If first-day trailer views are a contest, Star Wars is losing — to Avatar

Neytiri in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Neytiri in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved. /

I’ll never forget the morning the final The Rise of Skywalker trailer debuted. I was lucky enough to be at Star Wars Celebration Chicago (2019) when the first teaser released (“roll it again” still lives rent-free in my brain). But as unforgettable as that was, this was different. Maybe it was the music. The footage from the entire saga (prequels included). Or the fact that in that moment in time, being a Star Wars fan was surreal — I just couldn’t believe we were lucky enough to be getting all the content we were then. I still can’t now.

I watched that trailer and wept for at least an hour; I had to set myself as away at work because I was too overwhelmed with emotions to focus. That may not have been my experience when the Avatar: The Way of Water trailer dropped this week. But admittedly, the fact that it far surpassed the first-day trailer views of movies like TROS is still impressive. I can’t even be mad about it.

Avatar didn’t make the cultural splash Star Wars’ first installments did. Its first (though apparently not the last) sequel is premiering over 10 years after the original film, while TROS was the ninth episodic film released in an over 40-year-long saga. Why is the second film in a less-popular franchise having a better trailer legacy than the sort-of finale of Star Wars? Perhaps it’s the hype that comes with waiting for something you forgot you might be excited about for over a decade. Or maybe first-day trailer views are just one metric we’ve decided to use to stack one franchise up against another … for reasons.

I saw Avatar once. It was pretty. It was fine. I don’t consider myself a fan, though I could easily still find myself in a theater opening weekend watching it anyway. That doesn’t mean other people aren’t allowed to like it or be excited about it. Somewhere out there, there are Avatar fans who love Avatar as much as I love Star Wars. I love that for them. At the end of the day, the most important thing about fandom is that you love the thing you’re a fan of and dedicate as much of your free time as possible to sharing that love with fellow fans.

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For long-time Avatar fans, this trailer might hold more weight than a trailer for something like TROS. It’s been 13 years, after all, almost as long as OT Star Wars fans had to wait between the original and prequel trilogies. If I’d waited that long for a sequel, I’d be hitting refresh on that trailer too.

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, though. That first trailer releasing online might have smashed a first-day record — at least compared to recent Star Wars films. But if we’re to compare franchises like that, Star Wars has decades’ worth of lore and universe-expanding stories behind it. Avatar can try — and it will — to top that. But these things take decades. And if there’s another 13-year wait until the next sequel (who knows what could happen?), there’s just no chance of catching up.

Avatar: The Way of Water arrives in theaters December 16, 2022.

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