Because so much was thrown into the technology behind Avatar, it makes a great deal of sense that James Cameron would plan a franchise around the film, but as far as I know this is the first official acknowledgment that he’s not only planning sequels, he already has story ideas.
The main reason to be optimistic about Avatar (to the extent I’ve tried at all which I admit hasn’t always been a lot) is because it’s a rare big-studio blockbuster that is an original idea (relatively) and it isn’t counting on brand recognition to sell itself. Regardless of what you think about Cameron, or what we all eventually think of Avatar, you have to admire him for taking the risk in an environment where risk has become a dirty word for the studios.
Yes, I suppose they’re inevitable and the prospect of several probably helped sweeten the deal for Fox in the first place, but they’re only going to be interesting if the first one is any good. That remains to be seen though we’ll have a better idea soon as critics have their first chance to finally see the film for themselves tonight.
It’s tempting to wonder what will happen to Avatars two and three if the first film stiffs at the box office, but I’m increasingly thinking the odds of that are less and less likely. It’s clearly pre-designed to appeal in some way to just about every demographic (and it has the marketing to back it up) and it will probably be huge overseas as well where a dismal nothing like 2012 has quietly raked in nearly $600 million.
For what it’s worth, I’ve read projections of $60 – 70 million opening weekend for Avatar which is great for December, but not so hot when you consider Avatar cost anywhere from $387 million (the studio’s claim for cost of production plus prints and advertising) to $500 million (Michael Cieply’s unsupported, poorly added up and widely repeated estimation in the NY Times). I don’t think opening weekend will tell the entire Avatar box office story though. That will take a little longer to play out.
More important than how much Avatar costs or how much it makes or whether there will be sequels is whether the first one is any good. I want it to leave me with the same blown away feeling that Aliens did so many years ago. I’m skeptical that it will, but I’m still hopeful. I want Avatar to be amazing. Why would I want anything else?