Avatar. In 2009 what began as the latest James Cameron film became a global phenomenon. Box office records were smashed (not to be broken again for years), everyone with a pulse had to see – no, experience it in a theater. Those visuals, right? He made a truly cinematic event. Literally created and took us to another world.
Nevermind the generic, done-before plot or the forgettable characters – normally these things matter, but not in this case. It was all about the stunning eye candy. I say this while noting Cameron is easily one of the top 5 filmmakers on the planet – he is truly brilliant – but he got lost in special effects tech on this one.
And then eventually the sequel talk began, getting up to not one, not two, not three, but four of them. That no one asked for. Because despite it’s massive success, the movie itself was just meh. This isn’t a new Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or Marvel universe.
But that’s not the story. The story is cost. The expense of making these new films is beyond compare. They’ve been in various stages of production for over seven years already, and the release dates have been pushed back almost annually. The first sequel is still nowhere in sight – sure it’s “dated” for December 17, 2021 (almost two more years from now), but it’s been dated before. And you can’t trust anything on a schedule that far out.
They’re spending crazy money every year on this/these sequel(s). They need to have four of them to spread the cost around and have any slim hope of getting all this money back. Every year or two they have to announce an additional chapter because otherwise the whole thing collapses like a house of cards. This is snowballing worse than the national debt!
Cameron, ever the perfectionist, keeps wanting technology to evolve more and more so he can do bigger and better things on screen. But it’s like iPhones – as soon as you buy the latest model they announce an even better one coming soon. It will never be good enough for consumers, and it will definitely never be good enough for James Cameron.
But they’re all in so deep now there’s no way out. I’m told there was a joke on the Fox lot about Cameron putting in a call to then-chairman Jim Gianopulos to tell him the sequels needed to be shot on Mars. The planet Mars. This was maybe six years ago. They were laughing about the billion-dollar price tag back then, when the sequels were supposed to have been out by now. Think of how much worse it is today!
It’s not a Gianopulos headache anymore though. Now it’s Bob Iger and Alan Horn’s mess at Disney. Did they not notice the running tab on that project when they did the merger with Fox? Was it like a dine-and-dash where at some lunch Gianopulos and Rupert Murdoch said they had to go to the bathroom and then climbed out the window, sticking Iger and Horn with the bill? And Iger took a look and said “Holy fuck, Alan – did you order four Avatars??”, to which Horn muttered, “Those motherfuckers…”
Bottom line? These Avatar movies are never coming out. Cameron will always be waiting for better technology, the tab will keep ballooning, and there’s no upside to releasing the films. They can’t possibly make enough money to cover the costs. And no one wants to be the one trying to explain how after making a billion dollars each at the box office, each sequel is still a billion in the red. That’s a fun earnings call with Wall Street for Iger.
So, like the Federal Deficit, everyone involved in ballooning it will just look the other way until they can pass it all off on the next regime. December 17, 2021 is just a date for appearances. It will get pushed again, bet on it. Let it crash on someone else’s head. Whoever next takes the reins at Disney has a fun little “Oh by the way…” coming during orientation. Everyone responsible for starting this fire has already gotten out, just like how it works in a Ponzi scheme. The current bag-holders plan on getting out too, believe it.
If you’re one of the two dozen or so who have been dying to see the next chapter of the Avatar saga on screen, well, sorry. It’s not happening.
Not until Cameron gets to shoot some scenes on Pandora.
The real one.