Skip to content
Home > ‘Avatar’ – In Honor of the 15th Anniversary

‘Avatar’ – In Honor of the 15th Anniversary

'Avatar' - In Honor of the 15th Anniversary

Does Returning to Pandora Bring the Same Magic?

Fifteen years ago, visionary director James Cameron released his supposed magnum opus, the space opera Avatar. The film was a financial success and became the highest-grossing film of all time before Avengers: Endgame a decade later. However, the film did not have nearly the same cultural impact that one would expect. Additionally, the film was criticized for its shallow story and derivative nature. However, fifteen years have passed since then, and many moviegoers are wondering how the film holds up.

Previously on ‘Avatar’  

While Avatar was a financial success, the same cannot be said of the story itself. The story follows paraplegic veteran Jake Sully as he has to possess the body of a Na’vi to negotiate between the indigenous and the invading humans. Along the way, he falls for the Na’vi and rebels against the resource-starved humans. Cameron once said to Entertainment Weekly that he based Avatar on every piece of sci-fi he had ever seen before, which probably explains why the film is so loaded with cliches. 

The films Avatar was inspired by are many and obvious. Comparisons were frequently made to Pocahontas, The Lorax, Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, and many other environmentalist narratives. However, the film’s formulaic plot prevented it from giving any unique insight into the debates of environmentalism, an example being how the film overlooks the desperate situation of humanity. Furthermore, many of the elements were subject to ridicule, such as the name “Mr. Selfish” for a villain and the MacGuffin mineral being named “unobtanium.”

Even if Avatar is a science fiction film, that didn’t stop many from seeing problematic elements in the story. Most prominently, Jake Sully falls into the trope of the “white savior,” a storytelling device following a member of the colonizers saving the colonized for self-serving reasons. With his outright messianic status within the film, these parallels are harder to ignore. These elements made Avatar go from bland to tone-deaf to many. Ultimately, Cameron’s space opera went down as the “blue cat people” movie to most. 

The Visual Effects 

For as much as audiences despised the story of Avatar, the same cannot be said of the film’s revolutionary visual effects. After Titanic’s titular set piece, Cameron had to bring the next revolution to the big screens. Cameron himself invested heavily in the technology and spent nearly a decade perfecting it. Regardless of how interesting a world Pandora was, there is no denying that it was visually stunning. From detailed flora and roaming fauna to glorious vistas, there is no denying that Cameron created one of the most visually memorable worlds in cinema. It even created a phenomenon called “post-Avatar depression syndrome” when returning to the real world.

Additionally, the motion capture used was equally revolutionary to VFX in cinema. Before the film’s release, motion-capture technology had been advancing, from Serkis’ Oscar-winning portrayal of Gollum in Lord of the Rings to Robert Zemekis’ cult classic Beowulf. With Avatar, the Na’vi were as close to real as tech could be in detail, movements, and expression. To this day, the effects are just as good as the day they were released, especially when compared to the heavily criticized CGI of films such as the MCU.

However, good visual effects can’t save a mediocre film. With other films such as Lord of the Rings and Into The Spider-Verse, the visuals were not only praised, but they complemented their interesting worlds and engaging stories. With Avatar, however, they were not attached to a unique story. Because of this, the spectacle of Avatar inevitably wore off. 

The Return of the Franchise   

One of the most remembered facts about Avatar by the wider public was how little moviegoers remembered it. Despite breaking the record for the highest-grossing film of all time, the film did not spawn the same fandom as Star Wars or Star Trek. Apart from an Ubisoft game, there was sparingly little content produced expanding on the world of Pandora. While its fandom did exist, it was minuscule compared to others. With no sequel planned upon release, the Avatar franchise went dormant for over a decade. To rub salt in the wound, a certain other franchise named “Avatar” maintained a far higher place in pop culture. 

However, with Disney’s purchase of Fox, they looked at the potential of Cameron’s franchise. Firstly was the creation of Pandora for Disney World, which was by all means a successful attraction. Years later, Disney would also greenlight a revival of the series for a total of four sequels, creating a pentology. Additionally, Cameron also toyed with the idea of a sixth and seventh installment. 

In December of 2022, the saga continued with Avatar: The Way of Water. While the film was a financial success with revolutionary water effects, it made all of the same mistakes as its predecessor with its cliche plot and heavy-handed environmentalism. Given that Cameron had 14 years to listen to the critics, this is fairly disappointing. Ultimately, the franchise’s failure to adapt to a new generation showed that the original Avatar film was a weak foundation to build upon that left little room to grow from. 


While the film succeeded at the box office, the same cannot be said of the franchise as a whole. Despite its revolutionary visual effects, they did little to help a cliche story mired in outdated and overdone tropes. The lack of memorable or engaging elements led to the film being swiftly forgotten by the wider public and losing its place in the pop-culture zeitgeist. In the end, Avatar is a cautionary tale about valuing short-term spectacle versus creating a memorable and original story.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) Official Avatar Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

Contact Information:

Email: news@deadtalknews.com

Phone: +1 (646) 397-2874

Dead Talk Live is simultaneously streamed to: YouTubeInstagramTikTokFacebookTwitchTwitterVimeo, and LinkedIn

Shop official Dead Talk Live Merchandise at our Online Store