. What he attempted -- and pulled off -- was as big a gamble (if not more) than everything you have attempted, James Cameron. Don't pretend that what you're doing is harder just as a stall technique.

Also, as we have pointed out several times at F This Movie!, Cameron's scripts tend to be the weakest aspects of his movies. Is he trying to change that this time around? Is he spending so much time on the script because it's actually going to be really good this time? I'm hopeful, but I kind of doubt it. His argument that he "create a book in his head and extract from it" is nonsense, because he's not starting from scratch. The characters are established. The world has been created. He has to come up with a new story, which is not easy -- coming up with a story worth telling can be one of the hardest parts of making a movie -- but this is a sequel we're talking about. A lot of the work has already been done.

I'm focusing too much on some stupid comments Cameron made that are getting covered everywhere, because the internet loves to report on every single Avatar update, no matter how small. I do this because I like to talk about James Cameron. He fascinates and infuriates me. I am a fan of his movies. I am genuinely excited about the prospect of another Avatar movie. Or two. (My relationship with the first movie is well-documented on this site.) And I'm willing to wait until 2015 or 2016 or whenever, so long as it doesn't become a case of Cameron not making any more movies because he's busy not making Avatar 2. I just wish he would stop giving updates on the movie, because the truth is that there really aren't any updates. Come back when you start shooting, and then say "We are shooting." That's it.

Internet culture probably won't allow it. He'll have to tweet out photos from the set every day, because that's the way things work now. Every new bit of information is devoured. Movies are promoted every day for two years before they hit screens. Cameron did it right the first time around; nobody knew anything about Avatar (save for the title) until the first footage was released. Have things really changed that much in three years? Sadly, they kind of have.

Less talking. More shooting. But mostly the first one.


  1. I'm in the process of writing a 10 film series about the adventures of Waxy, The World's Most Adorable Ball of Earwax. I hope to have the first one in theaters by Fall, 2020. You WON'T BELIEVE what kind of shenanigans happen in the sequel. But that's nothing compared to the tragedy that occurs in part 8, which should hit theaters in 2038. I'm just waiting for the special effects to catch up to the script.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more on this Patrick. It is partially James's fault that I have to deal with certain questions where I work about when are they going to start building Avatarland. Oh yeah I work at Disney World ( sorry to name drop I am picking up bad habits from Pappa Jim) and they are working on adding a Pandora Land to Disney's Animal Kingdom park. (On a side note that particular bit of news actually came out of freaking nowhere, nobody knew about it until the official press announcement from Disney)

    Anyway the land for the park is pretty much in the same boat as the sequel "uh yeah we are working on it its just umm hey look a giraffe"

    Personally I am hoping just like I am sure you are Patrick that the Avatar sequel will be starring Hudson from Aliens in his first space journey before he got to LV-426 cause that's what we want man :)

  3. As long as Cameron doesn't start "Special Editioning" his old films (Titanic 3D doesn't count) he can do whatever he wants, IMHO.
    He might be a dick but better that than a douche like Lucas.

  4. Give the dude a break, he took some time off to do this

    1. I have no problem with him doing other stuff! I welcome it. He should talk about that stuff, not Avatar 2. Until it's a real thing. That's my point.

  5. I'd like to comment but JC is responsible for about 40% of our GNP and we are all under gag order. I am allowed to say that he is Canada's Gift to the World and we love him very dearly and his movies are the bestest things ever and our hearts will go on.

    As for Avatar I'd say my feelings for it are about the same as yours, Patrick, I like it in a guilty pleasure kinda way, see all its flaws and understand why people don't like, but for whatever reason I'm somewhat charmed by it. As for Avatar 2 I'm sort of looking forward to it...I guess? I found the first one a pretty self-contained story really, I'm not so much interested in what's going to happen next as I am interested to see how James Cameron manages to pull another story out of his ass. Is there anything we were left with that we need to see how it plays out? Bad guys roundly defeated, hero got the girl and his new sexy, blue body (should that have been left for the sequel perhaps?), Na'vi have their planet back, what else do we need to know? Maybe the Na'vi will go back to Earth and save US - teach us to recycle better or some shit.

    But I agree with you, put up or shut up, or perhaps, put up a little bit and THEN shut up.

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