Why James Cameron Re-Releasing The Original Avatar Was The Best Move For The Way Of Water

Sigourney Weaver's Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

For almost two weeks, Avatar has been reintroducing itself to the world at a theater near you. Co-writer/director James Cameron’s re-mastered version of his 2009 record-breaker is having quite a healthy go-around, mixing it up with new movie releases that are also seeking fortune and glory. For this, and a handful of other reasons, bringing Jake Sully’s exploits back to the movies was a pretty wise move, especially when you look at how the return of the original film could be building a solid foundation for the long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water. Let’s take a look at why, once again, James Cameron has played his cards rather well at the movies. 

Sigourney Weaver in Avatar

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Box Office Records For The Original Avatar Will Only Grow

The results of the second coming of Pandora have been pretty delightful, especially since this isn’t the first time Avatar has been brought back to the masses. As it stands, the current re-mastered version’s run in theaters has brought in the most of any return to theaters this film has seen, with $58 million raked in worldwide at the time of this writing.

It’s done a lot for Avatar’s record as the highest grossing film of all time, a title reclaimed from Avengers: Endgame on the back of the film’s Chinese market revival in 2021. With almost $3 billion in grosses, it’s only a matter of time before this juggernaut crosses into another new frontier. And clearly it’s a trip a lot of people still enjoy making at a theater near them, which bodes well for Avatar 2 repeating such a success.

Dileep Rao in Avatar

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

It Reminds The Audience What Avatar’s Story Was About

Practically, it’s good to have a refresher of any franchise’s origins and/or previous entries before heading into the latest romp. Flocking back to the original Avatar was always going to be a huge prospect, whether the movie was remastered or not. No matter what we already know about Avatar’s sequel, the amount of time that’s passed pretty much requires going back to the 2009 origin story.

Lore, relationships and characters important to what looks like a dazzling sequel were introduced in Avatar, and over a decade has passed since mass audiences saw this name on a marquee near them, outside of the aforementioned rereleases. Having that background will be crucial to where ever James Cameron is taking things with the next couple of sequels. Of course, story is only one of the keys to the overall universe that 20th Century Studios, and by extension Disney, are trying to build out with this slate of movies.

Neytiri in Avatar

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Avatar Is Once Again Shown In Its IMAX 3D Glory

It’s going to sound silly, but hear me out: Avatar is a movie that needs to be experienced in the broadest scope possible. Part of the reason people lost their minds over Sam Worthington’s transformation from human to Na’vi is because it looked absolutely stunning. The 3D format, especially in the IMAX variant, was key to that success, and bringing it back certainly has played a hand in boosting the grosses this time around.

It’s up for discussion whether or not the movie that helped turn third-dimensional enhancements into a viable business option plays the same on a smaller, non-3D  screen. However, with Avatar returning to IMAX 3D screens, it shows the world what this waning format can do at the height of its powers. Avatar: The Way of Water might revive 3D moviegoing, which just might have IMAX reconsidering its stance on domestic 3D releases if the results are loud enough. 

Kate Winslet's Ronal and Sam Worthington's Jake Sully surrounded by other Na'vi in Avatar: The Way of Water

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

James Cameron’s Remastered Version Is Closer To How The Way Of Water Will Look

If there was one reason that stand out as the most important pointer towards why people can see Avatar in theaters again, it’s the future of the film’s legacy. While it still looked pretty cutting edge compared to more contemporary films, 2022 is a long way from 2009, especially for someone like James Cameron. Considering all of the technological advances he’s developed partially caused the 13-year history of Avatar 2 delays, Cameron is going to want all of the effort to be worth it.

So if people are going to head into Avatar: The Way of Water with the original film in mind, it makes sense to refresh the previous adventure with today’s tech. Much as the first two Toy Story movies got a remastering for the 3D re-issue before Toy Story 3, Avatar was allowed to be cleaned up in order to best attract audiences to experience it all over again. Only this time, the jump from the first film to the second will be much shorter and better visually aligned, as seen with the inclusion of dazzling Avatar: The Way of Water scenes with this new refresh.

Sam Worthington's Jake Sully Na'vi in Avatar: The Way Of Water 2022 film

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Avatar Is Now Future Proofed For Home Video, Streaming And Box Sets

Here’s something you Star Wars fans are used to by now. Since Avatar has now been remastered into a look more in line with what Avatar: The Way of Water and its sequels will produce, you’re probably never going to see the older versions again. Unless you have the initial DVD and Blu-ray versions of James Cameron’s 2009 original, the new and improved remaster will more than likely be the default.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as unlike when George Lucas created his numerous waves of “special editions,” James Cameron only tweaked the look of Pandora. None of the story was touched, so it’s not like Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) shot  Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) first. At the same time, people won't be as easily able to dismiss Avatar because it looks its age.

What this new version of Avatar stands for is, quite frankly, the future proofing of the entire saga. There’s three more sequels that are slated to arrive in theaters after The Way of Water, and with this fresh coat of paint now applied, the entire franchise can exist as a visually cohesive whole. So prepare to rebuy the first movie, whether it’s as a stand alone 4K re-release or a part of some eventual mega box set of the entire collection of films.

Huge plans are already underway for the future of the Avatar franchise. The engines are revving up yet again, and audiences are already preparing to return to Pandora for a new and exciting adventure. Making sure that everyone is best prepared for that cinematic journey, James Cameron and the powers that be wanted to remind everyone why this landmark film is the hit that it is, while also teasing the future.

Now that Avatar has been revived to a certain extent, a steady rhythm can now take hold. It all starts when Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16th, and will continue with all of the tie-ins and other media that binds the release of the subsequent films. Should the current schedule hold, we’ll see Avatar 3 on December 20, 2024, and Avatar 4 and 5 have been respectively slated for December 18, 2026 and December 22, 2028.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.