Last week at CinemaCon, James Cameron and 20th Century Fox announced they were planning four Avatar sequels. The release schedule currently has Avatar 2 due Christmas 2018, Avatar 3 is due Christmas 2020, Avatar 4 is due Christmas 2022, and Avatar 5 is due Christmas 2023. There weren’t any details beyond that, but now Cameron has done an interview with Famous Monsters of Filmland to talk about the upcoming quadrilogy of sequels and what he has planned.
For starters, he isn’t planning to shoot them back-to-back. Instead, he’s taking a miniseries approach and shooting them concurrently, which seems fairly bold when the first sequel is only two years away and the final sequel is due in seven years. Cameron explains:
“It’s not back-to-back. It’s really all one big production. It’s more the way you would shoot a miniseries. So we’ll be shooting across all [AVATAR scripts] simultaneously. So Monday I might be doing a scene from Movie Four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from Movie One. … We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story. It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, this person hasn’t died yet, so you’re still in this phase of your life.’ It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three GODFATHER films at the same time.”
I have to respect that level of ambition, and while the world of Avatar doesn’t really lure me in, I have to respect Cameron’s level of vision even if it doesn’t all come together.
I’ll admit there are times where I don’t even fully understand his obsession with CGI, like when he talks about how he thinks he could do the Alien Queen better with modern CGI:
“If I could do the Alien Queen today with the techniques we used on AVATAR, she’d be spectacular. She’d be much more dynamic. Now, where I would struggle is to make her as texturally real. But that’s all doable now. … On the new AVATAR films, I’m actually going to shoot more real-world stuff. It may only be there as an example from which we then generate CG, or we may actually integrate some of those photographic elements. But I want more photography. … Like, if I was doing the Alien Queen, I would want photography to show the exact way that the slime drools off the curl of a lip and caught the light in a certain type of very low-key lighting. I would want to see that so that I can talk to the CG artist and say, ‘All right. Do that.’ … It always usually boils down to the lighting and the conception of the shot.”
That’s absolutely bizarre to me: “I’m going to shoot more real-world stuff…so I can use it to make fake stuff.” If the real world gifts you your image, take it. Don’t go blow money on digital effects you don’t need.
Finally, Cameron also commented on going up against Star Wars at the box office. Cameron seems unaware that Disney has basically declared December “Star Wars Month”, and while the untitled Han Solo film is currently slated for May 2018, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney decided to scoot it up to December 2018 to compete. In the meantime, Cameron seems to be operating under the assumption there’s room for both films and that they are equals:
“My original plan was to release them a year apart, but we’re opening that up. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to land on the same date as one of the STAR WARS sequels. That wouldn’t be fair to them. [Laughs] No, that’s just good business. I don’t want to go head-to-head with STAR WARS. That would be stupid. And hopefully they won’t want to go head to head with us.”
Yeah, I think they’re going to want to go head-to-head with you.