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How ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ passed $2 billion globally

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After six weeks of release, James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has surpassed $2 billion in global ticket sales. It’s the sixth film in history — and first in pandemic times — to cross the coveted milestone, joining an exclusive club that includes ‘Avatar’, ‘Avengers: Endgame’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

The long-delayed sequel opened in December and remained hugely popular in the weeks since its release. Helping it to soar like the original, the release was boosted by Imax and 3D screens, as well as repeat customers across all ages and demographics, propelling ticket sales to dizzying heights. It is expected to continue, even if slowly, garnering brisk box office.

Disney, which holds the rights to ‘Avatar’ after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent roughly $460 million to produce and promote ‘The Way of Water’, making it one of the most expensive films ever.

Cameron is responsible for three of the six highest-grossing movies of all time. He’s also the only director with three films to cross $2 billion. Notably, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Neytiri in the ‘Avatar’ series, has now starred in four of the six films to cross $2 billion. She also appears in both ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, reprising her ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ role of Gamora.

‘The Way of Water’ has officially hit the lofty goal that Cameron set for himself prior to the film’s release. Before the sequel opened in theaters, he told GQ that ‘Avatar 2’ represents “the worst business case in movie history” because it needs to become one of the three or four top-grossing movies of all time to break even. (Analysts believe the film’s breakeven point was close to $1.5 billion, so ‘The Way of Water’ has already been in the black.) But in the coming days, it’ll take down the fourth- and fifth-biggest movies, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($2.07 billion) and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ($2.04 billion), to achieve that feat.

The original ‘Avatar’, which debuted in theatres 13 years ago, remains the biggest movie of all time, with $2.9 billion.

MOVIES

‘Avatar 2’ hits $1.4 billion after $86 million new year haul

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James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ loomed large at the box office during the New Year’s holiday, generating a towering $86.3 million over the four-day weekend. Through New Year’s Day, the blockbuster sequel has grossed $444.4 million in North America and roughly $1.4 billion globally. It has been holding strong in the time since its release, dropping only 8% in its third weekend in theaters. Over the traditional three-day period, the movie brought in $66.8 million, which marks a 4% increase from its sophomore outing.

With its worldwide ticket sales, ‘Avatar 2’ stands as the 14th-highest global release in history, just ahead of ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’. After only three weeks, it’s already primed to pass Paramount and Tom Cruise’s box office smash ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ ($1.488 billion) as the highest-grossing movie released in 2022.

‘Avatar 2’ is expected to remain a top draw throughout the month of January, which will be necessary to justify its massive price tag. Cameron estimated the $350 million-budgeted movie (not including at least $100 million in marketing fees) needs to generate roughly $2 billion to break even, though analysts believe the threshold to profitability is probably closer to $1.5 billion. As a plus, it looks to hit that benchmark in a matter of days.

The original ‘Avatar’ was released in 2009 and stands as the highest-grossing release in history with $2.97 billion worldwide. The follow-up film, which debuted 13 years later after many, many delays, will struggle to make that much money because the global box office hasn’t fully rebounded from the pandemic. Moreover, China, a major theatrical market, is experiencing a resurgence of COVID and Russia, another big territory, won’t have access to the film.

The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, in the sequel which follows the Sully family as they head underwater to battle the elements and keep the Na’vi safe from humans.

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‘Deadpool 3’ might involve time travel – Hugh Jackman

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Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman reveals how Weapon X can appear in Marvel Studios’ Deadpool 3 despite the character dying at the end of 2017’s Logan. During an appearance on Sirius XM, the actor revealed how Wolverine will cross paths with Deadpool despite the former dying in 2017’s Logan. “All because of this device they have in the Marvel world of moving around timelines, now we can go back because you know it’s science,” Jackman said. “And so I don’t have to screw with the Logan timeline which was important to me and I think probably to the fans too.”

Jackman and his Deadpool 3 co-star Ryan Reynolds previously confirmed that the threequel would not touch Logan, which initially served as Jackman’s swan song for Wolverine. “Logan takes place in 2029,” Reynolds said at the time. “Totally separate thing. Logan died in Logan. Not touching that.” Deadpool 3 will mark Jackman’s tenth time playing Logan/Wolverine, with the film also serving as the character’s official Marvel Cinematic Universe debut.

Even with Jackman’s time travel reveal, there is still a lot about Deadpool 3 that Marvel Studios is keeping under wraps. However, Jackman has recently teased that Deadpool 3 will be a buddy cop comedy adventure film, explaining how he has always envisioned that type of movie for the two characters. “I went to a screening of Deadpool. I was 20 minutes in, and I was like, ‘Ah, damn it!’ All I kept seeing in my head was 48 Hrs. with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy,” Jackman said. “So it’s been brewing for a long time. It just took me longer to get here.” Deadpool 3 director Shawn Levy has also confirmed that he and Reynolds are working hard on keeping the MCU’s “Deadpool raw, gritty, grounded in the ways that those movies have been and that all of us love.”

