‘Avatar’ Sequels Filming in New Zealand; Cameron Talks New Trilogy

Published 1 year ago by

avatar sequels new zealand Avatar Sequels Filming in New Zealand; Cameron Talks New Trilogy

James Cameron’s vision for the future of the Avatar franchise was originally two sequels (and maybe a prequel down the line), but that expanded to encompass an entire new movie trilogy over this past year. The plan is for shooting (including, but not restricted to, motion-capture photography) to get underway by October 2014 – two months before Cameron originally expected Avatar 2 to reach theaters, approximately one year after the first installment obliterated global box office records (for perspective).

The filmmaker adjusted his projected release date for Avatar 2 from 2014 to 2015 over a year ago (before the trilogy was announced). Back then, he was preparing to film (at least) part of the sequel in Wellington production studios in New Zealand – where Peter Jackson has been shooting The Hobbit trilogy over the last couple of years – not so long after Cameron had purchased a sizable portion of undeveloped real estate (read: farmland) in the country.

Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, along with 20th Century Fox Studio and the New Zealand government, has officially confirmed that the entire new Avatar movie trilogy will be produced in the country, in a deal that is reportedly worth more than NZ$500 million ($412 million) and will ensure that “around 90 percent” of the live-action production crew on the trilogy is composed of New Zealanders.

Hiring will take place over the forthcoming months, as Cameron is currently overseeing the script writing for Avatar 2, 3 and 4 from his 2,500 acres of farmland around Lake Pounui, which is a “20-minute helicopter ride from the NZ capital of Wellington.” (For a more thorough breakdown of the deal, read the article over at THR.)

james cameron avatar sequels trilogy 570x294 Avatar Sequels Filming in New Zealand; Cameron Talks New Trilogy

Odds are that Cameron will end up being credited as the co-screenwriter on all three Avatar sequels, with his scripting collaborators including Josh Friedman (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) on Avatar 2, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) on Avatar 3 and Shane Salerno (Savages) on Avatar 4.

In an AP interview, Cameron promised that the Avatar sequels will chart new territories and native inhabitants of Pandora, but revealed that the films won’t be heading off-planet (as he originally thought would be required):

“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.”

Of course, most would agree that it’s the stories that are the wild card factor here, not so much the expanded worldview of Pandora in these films – something that Cameron is all too aware of. Indeed, in said AP interview, he also indicated the scope of the narrative in the new Avatar trilogy will far outstrip that in the original film:

“[The first 'Avatar'] was very Jake-centric. His story seen through his eyes. We 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.’”

Plot details on the new Avatar trilogy are tightly under lock and key right now, but we anticipate some variation on the ‘settlers vs. natives in space’ narrative of the first movie – not least of all, because Stephen Lang will reprise as Colonel Quaritch (through means that have yet to be explained), and Cameron has said that the memorable, if two-dimensional, military antagonist from Avatar will “evolve into really unexpected places” in the sequels.


Avatar 2 is slated to open in theaters by December 2016, followed by Avatar 3 in December 2017 and Avatar 4 in December 2018.

Source: THR, Associated Press

Follow Sandy Schaefer on Twitter @feynmanguy
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  1. Yeah, I’m afraid I will grow old and still hoping to see Avatar 2…

    • Do not worry. Your age is just a number. Just look at the dogs. They do not care! :)

  2. I think the sequel won’t be as high as The original in terms of box office, Avatar 1 Being the Highest-grossing film of all time, (Titanic 2nd).

    • That’s your guess. I hate when people just assume things because they think their always right!!

      • I didn’t say I’m sure, I said I think.

      • It’s nice to see people making assumptions, rather than concrete statements, on topics such as this. Using “I think” can be far better received than “I know.” There is nothing wrong with what Abcc said.

  3. James Cameron’s career:
    1984-1991 – That was awesome!
    1994 – That was pretty good.
    1997-2009 – Crap script, Great visuals.

    • Just because you say so? OK…

      • Just one man’s opinion, but I’m not alone in thinking that James Cameron has gone the way of prequel George Lucas and really doesn’t care as much about having a strong script as he does in having great special effects. I long said that if the script had been as good as the special effects then the first Avatar really would be a masterpiece.

        • The script was never the point of ‘Avatar’ though (in the same manner the script in ‘Gravity’, its weakest aspect, was never the point). It was the event, the presentation of something we had never seen before. Its remarkable success at the box office was born out of repeat viewings of something never seen before. Technology has caught up with Cameron’s imagination. What now lacks in script finesse presents itself in crowd pleasing rhetoric.

          Of course, we have seen it before now. The broadstrokes will still be present in the sequels, but it would be fair to expect a little more script attention.

