Today Mike Fleming Jr. over at Deadline broke some big Avatar news. Huh? Who? What? Oh right, the sequels to James Cameron's 3D Na'vi-fest are lurching into production.
If you had forgotten, the 2009 ultra-blockbuster Avatar is getting not one, not two, but three sequels, news that was received with a general "Whatever" when it was announced. Recently, there's been a boom in Avatar news, though none are really capturing the nation's fancy. Last week, star Sam Worthington—remember him?—revealed that the sequels would start filming October 2014. Fleming today reports that Stephen Lang will be back as the film's villain for all three movies. This is notable because his character, Colonel Miles Quaritch, died at the end of the first film. Did you remember that? We didn't.
People have tried to explore why Avatar, despite being the highest-grossing film of all time, inspires so little residual fan passion. Devin Faraci at Badass Digest has said that the movie is "weirdly absent from pop culture." David Haglund wrote at Slate that "While Avatar was arguably instrumental in pushing more filmmakers to use 3-D (for better or worse), it really does seem to have otherwise largely vanished from the cultural landscape." Haglund enumerated reasons Avatar might have failed to have any sort of lasting impact. It's meant to be watched in a theater, for instance, or the "movie really is weaker than many of the other all-time cinema hits."
For whatever reason, Avatar proved completely unmemorable. Of course we can recall the basics of the film: the dragon-riding, the eco-friendly plot line, the weird hair connection stuff. Beyond that, though, everything is pretty blurry. Maybe Worthington was simply too unremarkable a star, who never became the sought-after hero the industry hoped he would be, thus imbuing Avatar with some star-making mythos. Perhaps it was because Avatar ended up simply being about the visual spectacle, rather than the intricacies of the storyline. Maybe we just didn't like the movie as much as the neat technology tricked us into thinking we did at the time.
So while the announcement that Lang is coming back should get us riled up—Fleming writes that he "sounds like he’s the closest thing to a mix between Star Wars’ Darth Vader and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character"—all we can muster in response is a simple, "Oh." Whatever retcon Cameron performs likely won't have that much of an emotional impact, because Lang's character's death barely registered.
Avatar surprised us the first time around, overcoming bad buzz to become the biggest hit in movie history. And maybe Cameron will hit pay dirt the second, third and fourth go-arounds too. But it seems like he's got a lot of work to do before enough people are excited about taking another trip to Pandora to make it worth the cost of gas.