You know nature is healing because the Avatar sequels, seemingly in development since the dawn of recorded history, are once again filming. We know this because producer Jon Landau, and none of the actual official Avatar social channels, is sharing some behind-the-scenes photos of production from the New Zealand set. And these photos are particularly Aliens-y, in a cool way.
Landau shared a pair of photos from the sequel, one which features Garrett Warren, a 2nd unit director (the dude in the eyepatch), giving a stuntman named Steve Brown “some notes before a take.” (Notice the “Sec Ops” helmet he’s wearing. This was not in the first movie. Looks like the evil Research Development Administration is even more sinister this time around.) The second photo is some RDA guys in their traditional gas masks (because, as we all recall, Pandora air is toxic to humans), firing some very big guns at something that will undoubtedly be added in later by the wizards at Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Domain, or one of the other visual effects vendors whose blood, sweat, and tears made the first film such a ravishing visual feast.
What’s also really interesting about Landau sharing these particular shots is that Cameron is notoriously opposed to second unit photography, an ethos that he passed along to his pal Guillermo del Toro. In a 2014 interview del Toro said of Cameron’s philosophy: “He says, ‘When the footage of the second unit is bad, it’s bad news. When it’s good, it’s worse news.’ Because you didn’t get to enjoy shooting that shot.” Del Toro has taken this to heart, shooting everything in his movies (besides what was forced on him during Mimic by the Weinsteins), even on projects as large and unwieldy as Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak. Obviously, something like the Avatar sequels is in another stratosphere of complexity, but it’s fascinating that Landau shared something in direct opposition to a stance Cameron has outspokenly taken in the past.
Avatar 2 is currently scheduled for December 16, 2022. Hopefully Landau will keep taking photos to keep us in the loop. We need to know what’s going on in Pandora.