Why do I feel vaguely bummed out by Variety‘s totally-confirmed report that James Cameron has committed to making two Avatar sequels, to hit theatres in December 2014 and December 2015? I can roll with it, but my first reaction was “oh, gee….that’s not the greatest idea.”
It’s a downer because it’s basically a corporate cash-grab move. (Rothman and Gianopulos: “They’ll pay to see this again…twice! Revenues! Hah-hah-hah!”) Because it’s a creatively lazy enterprise for Cameron as it’ll be no great feat to come up with a prequel and a sequel. Because Avatar was a great four-course meal, and I’m not feeling a need to go there again. Because the ending of Avatar was perfect (i.e., the opening of the transformed Jake Sully’s eyes), and I’m thinking “leave it there.”
And because a guy like Cameron committing to a two-movie, four-year rehash project that is primarily about making money (i.e., certainly on 20th Century Fox’s end) is a kind of capitulation to the golden-calf mentality.
Cameron is an adventurer — I get that. And I realize that he’s doing this because the task will be technically challenging and thrilling and draining and fulfilling in a whoo-hoo! sort of way, but what Avatar fan believes that the Avatar world needs to be re-visited two more times? C’mon, be honest.
There are two kinds of money that we enjoy in life — fresh and vibrant money from hard work and inspired enterprise, and rote somnambulent money that comes from some idea or conquering that somebody thought up or accomplished years or decades ago. All real adventurers understand that there’s something vaguely soul-killing about the second kind of money, however plentiful and comforting it may be. Every day God tells all living things that they must find fresh fruit, climb new mountains, and dig into fresh earth. This is the only way to live.
With so many stories happening in the world that he could explore as a director, and with so many tens or hundreds of millions in his bank account, why would Cameron, savoring the last four or five years of his sixth decade and in the creative prime of his life, want to do this?
What would have been the reaction to the idea of a Titanic prequel and sequel? The separate but fated-to-be-interwined adventures of Jack Dawson (kicking around in Paris) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (quietly miserable in English schools), and then a sequel in which Jack’s ghost gives counsel and support to Rose as she makes her way through her 20s and 30s? I’ll tell you what the reaction would have been. People would have jumped off bridges.
If I was Cameron and Fox had told me they’re making a couple of Avatar sequels with or without my participation, I would have agreed to produce — no more than that. This would give me the time and freedom to create the next fresh movie. But no. Cameron has decided to be the Super-Sequel Guy.