At the 1997 Academy Awards, after Titanic won Best Picture, James Cameron famously proclaimed “I’m the king of the world!” If Avatar wins at this year’s awards, he might just be able to declare himself king of the universe. Avatar has just passed The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to obtain the number two slot on the all time worldwide box office with an astounding $1.13 billion. Meanwhile AICN reports that Cameron has officially affirmed that an Avatar sequel is in the works and Variety confirms that the director has optioned The Last Train From Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back with his own funds. Hit the jump to learn more about Cameron’s plan for world domination, one movie at a time.
Avatar has raced through box office records in its 20 days of release; it’s well ahead of where Titanic was at this point and actually stands a chance at earning the additional $700+ million necessary to top Titanic‘s record of $1.84 billion worldwide. Maybe I’m being naive, but I think Titanic will continue to hold on to the title. The success of Titanic was such an anomaly in how little grosses eroded over its release: it topped the domestic box office for a record fifteen straight weeks. I wonder if that kind of continued attraction remains possible given current theater-going customs. Still, I’ve underestimated Avatar‘s earning power at just about every step of the way so far, so I will count out no possibility at this point.
Avatar‘s immense success does create perhaps insurmountable expectations for any sequel, though. Cameron remains unfazed as, according to an AICN reader, he announced “Yes, there’ll be another” in response to inquiries about said sequel. It was a given that 20th Century Fox would want to make Avatar a franchise in order to keep the cashflow coming. It is worth noting that one of the greatest difficulties in creating Avatar was the effort and expense put into designing the CGI world and characters. Now that those key components are on file, a sequel would have a much simpler production process compared to that of the prolonged Avatar.
The creative prospects of a sequel, however, make me a bit nervous. I imagine there are plenty of great stories available in and around the fictional world of Pandora and I would love to see Cameron, who is often a wonderful raconteur, tell one of them. However, many of the critiques of Avatar revolve around the ordinary plot and themes, while most of the praise is directed more toward the film’s aesthetic. At least in part, Avatar was sold on the groundbreaking techniques it employed and promised to show moviegoers something they had never, ever seen before. But now we’ve seen the world and the technology, and any sequel will have trouble recreating the “wow factor” that surrounded initial Avatar viewings. Without such technological pizzazz to distract, it seems likely that any story flaws in the sequel would be more noticeable.
I do hope that Cameron finds just the right story to tell so that Avatar 2 will be as entertaining as the original, but if I’m honest, I am currently much keener on the potential adaptation of The Last Train From Hiroshima. Cameron and Charles Pellegrino, the author of the book, visited Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a survivor of both atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to discuss the experience of a nuclear explosion. I opined about my desire to see Cameron tackle the heady implications of nuclear weaponry earlier in the week as I think he is well equipped to address the moral complexity of such technological advancement with an engrossing tension. I would also like to see The Sum of All Fears displaced as cinema’s definitive modern commentary on the atomic bomb by a film that will serve as a worthy dramatic counterpart to the madcap satire of Dr. Strangelove, and I believe Cameron may be just the man to do it. Although Variety’s report solidifies that the adaptation is more than mere rumor, it’s not necessarily a go yet; the project is not set up at Cameron’s home studio, 20th Century Fox, or even his own production company, Lightstorm Entertainment.
So without a doubt look for both a follow-up to Avatar and an adaptation of The Last Train From Hiroshima sometime in the next decade if we’re lucky, and look for James Cameron to be declared czar of the galaxy by 2023.