          • “It was the event, the presentation of something we had never seen before.”
            Iiiam going to disagree on this one. What impressed you so much? I saw nothing extraordinary in the footage. All animals were from Earth, Naavi weren’t much different from people either, flying earth is old news. I mean if you’ve never read a book or saw fantastic or fantasy movies/anime yes i guess it could impress)

        • I agree that the point of Avatar was not the script, but I strongly, strongly disagree with the comparison of Cameron to George Lucas. Cameron, in my observation, has typically held to extremely high standards of visual storytelling, truly taking the time to use technology to further the story (even if the script is simplistic). I think that Lucas, on the other hand, just kind of went off the rails totally, more interested in playing around with new technology as novelty than using it to serve the story, to say nothing of the scripts.

          • I agree. I mean the it was reported that he wanted to do a sequel for a while to Avatar but that the technology for underwater motion capture wasn’t fully ready yet. For the guy to wait this long to make sure the technology is at his standards says that he has very high standards in visuals. I consider Cameron more like Del Toro. Their storytelling at times are basic or hit and miss but when it comes to the visual aspect of the movie, it’s right at the top. Lucas was great in the beginning but then lost his mojo as the years went on and also decreased in his standards(which is why I am glad that Star Wars has gone away from the Lucas brand).

        • I do laugh when people bring up the “others agree with me” too argument. You can find someone who will agree with you on just about anything on the internet, but that doesn’t make the point any more valid.

  4. That’s quite a long time between movies (7 years!), considering that they were sure about making a sequel right after releasing the first Avatar.

  5. It is probably just me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but I didn’t think the First Avatar was all that good.

    • You’re not alone dude. I wasn’t a huge fan either.

    • The movie is overrated. Recent example is Thor 2, some people said it was a great movie. I was like “wow, really?”. Went to the cinema and was kind of…disappointed…alot.
      Avatar gaining so much hype is Cameron’s work. He teased it and told mass media that it was good, mass media told people that those 15 minutes they saw were exceptional and never seen before. People bought the hype. Avatar didn’t have any big movies that could overthrow it and Cameron kept it longer in the cinemas. Then even people that couldn’t give a s*** about this after seeing trailer went in the cinema as well =( I didn’t like the movie but i know one guy that saw it 1 time in usual 3D and than 5 times in IMAX saying it was the best s*** he ever saw. I agree with the s*** part but how can you watch it more than once, i simply don’t get it? Its too predictable, its too silly, its illogical, it has too much cliche that were done bad, action is not entertaining, its too boring, visuals were actually crap(animals,water,dirt).

      • Movies don’t make nearly 3 billion based on just hype. People must have liked it. Obviously not you, but plenty of others (like your friend who saw it 6 times) did.

        • It didn’t get 3 billions in one go, it had 2 showings unlike other movies. And first time in cinemas was longer than other movies. And yes, advertisement and lack of competitors means alot. Even i went to see but didn’t like it, alots of us, it can be applied to any product. Just because someone grabbed alot of money doesn’t the product is good and they will have some more money next time.
          Cameron is a salesman, he needed to sale his cameras and so he needed viewers to buy his movie and talk about this new 3D like its something that you’ve never saw before. Most of the people didn’t see any kind of 3D and so they thought it was a good showing(even if the movie itself was average). So then they went to see it second time.
          Marketing is psycology, if it wouldn’t work alot of people would be jobless and you would have more choice at the store for example. But marketing makes your choice of products more controlled especially on something you can’t taste/experience before you pay. But after you made a choice you either test other products in class or say something like “nah, the price is almost the same it tastes/works good and firm name is known to me, so i will buy it again”. Sure its a more non detail example but you get the picture.

          • The thing is that people went to see the movie multiple times when it first came out as it was advertised that it was a big screen experience unlike any before seen. I remember news stations doing stories about how people have gone 2-3 times to see the movie to experience Pandora. I seem to also remember another story of which people were having depression which was later called “anti-avatar depression”. Say what you will about the script/plot because I agree that it was very average at best but as far as the visuals, there is no argument that it was the first of its kind and very little movies that has since come out has been able to meet or exceed those type of visual arts. With these sequel movies it’s being reported that Cameron plans on introducing some kind of improved technology for under water motion capture and if it turns out to be something that produces even close to the Avatar experience(which some are saying it’s supposed to be more advanced) then I can see this sequel producing another 3 billion type of money(for the sequel alone).

          • So to go on, some of the success of the first Avatar can be because of the advertisment but a lot of it was based on word of mouth. The word of mouth from people saying “it’s an experience unlike anything I’ve never seen before” was pretty powerful. Also, yes, there wasn’t a lot of competition but, that again, falls into knowing when to screen a product. That’s why I think a lot of these 2015 movies will make money but not as much as they thought it would because of the competition that is suppose to come out as well.

