Ever since its enormous success in 2009, James Cameron has been off tinkering with a follow-up to Avatar.
Whether or not anyone apart from Cameron really wanted to see an Avatar sequel is a question that we film-goers are just gonna have to force down the same cranial cul-de-sac as classics like “what happens when this whole superhero blockbuster bubble bursts?” and “there are how many Ice Age films?”
With Cameron’s recent confirmation that no less than three sequels to the science fiction adventure are in production, it’s important to look back at that first film and think about what we can hope to see – or not see – in these sequels.
Remember that time he got into a scuffle with the paparazzi on the streets of New York, and when he was arrested he asked officers if they had seen the movie Avatar? Yeah. Do we really want revive his Hollywood career? Isn’t it for the best that he’s quietly faded into relative-obscurity?
Sure, given the way the first film ended, we probably won’t even be forced to actually see Worthington in the flesh – but is his oft-inconsistent voicework really that much better? It’s not even like he brings that much gravitas to his performance. Sam Worthington is one of those actors that I could tell you was a bricklayer before he became an actor (he was!) and you’d completely believe me.
He’s the most replaceable element of the Avatar franchise, and most of the characters in that first film are COMPUTER GENERATED.
Some might consider this entry to be cheating, but lets be fair: Jake Sully is a truly awful character. His two defining traits – his dead brother and his inability to walk – are more or less erased from the plot once the titular avatars come into play. Once this happens there’s little to Jake apart from the whole generic white savior trope that actively dogs every effort Cameron makes to have Avatar treated as a serious science fiction franchise, not to mention the film’s own escapist qualities.
Just like Dances with Wolves before it, Avatar is about a white man embracing an indigenous culture. After the white man finds himself naturally better than those native to the culture (because of course), he quickly ascends to become the leader and a force of salvation for said culture.
The reason that first film gets away with these issues is because Jake works as a stand-in for the audience. Like him, we’re discovering and experiencing the world of Pandora for the first time. There’s no need for this in a sequel – so there’s no need for Jake either.
Jake is literally everything that doesn’t work about Avatar. He even has a fucking tribal tattoo, in case you needed any more reasons to dislike him. Let’s hope that the sequel actively does everything it can do to subvert these elements of the franchises’ mythology and erase him from our collective memories.
Sam Worthington (yes, I’m not letting this go)
I know I’ve already talked about him, but it’s important to really emphasize how important it is that the Avatar sequels stay as far away from Sam Worthington as possible.
Beyond the risk of reminding audiences of his roles in Terminator: Salvation and Clash of the Titans (or worse, the first Avatar), bringing back Worthington in any capacity is inevitably going to drag with it all the colonialist/white-savior baggage we talked about earlier.
If Cameron is serious about cementing Avatar as a lasting science fiction franchise, he needs to leave these things behind – and Worthington with them.