At the time of writing, Jackman and Reynolds remain the only X-Men actors officially confirmed to be reprising their roles for Deadpool 3. The movie is currently scheduled to open in theaters on Nov. 8, 2024, as the first film of Phase 6 of the MCU.

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GeekAfrique’s Best Film of 2022: ‘Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman’

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Beloved director Biyi Bandele’s last movie is the adaptation of a revered classic, as well as a sharp and unforgiving look at the hubris that typified colonialism. But in its totality, it’s a jarring fable about the never-ending clash between tradition and modernity, all in a beautifully-realized film.

Cast: Odunlade Adekola, Shaffy Bello, Deyemi Okanlawon, Mark Elderkin, Jenny Stead, Omowunmi Dada, Olawale ‘Brymo’ Olofooro, Jide Kosoko, et al.

Director: Biyi Bandele

Producers: EbonyLife Films and Netflix

Reviewer: Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

‘After his king dies, a horseman must sacrifice himself to serve his ruler in the afterlife but sudden distractions lead to unexpected tragedy’. The plot of director Biyi Bandele’s final film appears to be simple and straightforward, but a closer look reveals a modern masterpiece that is nuanced and layered in many ways which many Nigerian filmmakers have not been able to achieve. And for an anti-colonial tale, that’s saying quite a lot. But then again, there’s more to it. There’s also the not-so-little detail that it’s based on what is considered to be the magnum opus of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the play ‘Death and The King’s Horseman’.

The titular king’s horseman has the unenviably terminal job of ensuring the smooth journey of the late Alaafin to the afterlife, but when the day for his ritual suicide comes, he is having too great a time. A last-minute wedding to a young damsel who’s caught his eye sets events in motion, dragging into the story an incredibly tone-deaf colonial British official and his waifish wife, as well as the entire community, in a tug-of-war between tradition and modernity, leaving the viewer wondering which one is genuinely representational of ‘civilization’. Events cross into each other, pitting character against character, resulting in an unexpectedly tragic end for a major character.

Colourful in all the right ways, and heavy when it needs to be, Bandele’s adaptation of Soyinka’s enduring play is itself in many ways an instant classic, buoyed by a number of factors

Colourful in all the right ways, and heavy when it needs to be, Bandele’s adaptation of Soyinka’s enduring play is itself in many ways an instant classic, buoyed by a number of factors, chief among them the film’s stellar cast. While Odunlade Adekola is as usual charismatic in the title role, the performance with the most gravitas remains that of Deyemi Okanlawon, who plays his son, back from studying in Britain, yet remaining fiercely in alignment with Yoruba traditions and culture. The talented Mr. Okanlawon gives life to Olunde with method acting-like attention to detail, resulting in a character that is truly multi-dimensional.

Okanlawon’s brilliant turn has enough gravitas to carry the whole movie, and his quiet storm countenance is reminiscent of early-day Sidney Poitier, perfect for conveying his disdain for British disrespect. One of the best scenes in the film – and indeed in any Nigerian film this year – remains the deceptively casual conversation he has with the British official’s wife (played to perfection by Jenny Stead), during which he floors her off her high horse with words that are not violent, but a glare that is deadly. If the actor ever needed to stamp his greatness, his performance here does it perfectly.

[Deyemi] Okanlawon’s brilliant turn has enough gravitas to carry the whole movie, and his quiet storm countenance is reminiscent of early-day Sidney Poitier, perfect for conveying his disdain for British disrespect.

That said, the sheer quality of the cast alone is worth the price of admission, as they deliver powerful performances – including the scene-stealing Shaffy Bello as female elder Iyaoloja – and a strikingly memorable one by Jide Kosoko as a comically stoic native law enforcement officer. Mark Elderkin, too, exudes a nonchalance that’s both irreverent and dangerous. Singer Brymo also shines in his feature film debut, as do the other cast members. It is quite easy to deliver greatness, by dint of the source material’s brilliance. Though written in English, it was adapted mostly in Yoruba, bringing a weight that anchors the film as it should be.

The music of ‘Elesin Oba’ is so well-realized that it is practically a character in itself. Featuring Yoruba drums and chants in a way that could make it pass for a musical, the film’s stage origins are clear in the most complimentary way, giving off a tone reminiscent of classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals like ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The King and I’, et cetera, et cetera, no pun intended. It is also backed up formidably by songs performed by the always-compelling Brymo. The overall tone one gets is like that of old Hollywood classics.

That said, the sheer quality of the cast alone is worth the price of admission, as they deliver powerful performances – including the scene-stealing Shaffy Bello as female elder Iyaoloja

Full of powerful performances, gorgeous production design, vibrancy, and stunning originality that is needed in Nigerian movies today, Bandele’s film does the rare thing of being a period piece so well-put together, so intricately-tailored, that it seems to address the current global zeitgeist of racism, otherness, and more without appearing even remotely preachy or arrogant. Add to that the fact that ‘Death and The King’s Horseman’ is based on real events circa 1947, and you have what is unquestionably the best Nigerian film of 2022. Bravo!

A version of this article was published in the Daily Trust newspaper on Saturday, 17 Dec. 2022, as well as online.

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