At the TCA press tour in Pasadena this week, James Cameron spoke to journalists about his new project, AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. In the upcoming six-part TV series, the director will be exploring the roots of science fiction by interviewing folks like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, Will Smith, and more (all in all, around 100 creatives). But when talking about science fiction, both where it started and also where it’s leading us, one has to bring up Cameron’s Avatar.
Though many originally thought that Fox has greenlit all four sequels, Cameron has previously said that if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t perform, we won’t see 4 and 5. With brand-new underwater motion-capture technology in play and a hefty dose of CG (like the original movie), the budget on these films will certainly not be cheap. When asked if he would be advancing science-fiction storytelling with his new Avatar movies in addition to pushing the boundaries of tech, Cameron replied that,
I don’t think you advance storytelling, you know. I mean, I think storytelling is always about the basics. It’s about people. And I think that the lesson for me from the first film that I’ve applied to the new films is that the more fantastic the imagery, the more other-worldly, and the more you are pushing out to the edge of what’s possible in terms of bringing imaginative imagery to the screen, the more it has to be grounded in relationship and in truth and in heart. And so I’m hopefully doing that in spades with the new films. I’ve got an incredible cast. I worked really, really ‑‑ I’m always very cognizant of the casting. I’ve worked very hard to cast this, to find some new, young actors coming up that have incredible heart and that are just amazing.
And, you know, it doesn’t matter how much you dress it up with great production design and great visual effects. If the story is not working, if you don’t connect to the characters, it’s just simply not going to work. Of course, we can’t afford for it not to work, the budget level that we are dealing with. But, of course, you always have to give yourself permission as an artist to fail no matter what the stakes are. You’ve got to try stuff. The least‑safe thing you can do is try to be safe.