Is Avatar Marvel? Is Avatar a Marvel movie? James Cameron’s successor to “Avatar” is finally almost here, a mere thirteen years after the original movie set many box office records. The first film was extremely popular, with visuals so appealing that it caused depression in those longing to visit the beautiful, yet tragically fictional, planet of Pandora. The “Avatar” sequels have been planned by Cameron since shortly after the release of the original, showing they are very much part of his genuine artistic vision and aren’t simply cash grabs. Despite these positive signs, the long gap between the series’ first entry and the second has created some skepticism among audiences and critics.
Many have claimed that “Avatar” certainly broke the mold when it came to its box office earnings, but its lasting cultural impact is pretty negligible, with nobody remembering many of the characters’ names, let alone hoping for a sequel over a decade later. Others are doubtful that the movie will be able to earn enough money to justify its massive budget and three years of shooting.
Is Avatar Marvel?
During the press tour for Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron had some unkind words for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he seems to have missed the irony of his statements, given that many of his and others’ criticisms about Marvel movies could easily be said about the Avatar films as well.
Strangely enough, Cameron had previously congratulated Avengers: Endgame for surpassing Titanic at the box office, calling the film an “amazing achievement” and saying it showed that the movie industry was “alive and well.” It’s possible that Cameron just wanted to drum up some attention for The Way of Water ahead of its release by taking shots at Marvel, but now that he invited the comparison, it only makes sense to see if his statements hold up.
The first Avatar film was incredibly popular and inspired many other filmmakers with its technological innovations. However, even when it was first released, audiences were critical of its thin plot and characters. Jump ahead 13 years, and many viewers are now accusing Avatar: The Way of Water of just being the first film underwater.
While the visual effects are once again beautiful, Cameron’s criticisms of Marvel partially focused on the films’ writing — something Avatar has never impressed with. Apart from just Cameron’s criticisms, the same kinds of things critics and fans complain about when it comes to the MCU can easily be applied to the first two entries in the Avatar series.
Avatar: The Way of Water Is a Sequel and a Spectacle
A common critique of the MCU is that it has prevented any new creative films from getting made. James Cameron said that he enjoys Marvel films but also criticized the studio for not making other types of stories. However, Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t exactly a new idea. It is a sequel to Avatar and is projected to have up to three more sequels if it performs well enough at the box office.
Cameron has also said an Avatar TV show isn’t impossible but would have to happen further down the line. This mirrors the MCU’s transition over to Disney+ in the last few years, the same streaming service said Avatar show would likely premiere on. Avatar may have been original when it came out in 2009, but now Cameron is turning it into yet another Hollywood franchise.
Both Marvel movies and the two Avatar films are largely about the spectacle. Though the MCU has some slower entries that are more character-driven, it’s clear that many fans are going to see moments like Captain America beating on Thanos with Thor’s hammer. Avatar: The Way of Water looks incredible, especially the underwater scenes, and it definitely beats out a lot of MCU films in terms of looks.
However, that doesn’t stop the movie from also being mostly just a spectacle. Any comparisons critics like to make between MCU films and theme park rides can be just as easily applied to The Way of Water. Despite what Cameron claims, there are a lot of similarities between his work and Marvel movies.
Avatar Uses Formulaic Stories and Shallow Characters
One of James Cameron’s criticisms about the Marvel Cinematic Universe was its lack of diversity in storytelling, which is very ironic given how closely Avatar: The Way of Water mirrors the plot of Avatar. Both films feature humans seeking a rare resource that the RDA wants to steal, a romance between a Sully and the daughter of a Na’vi chief, and a character having to bond with a seemingly dangerous animal.
Unobtainium was swapped for Tulkun Enzymes in this film, a smart move, given that its name had been roasted for the past decade. However, the scene where a scientist explains how valuable Tulkun Enzymes is beat-for-beat the same scene as the introduction to Unobtainium. This lack of creativity in the script can be excused, given the unique visuals of the film, but it doesn’t explain why Cameron thinks Avatar is any more original than the MCU when it comes to telling stories.
Another criticism Cameron had of the MCU was its characters. Cameron claimed that the characters were too immature and needed to grow up, implying that they were not very complex. Though the characters in Avatar aren’t nearly as quippy, they aren’t any more well-developed than those of the MCU.
If anything, fans know far less about Avatar characters than they do Marvel heroes. The stories of the Avatar films are very simplistic, and there is little to no moral complexity. The heroes make the obviously good choice of defending Pandora, while the villains are more a personification of greed than actual people. This type of storytelling is fine, but Cameron shouldn’t be claiming his films have more complex characters when most of them feel more like symbols than people.
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