According to Film Twitter, no one remembers James Cameron’s Avatar. But the trailer for the upcoming sequel Avatar: The Way of Water was viewed 148.6 million times worldwide in the first 24 hours of its release (more than the trailers for any of the recent Star Wars films).
Considering that eye-popping statistic, it’s no surprise that a remastered version of the original is being released to capitalize on anticipation for The Way of Water’s December release. Several Portland theaters are playing the film, including Regal Lloyd Center, which will screen it in IMAX 3D.
Released in 2009, the first Avatar starred Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine sent to the distant moon of Pandora to infiltrate a race of aliens called the Na’Vi. By transferring his consciousness into a Na’Vi body, Jake is able walk and run across Pandora (and pursue a relationship when Neytiri, a Na’Vi leader played by Zoe Saldaña).
Created with a then-groundbreaking mixture of 3D, live action and photorealistic computer animation (created using motion capture technology, which required the actors to wear dots across their bodies so animators could track their movements), the film was hailed as a special-effects breakthrough (despite snarky quibbling about Cameron’s deliberately straightforward, mythic storyline).
In 2010, Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time globally, beating Cameron’s own Titanic (not adjusted for inflation). It briefly lost that title to Avengers: Endgame, but reclaimed the advantage thanks to a 2021 China rerelease (which powered the film to a $2.8 million gross).
While the viability of Avatar as a long-term franchise has been questioned, Cameron has promised that the sequels will deliver. “They’re gonna be bitchin,’” he told Empire magazine with characteristic bravado. “You will shit yourself with your mouth wide open.”