Long awaited ‘Avatar’ sequel hits theaters

Lauren Kostakis, News Editor


The sequel to the highest grossing film of all time, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has massive shoes to fill. Over a decade after the original installment, director and producer James Cameron is once again blending his two most loved passions: directing and ocean conservation.

“Avatar” is set in Pandora, a fictional planet that exists outside the known solar system. The original movie followed main characters Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Pandora is inhabited by Na’vi, humanoid creatures who are forced to fight the invading humans seeking unobtanium, a superconductive material that is valuable to the humans. Jake, originally a human, replaced his brother on the mission to Pandora. He is sent to live with the Na’vi, in order to convince them to move from their “home tree” that functions as their center of life, which the humans want to mine for unobtanium. While there, Jake meets Saldana’s character, Neytiri and falls in love with her. He later betrays the humans and helps the Na’vi fight off the invaders. The movie ends with Jake choosing to remain in his Avatar form and to be with Neytiri.

After waiting thirteen years to make a sequel, Cameron has let the original excitement over the film die out. The first “Avatar” was so successful primarily because nothing like it had ever been done before. The special effects were seen as unreal and shocking. Now, movies like “Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens” and “Avengers: Endgame” have raised the bar for computer generated work on the big screen, with “Avengers: Endgame” making almost as much money as the original “Avatar” film. “Avatar: The Way of Water” cost 20th Century Studios an estimated $250 million to make, $13 million more than its predecessor. “Avatar” grossed $2.9 billion worldwide, earning both critical and financial success. However, given the lack of spectacle surrounding the newest “Avatar,” Cameron himself is concerned about the amount of money the film will gross. Cameron has said the amount of money spent on making and promoting the sequel means that if the movie does not do well at the box office, his decision to continue Jake and Neytiri’s story will prove to be “the worst business case in movie history.”

While Cameron did not specify exactly how much money the film would need to make in order to be considered a financial success, he did say it must become “the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history.” In order to reach this standard of at least the fourth highest grossing film of all time, “Avatar: The Way of Water” would need to make over $2 billion at the box office. Cameron also said that if the movie does not perform up to the $2 billion standard, he may have to cut two of the five originally planned  “Avatar” films, leaving the series as a trilogy. In good news for “Avatar” fans, regardless of the sequel’s performance, a third film will likely still be made in order to complete the story.

“Avatar’s” underwater setting is particularly important to Cameron, and this could explain why he is so willing to spend large amounts of money on a film he’s not sure will be successful. In collaboration with Disney, 20th Century Studios is supporting a program called the “Virtual Pandoran Ocean.” This digital program allows fans of the movies to design their own “Avatar” inspired underwater creature. For every creature made, Disney will donate $5 (up to $1 million total) to The Nature Conservatory in order to help them reach their goal of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2030. This program’s invention means that outside of the cinematic world, the “Avatar” films, and Cameron himself, are making an impact on more than just the two hours someone is watching the movie.