Avatar: The Way of the Water should be released in December, but it has a big problem: it’s the sequel to a movie released 13 years ago. Meanwhile, most of us can barely remember what happened on last week’s episode of She-Hulk – when Avatar 2 hits theaters, there could be a lot of confusion if characters start talking about unobtanium, Toruks, RDA, or Noble Clyde Boudreaux. (One of those things isn’t actually in the movie – see if you can guess which one.)
James Cameron and his team have found a solution, however: to reissue the first Avatar in theatres. According to a trailer released on Tuesday, the 2009 film returns to theaters for two weeks from September 23 and will be released in “all formats” including IMAX, 4K/HDR and – of course – 3D.
This last point is important. Of course people could watch it at home to catch up before heading out to see the new one, but hardly anyone will have the equipment to watch it the way it was meant to be watched, with a pair of 3D glasses strapped to their face. With the re-release, you’ll be able to get that full 2009 experience back, without having more than a decade to forget all the lingo and world-building. (Well, almost the complete experience – you won’t have the “pleasure” of listening to “Boom Boom Pow” or “Poker Face” on the radio on your way home from the theater to write an angry forum post about James Cameron making “unobtanium” a real plot point in a sci-fi movie.)
Movies returning to theaters to set you up for a sequel isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon – I remember attending a screening of batman begins and The black Knight on The dark knight rises‘ opening night, and some theaters did similar things for Marvel movie releases. Even James Cameron is no stranger to theatrical re-releases; Titanic has returned to theaters before and is expected to do so again next year – although, obviously, it’s not because it’s getting a sequel. For most films, however, seeing the prequels is a luxury; because of the complexity Avatar was and how long it has been published, it looks like required reading this time.