There have been times in life where I have felt like I must be missing something others are seeing. Instances where at the very least, my perception is I am out on an island with my thoughts compared to the rest of the population. As if…I’m the only person who feels a certain way about something.
Like the movie “Avatar.”
But…confirmation I am not alone in wondering how it became the highest-grossing film in history comes from Jamie Lauren Keiles, who wrote a column for the New York Times Magazine titled “Avatar and the Mystery of the Vanishing Blockbuster.”
The very presence of the cereal box pictured above, recently spotted at a local grocery store, possibly begs to differ about the film vanishing from our culture. At the very least, Kellogg’s is betting “Avatar” is still – or will be once more – a big deal.
And according to Keiles, a study by the consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons found an estimated one in five American adults have seen “Avatar.” In the theatre, mind you.
In less than two weeks, the long-awaited (?) sequel to this 2009 sensation will open, “The Way of Water.”
“Of all the questions raised by “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the most pressing seems to be “who asked for this?” Through the first “Avatar” was the world’s top-grossing movie not once, but twice, reclaiming the title from “Avengers: Endgame” after a 2021 re-release in China, its most oft-cited claim to fame is its surprising lack of cultural impact. While films of similar scale and ambition – “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “Iron Man” – have spawned fandoms and quotable lines and shareable memes and licensed merchandise, “Avatar” has spawned mainly punch lines.”
“On the fifth anniversary of the film, Forbes announced, “Five Years Ago Avatar Grossed $2.7 Billion but Left No Pop Culture Footprint.” A few years later, Buzzfeed ran a quiz titled “Do You Remember Anything at All About Avatar?” challenging readers to answer basic questions like, “What is the name of the male lead character in Avatar?” and “Which of these actors played the male lead?”
No follow-up movie until thirteen years later is certainly a factor as well.
I am one of those American adults who has never seen “Avatar” in a movie theatre. It is very strange I didn’t see it when it first opened. My wife and I try to average at least one movie a week throughout the year. It was the week before Christmas…there were other movies…and the subject matter simply didn’t do anything for us even though a lot of folks were reporting how dazzling the film’s visuals were.
We eventually caught up with “Avatar” when it first debuted on cable, and while mindful we were not experiencing a fully-immersive, multi-dimensional theatre view, it still didn’t do much for us…an ok film for me. My wife? She liked it a bit less than ok.
Director James Cameron certainly crafted a spectacular world for viewers to visit, and perhaps this is as simple as people just loved the look of the movie when it came out, different to them from anything they had seen before. It should be noted Cameron’s world of Pandora is one of five “lands” within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and apparently is not lacking for attendees even at this “late” date. That has to count for something.
“The history of recorded images might be described as an incremental quest to master the building blocks of consciousness – first sight, then motion, then sound, then color. With “Avatar,” Cameron revealed that human ingenuity could marshal even more: physics, light, dimensionality: the ineffable sense of an object being real; the life force that makes a thing feel alive.”
My wife and I are avid moviegoers. Next weekend, we’ll be sitting in an IMAX theatre with 3-D glasses on. We’ll give this sequel as good a chance as possible of winning us over…like the original film certainly did for many others.
If we’re sufficiently wowed, maybe we’ll even give the cereal a try. Hard to resist Blueberry-Flavored Blue Moons…
As for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which began with “Iron Man” the year before “Avatar” was released), the studio has confirmed their Phase 4 of viewing concluded with the streaming release of “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” I’ve documented being a bit underwhelmed about how Marvel has proceeded with their storytelling since the afore-mentioned “Avengers: Endgame.”
That being said, I recently was reading of all things a column on Fantasy Football (which I spend a ridiculous amount of time on even though the hobby is truly ridiculous…so there’s no need to elaborate further) when lo-and-behold the author took time out from his day job to list his personal Marvel Phase 4 rankings. I’m not a big list guy at all when it comes to creative enterprises, because everyone has their own unique experiences and feelings when enjoying art, music, shows, and movies. In the past I haven’t embraced award shows like the Emmys and Oscars because of that very reasoning. Yet, I do like the idea of reviewing and turning the page on Marvel as we enter the New Year so here we go…
(If you have no earthly idea what the MCU is I thank you for reading this far, and hope to see you next time. For those venturing forth, please feel free to let me know your likes and dislikes regarding these rankings…appearing here from my favorite down to my not-so-favorite)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home – Head and shoulders above the rest. Awesome. Great. Much love. Best Marvel effort since Endgame.
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – If I were in charge, I would have just flipped the mid-movie and end-of-movie battles. The transition in power was handled perfectly and tastefully. All involved did themselves proud.
- WandaVision – Took a while to get going, but eventually got there and stuck the landing. Poor Wanda.
- Hawkeye – The setting is at Christmas, and I do like me some Christmas. Besides, archery is cool.
- Loki – Wanted it to be a bit more than it was…but pretty darn good as is.
- Moon Knight – I’m sure I liked this way more than most, but I thought Oscar Isaac was great.
- Werewolf by Night – A wonderful Halloween treat (albeit a short one) which I enjoyed a lot. I want more of this in the MCU going forward.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Solid film until the ending, and then it fell apart for me. Still ranking it here.
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – I can’t believe I have this ranked so high, but the overall Phase 4 set a very low bar. Poor Wanda.
- She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – I know some will wonder why I have this ranked so high. But once I dealt with the fact this was strictly being played for laughs, I enjoyed it.
- Black Widow – She died, and then she got her origin story? It was fine. Ok. Thanks.
- Thor: Love and Thunder – Thor: Ragnarok was spectacular. But they tried to do it all over again and…no. Just. No.
- Ms. Marvel – I’m confident I’m not the demo they were going for, but I really liked the Jersey City half of this.
- The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special – A nice holiday gift for fans…but maybe just give us a solid Phase 5 next year. That would be a much better gift.
- Eternals – Some people probably have this ranked last. I do get it.
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Probably way too harsh a ranking based on my ridiculously high expectations. It just didn’t connect with me.
- What If…? – I don’t ask “what if” anymore. I just care about what is. Hell, it’s confusing enough keeping up with all things Marvel.
- I Am Groot – I am not Groot, but I do love Groot…just not in this.