With the expected release date of Avatar 2 in 2016, it will have been seven years between the first movie, released in 2009, and its sequel. That’s a long time, but director James Cameron is developing new filmmaking technology and software to further explore the world of Pandora in three new movies. It seems that if the project isn’t unique and challenging, the 59-year-old director isn’t interested. In an interview with RTL, the Avatar director opened up about the new sequel films and the challenges he’s facing to bring them to the big screen beginning in 2016.
All three movies upcoming Avatar movies will be made concurrently, and are expected to go into production this spring. Cameron says:
We’re still in the early stages. Right now we’re developing the software. I’m writing the scripts. We’re designing all the creatures and characters and the settings, and so on. So I’m not actually directing yet, but I’m doing all the other creative processes that lead up to that.
Cameron is working with a very impressive team of science fiction writers including Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and Shane Salerno (Armageddon). Since the first Avatar movie set up the world and its characters, the second movie won’t be doing any of that heavy lifting, but instead can hit the ground running. Cameron continues:
That’s the great thing about Avatar. It’s such a rich world, I can explore any theme or any idea that I want. Once you’ve got the characters that an audience loves, it’s great to surprise them and make changes and turns that they don’t expect. And you don’t have to spend so much of the movie setting up all that stuff because the audience will remember from the previous film.
The Avatar sequels will be made in New Zealand at Peter Jackson’s WETA Studios. With pre-production is in full swing, Cameron is considering shooting the new movies in 48 HFR (High Frame Rate) to deliver the best picture quality available. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy was shot in a higher frame rate, which drew a lot of criticism for looking somewhat “cheap.” Cameron is also considering shooting the films in 4K HD resolution (3840 x 2160). If were lucky, the Avatar sequels will be presented in 4K IMAX 3D 48HFR.
We’re looking at high frame rate. I’m studying that. I haven’t made a final decision yet, whether the entire film will be made at a high frame rate or only parts of it. You know we’ll be shooting at a native resolution of probably 4K and so there should be a lot of true 4K theaters by then as well.
Lastly, James Cameron addressed why the sequel films are taking so long to make. The original Avatar was a big undertaking for the director, partly because the technology wasn’t quite where he wanted it to be to make the process faster. For the Avatar sequels, Cameron is planning a quicker turnaround.
It’s going very well. I think it’s going to be spectacular. The first film took almost four years to make. We expect to be able to accelerate the process quite a bit, because we’ve improved a lot of the software and the computer graphics tools, and we’ve been working very closely with Weta Digital down here in New Zealand developing a whole new suite of tools to speed up the process.
At the moment, there are no confirmed plot details about the Avatar sequels, but it’s rumored that they will further explore the alien terrain of Pandora. Avatar 2 would allegedly involve its oceans, while Avatar 3 would explore its orbit and moon. James Cameron has also hinted that Avatar 4 would be a prequel and would follow the Na’vi before humans discovered Pandora.
Production on the Avatar sequels will make its way down to Peter Jackson’s WETA Studios in New Zealand this spring. Fox has yet to announce an official release date for the sequels, but Avatar 2 is said to be targeting Christmas 2016, with Avatar 3 aiming for Christmas 2017, and Avatar 4 for Christmas 2018.