A lot of people are looking forward to the new movie release Avatar: The Way of Water. I’d even venture a guess that self proclaimed haters of the first film will eventually watch the next chapter of co-writer/director James Cameron’s gigantic sci-fi epic just to update their talking points on the franchise. With three trailers released for 20th Century Studios’ would-be record-breaker, I find myself rather concerned with what to expect from this film.
I say this because, overall, my major concern is that there’s no clear idea of what the story to Avatar 2 is supposed to be about. To support this point, I’d like to share with you the third and final trailer to the film, which was recently released into the wild.
If you’re on the same page as I am with Avatar 2, you’ve probably noticed some of the same issues I have with the three trailers released for the film. Let’s take a closer look at just why these concerns have arisen and why James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel still feels like an unknown quantity to me.
The Story For Avatar: The Way Of Water Hasn’t Become Any Clearer
Through three trailers and countless other marketing materials provided to promote Avatar: The Way of Water, the overall story of the movie is still a mystery. To be clear, I understand that James Cameron and 20th Century Studios would want to keep an air of surprise around the movie that finally follows up Avatar’s story 13 years later.
However, this picture of the future has become quite foggy. For the most part, we can gather that the RDA is coming back to once again lay siege to Pandora and its moons. That’s something that the first Avatar pretty much warned us about with its ending.
With the most knowledge beyond that plot point showing Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytyri (Zoe Saldańa) integrating their family with the water based Metkayina trtbe, there’s not a lot of new details to ponder over. Considering a large portion of the reactions to the first Avatar focused on the film’s story, this lack of knowledge isn’t doing anything to address how different The Way of Water’s thematic approach will be.
The Original Avatar’s Plot Is Still A Hot Topic
You could practically quote the major arguments against Avatar’s storyline, chapter and verse. Whether you subscribe to references of militant Smurfs meeting Pocahontas, or if you enjoy citing Dances with Wolves and/or Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, it’s pretty clear that people have had fun picking apart that first movie’s thematic content.
When it comes to the 2009 original, it’s all in the rearview, as that film made its historic imprint at the movies. The same cannot be said for Avatar: The Way of Water, as this is now the much-delayed continuation of a story almost a decade and a half old.
Setting the bar for breaking even ridiculously high, this is perhaps the greatest criticism that this movie will need to clear if it wants to become anything near the hit its predecessor was. To show so little of the story for Avatar 2, which comes from a writer’s room established to flesh out the franchise at large, only allows this ghost to loom even higher over this new film’s prospects.
Avatar 2 Needs A Little More Story Juice After Over A Decade Of Waiting
Skeptics and loyalists alike are all probably thinking the same thing at this point: what’s the story with Avatar: The Way of Water? After waiting through several postponements to get the technology right, we definitely know that in terms of James Cameron’s visual prowess, the wait seems to have yielded dazzling 3D imagery.
Yet again, the style of the movie has been richly established in the public eye, with the thematic piece of the puzzle being hidden from sight. Let’s not forget, this was a franchise that was once pledged to sprout other narrative fruits, like tie-in novels and comic books. While the latter has been developing through the auspices of Dark Horse Comics, the former still hasn’t happened.
There’s a little more more story juice in this universe, including Avatar: The High Ground, a new comic run that’s going to help fill in the gaps between the two existing films. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it sounds like keeping up with these comics will be key to fully understanding where Avatar: The Way of Water is leading us all. Some more breadcrumbs in the visual marketing for this project would be very helpful, especially for those who aren't planning to get their hands on that book just yet.
The Avatar Saga, And Disney's Release Calendar, Are Hanging In The Balance
If James Cameron’s Avatar series was only embarking on a singular sequel, the concerns around the story might not be as pressing. Even with the final trailer for The Way of Water proclaiming this movie as “the motion picture event of a generation,” there wouldn’t nearly be as much pressure on Avatar 2 if the fact that three more sequels are in various stages of production was non-existent.
Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in, and there’s a lot of pressure on this next movie to perform well. A significant amount of filming on the next two Avatar movies has already been completed, so it’s not like Avatar: The Way of Water exists in a vacuum free of consequences, playing the role of the little sequel that could.
There’s a sizable investment already built into this series, which is supposed to act as the big biennial holiday centerpiece of the Walt Disney box office calendar until 2028. With Star Wars already disrupting its half of that projected model, having Avatar fall out of alignment would seem like a total derailing of that plan altogether. Should The Way of Water underperform, it could be seen as a large blow to Disney's theatrical strategy overall.
Admittedly, the most substantial story trailer for the future of the Avatar franchise will be the events that transpire in The Way of Water’s 3 hours and change running time. Reaction to this chapter will probably shape what’s to come, but as you can see, it won’t be too much of a change as production is already well underway. Hype is starting to build as we’re actually getting that first Avatar sequel in theaters in just a couple of weeks. But I’m still massively concerned that based on what we’ve seen so far, the story isn’t getting a lot of attention.
Could I be worrying over nothing, and should I just trust the James Cameron process? We’ll all find out soon enough, as Avatar: The Way of Water finally lands in theaters on December 16th. What's even more interesting is the fact that the original Avatar is now back on streaming for those of you with a Disney+ subscription, just in time to refresh yourselves before this red letter day arrives.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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