The long awaited sequels to the highest-grossing film of all time, James Cameron’s Avatar, are set to start production in 2014. While the plot details for Avatar 2, 3, and 4 are a bit murky, the sequel films will be shot in their entirety in New Zealand. Cameron came to an agreement with the New Zealand government to lock up the Avatar sequels in the Kiwi country.
According to Deadline, New Zealand lured James Cameron to shoot the Avatar sequels in their country with a 25% tax rebate and incentives. The first Avatar film was also shot in New Zealand, which created NZ$307M in the country’s local economy. With the Avatar sequels, Cameron is expected to created NZ$500M (US$413.1M) on local production activity such as visual effects and most of the film’s live-action shooting. About 90% of the films’ production crew will also come from New Zealand, and Cameron also came to an agreement to host at least one red carpet world premiere in the island nation. The move will create a deeper relationship between New Zealand, Lightstorm Entertainment, and Twentieth Century Fox.
“These changes will enable larger scale New Zealand productions to be made as well as encouraging more New Zealand stories to be seen on screen,” says New Zealand Film Committee Chair Patsy Reddy. Aside from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, filmmaker Jane Campion made the Sundance mini-series Top of the Lake in New Zealand as well. It seems like New Zealand is going to be the new home to giant blockbuster filmmaking, with directors such as Peter Jackson and James Cameron taking advantage of the country’s tax rebates and incentives.
Meanwhile, Cameron recently talked to the Associated Press about the Avatar sequels, in terms of scale and scope. The new films are expected to expand Avatar‘s universe while deepening its characters, namely protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). Cameron says the sequels will “spread it around quite a bit more as we go forward. It’s really the story of his family, the family that he creates on Pandora. His extended family. So think of it as a family saga like The Godfather.”
The sequel films will also expand the visual language Cameron established in the first Avatar movie. Although he started out wanting to explore Pandora’s solar system, Cameron took a step back and realized that Pandora itself will be enough to dazzle audiences. He says:
“It’s going to be a lot of new imagery and a lot of new environments and creatures across Pandora. We’re blowing it out all over the place. At first I thought I was going to take it onto other worlds as well, in the same solar system, but it turned out not to be necessary. I mean the Pandora that we have imagined will be a fantasy land that is going to occupy people for decades to come, the way I see it.
A few months ago, there were rumors that Avatar 2 would mostly take place underwater, like James Cameron’s 1989 film The Abyss, but apparently, those rumors were exaggerated. While Avatar 2 will include some underwater sequences, it won’t focus entirely on exploring Pandora’s oceans. Cameron continues:
There’s a fair bit of underwater stuff. It’s been inaccurately said that the second film takes place underwater. That’s not true. There are underwater scenes and surface-water scenes having to do with indigenous ocean cultures that are distributed across the three films.
No plot details are currently available for the sequels, but the character of Colonel Miles Quaritch, played wonderfully by Stephen Lang, will return to the film franchise. Lang will join Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, who will reprise their roles as Jake Sully and the Na’vi warrior princess Neytiri, respectively.
Fox has yet to announce an official release date for the Avatar sequels, but it’s believed that they will be released for the Christmas season in 2016, 2017, and 2018.