Welcome to the mutual admiration society of Team Avengers: Endgame and Team Avatar. They've been playing nice for almost a full year now, and I do genuinely think Avatar director James Cameron and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe team have respect for each other. When it comes to Joe Russo, maybe even a little hero worship?
When you're at the top of the world, you can afford to be magnanimous, as James Cameron was when Avengers: Endgame passed both Titanic and then Avatar at the worldwide box office, taking the new title of highest-grossing movie of all time. Not only did Cameron congratulate the Avengers team, he later expanded on the subject as giving him personal hope for his many Avatar sequels.
After all, we live in a changing cinematic universe ourselves, and James Cameron wasn't sure anyone would turn out in the theater for his movies when there's Netflix, Disney+, etc. at home. See the whole Martin Scorsese "cinema" debate last year.
The fact that Avengers: Endgame not only drew crowds in 2019 but got people to spend enough money to top Avatar's record-breaking 2009 haul gave James Cameron hope that his movies could do well. He needs that hope since he has plans for Avatar 2-5 in the next few years.
Anyway, THR talked to Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo about James Cameron's quote that Endgame's box office gave him hope for the Avatar sequels. Joe Russo said he and his co-director brother Anthony have never met Cameron or run into him socially but they are massive fans:
He was a huge influence on us growing up. We always say the script for Aliens is the template for most modern filmmaking. It spawned an era of commercial movies that owe their DNA and lineage to that script. He's the godfather of modern commercial cinema along with Spielberg and Lucas. When someone says something like that about a movie you made, when you grew up on their films, it's hard to process. The little kid inside of you certainly is ecstatic and validated.
Nice. It might be too much to say Joe Russo loves James Cameron 3000 but there, I'll say it anyway. It gives me the warm and fuzzies. On a more serious note, Russo delved into the challenging cinematic environment all filmmakers are in -- there are more opportunities than ever, but also more competition for eyeballs.
Here's more from Joe Russo on that, referencing the extreme reactions Avengers: Endgame got when it first came out, including some people crying so hard they had to be hospitalized:
[James Cameron is] not wrong in saying there's hope. There's certainly always hope. We have to look to ourselves to provide the right kind of entertainment to get people to come out of the house. It's more competitive than it's ever been. I think [audiences] want new and interesting concepts. They want it presented in a way that feels spectacular and worthy of walking out the door and sitting in a theater. They want a communal experience. I think Endgame was reflective of that as a communal experience that you couldn't get in your house: the screaming and the cheering and the communal crying and the communal laughter. That's why people go to the theater. There's all different kinds of movies that can provide that. We have to work harder to provide that, to earn their trust and respect.
That sounds similar to what Joe Russo said in the same THR interview about Joker. There's no DC vs. Marvel rivalry on the filmmaking end, and once again the Avengers: Endgame team saw Joker's Oscars validation as hope for themselves, that maybe "comic book movies" are going to be taken more seriously on a regular basis.
All of this is not to say the filmmakers are not competitive in their own ways. Who doesn't want to be the best? James Cameron is pretty certain Avatar will reclaim the title from Avengers: Endgame thanks to another re-release, so he's happy to let Marvel have its moment for now. Avatar 2 stars also seem pretty confident their film will be a challenger for the top title. And James Cameron has said his team is trying for Avatar 2 and 3 -- filmed at the same time -- to create that kind of zeitgeist success that he's had before and Endgame had last year. It's a gamble, but there's hope.
Avatar 2 is currently scheduled for release on December 17, 2021. Here's what we know so far about the long-awaited sequel.