After the absurd success of Titanic in 1997 and 1998, it took director James Cameron more than a decade to get around to his next feature film, Avatar, which debuted to more absurd success in 2009 and 2010. We must always admire Cameron’s ability to deliver original properties that are both commercial hits and critical favorites. But according to the director, he’s done with the worldbuilding aspect of filmmaking:
“Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar, Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4.”
Hit the jump for Cameron’s full explanation.
Cameron visited China recently during the Beijing Film Festival, where he spoke with the New York Times. Here’s the full quote of interest.
“I’ve divided my time over the last 16 years over deep ocean exploration and filmmaking. I’ve made two movies in 16 years, and I’ve done eight expeditions. Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar, Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts. And that all sounds I suppose a little bit restricted, but the point is I think within the Avatar landscape I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what I think we need to be doing about it. And doing it in an entertaining way. And anything I can’t say in that area, I want to say through documentaries, which I’m continuing.”
Though deliberate and definitive, Cameron doesn’t need to stick to the plan he lays out here. Cameron may very well find that he has something that neither non-fiction nor the Na’vi can address. I pray he eventually remembers how much he wants to adapt the manga Battle Angel, because it sounds good-crazy and Cameron is the only person who could get it made. Alas, the director is happy to revert to his second career as a documentarian often enough, making five in the last decade. In his next project, Deepest Challenge, Cameron takes the viewer down to the deepest point of the Earth’s oceans. Speaking selfishly, as someone who really likes his features and has never seen a Cameron documentary, it is disheartening to see the ultimate populist with the power and wealth to make any movie impose such insular restrictions on his goals.
Given the recent news that Avatar 2 will probably not be ready for its planned December 2014 release date, Cameron updated us on where they are at in developing the sequels:
“We’ve spent the last year and a half on software development and pipeline development. The virtual production methodology was extremely prototypical on the first film. As then, no one had ever done it before and we didn’t even know for two and half years into it and $100 million into it if it was going to work. So we just wanted to make our lives a whole lot easier so that we can spend a little more of our brainpower on creativity. It was a very, very uphill battle on the first film. So we’ve been mostly working on the tool set, the production pipeline, setting up the new stages in Los Angeles, setting up the new visual effects pipeline in New Zealand, that sort of thing. And, by the way, writing. We haven’t gotten to the design stage yet. That’ll be the next.”
Cameron has said that Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 are one script, “not really a trilogy, but just an overall character arc.” They will reportedly be shot back to back. Depending on when Cameron finishes, I wonder if Fox is committed to a December release for both films, or if they might try the summer.
It’s not related, but I think this quote deserves an excerpt:
“There are filmmakers that come along that are quite iconoclastic. And that I’m in awe of, frankly. Zack Snyder’s 300. I think that was a really revolutionary film, because it was a completely deconstructive form of filmmaking in a way that nobody had done before, other than maybe Robert Rodriguez.”
Don’t worry, if you read the full interview, he circles back to praise “the old guard… Spielberg, Kubrick, and all that sort of thing.”