Avatar gets a sequel, and another…and another

We recently got an official announcement, after months of speculation, that the long-awaited Avatar sequel will be followed by not one but two more films, but is this a good thing?

While news like this is usually met, from some circles, by the accusation of milking yet another franchise, this is not a great concern this time. I get as fed up as anyone of seeing a 2 or 3 in the titles of most of the big releases, and the growing trend for splitting books into multiple films (started by Harry Potter, and continued by Twilight and The Hobbit) is probably the worst incarnation of this.

James Cameron, however, has a history of being passionate about his work and having a genuine commitment to his projects that provides some reassurance that he wouldn’t be making these films unless he had a story to tell.

Let me elaborate. It took him eight years to make Avatar after Titanic. If all he cared about was money and churning out franchises he could have made four or five big films in this time, or follow-ups to his other hits. Avatar spent a long time brewing because it was a product of the passion of its director for the environmental issues of the film, the world he created and the technology he was using. He spent most of a decade researching the rainforest, developing technology and making sure the visuals of the film were of a standard never before seen, and it paid off.

In the past the director has declined to make sequels for Aliens and Terminator 2 when he had felt there was nowhere to take the stories. He was proven right by the sequels they both ended up with. These two films also show he understands the fine art of sequel making; the importance of improving on the original without betraying fans, and having a new take. If he didn’t have a way to do this with Avatar 2 he wouldn’t be making it, let alone 3 and 4.

He can’t even be accused of running out of ideas, as he has several other projects on the way including an adaptation of a novel, The Informationist, and a film based on the Hiroshima and Nakasaki bombings. It’s also reassuring that all three Avatars being planned out now, which is better than the tacking another bit on the end we see with most franchises

No, my main concern with this announcement is the waste of Cameron’s time and energy. This is the man that gave us the Terminator franchise, The Abyss, Avatar and made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. He’s never directed a bad film, and makes big sci-fi action films better and more consistently than anyone else in the world.

Given his huge wealth of creativity, energy and Hollywood clout, it’s a shame he will be tied up on Avatar until at least 2016, meaning he will have made no other films for almost two decades. Am I looking forward to returning to the world of Avatar for the sequels? Of course, but does part of me think it would be more valuable for Cameron, now 58 years old, to bring us something new? Yes.

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