  6. I guess I’m one of the few looking forward to theses.Didn’t like it the first time I saw it but have gotten to really like the extended cut.Even with the flaws you can’t deny it has some great scenes.

  7. I hope this trilogy explores Pandora, rather than follows certain characters trekking along it, we’ve got two Middle Earth trilogies for that.
    I think it’d be quite unique and interesting to explore a fictional world through the means of a cinematic series, in a similar way The Disk World is explored in Pratchett’s work, or how the universe is exlored in Doctor Who and Star Trek (etc.).
    I just don’t see much of a story to tell about Jake, because the characters are so unmemorable.

  8. If nothing else Cameron’s movies on the whole have been groundbreaking and extremley successful.

    But there’s still no way he can even be close to the same regard as the likes of Spielberg, Scorsese, De Palma, Coppola etc. Those directors have achieved great movies crossing over a multitude of different genres. Cameron’s forte is deeply sci-fi rooted and it’s hard to imagine him ever trying anything else. I would even argue that Nolan is superior just in terms on variation alone.

    He faces a different type of challenge with the Avatar sequels though. The lure of 3D has well and truly boomed and busted. The first film’s success was down to novelty and the unknown. This time a better story will be required to convince moviegoers. The sequels will be massive of course, just not as big as the original.

    People have noted the long gap between films but of course that didn’t hurt T2′s success.

    • People have noted the long gap between films but of course that didn’t hurt T2′s success.

      But then again T2 also was a pioneer in technology. The CGI effects for the T-1000 were way beyond anything that we’ve seen up to that point.

      • That’s the thing. Say what you want about Cameron but the guy knows how to bring in new technology. If the reports are true about the sequel introducing new under water motion capture tech then that will be pretty interesting.

    • I’ m not sure if doing differant genres makes some better.I like all their films but equally Cameron.Who made Titanic which won 11 oscars.He also made Piranha 2(let’s not talk about that).
      I would also add Ridley scott to my list.
      If the hobbit films keep grossing billions 3d is going no where.I don’t care for itbut Cameron did it right.
      I also think the next Avatar films will be more succesful,Cameron is a great salesman and also hypes his films really well.Remember Avatar day.Its a shame his not doing a prequel on first contact with Pandora.

      • There still will probably a prequel movie. The 4th movie made will most likely be the prequel as said here http://screenrant.com/james-cameron-avatar-4-prequel-battle-angel/. But that could easily have changed or will change but anyway there is still hope

        • Ya,that’s been changed to three sequels with the first involving pandora’s oceans.This time as well other people are writing the scripts from his stories so we may see a lift story wise,having said that Cameron has wrote some classics.Shame about the prequel,I would have preferred that to a sequel.

  9. What’s with the long delay? Anyway, I hope the later start means he’ll shoot in 60fps as opposed to 48, so we can see what that’s like also.

  10. JC the king of movie maker.. hmmm .. After Titanic.. no.. After TErminator 2, this dude started to change.

    It really does sound like this dude will end his career on Avatars.. Why?

    Because After becoming a box office champ, all he is chasing is just that.. Numbers..
    I will always go see his movies.. and I have unlimited amount of respect for what he does and the way he puts 1000% .. but I cannot hide my disappointment in him not doing aliens sequel… One of Superhero movies.. something new… something thought provoking.. without having to worry about meeting expectation from widest audiences possible(always having to deliever some messages)… I just wish he was free from all these expectation from every possible angles so that he can make a movie.. just wish.

  11. IMHO, Avatar was okay, as in great visually and acceptably mediocre plot-wise. But, the whole “one with nature” thing was annoyingly cheesy, especially at the end. And the whole “evil, unmerciful military-industrial complex” theme was embarrassingly trite.

    Avatar 2? I don’t know. Jake got a happy, pat ending in Avatar. So, right now, it feels to me like Mr. Cameron is forcing Pandora’s plotline back open.

    I can see it now … Colonel Quaritch is resurrected as an evil Na’vi who leads his own Na’vi faction and still fights to conquer Pandora for Earth. But, the RDA’s security force somehow betrays him (what a twist!), so … you know the rest.

    • Could be, but whatever the storyline is, it’s going to involve something involving some overwater people so I’m interested to see where this all goes. Truthfully I hope it works out because if the underwater concept works then I see no excuse as to why DC/WB shouldn’t make an Aquaman movie

  12. I personally think the movie was quiet spectacular and will to this day still watch it on dvd and enjoy it. I cant wait for the sequels to come out. It is one of my favorite movies i have ever seen.