James Cameron Used ‘Dark Angel’ Experience to Write ‘Avatar’ Sequels

Published 11 months ago by

James Cameron Used TV Experience to Write Avatar Scripts James Cameron Used Dark Angel Experience to Write Avatar Sequels

After the record-breaking box office success of James Cameron’s Avatar, speculation of a possible sequel – and sequels – began immediately. Four years later, Fox confirmed that the highest-grossing film in history would be getting not one, not two, but three sequels to be released over three years starting in December 2016.

With shooting on the films scheduled to begin in the fall, Cameron revealed in a Reddit AMA that development on all three sequels has been simultaneous, including script writing and new creature and character design work. In a recent interview, Cameron went into more specific details with regard to his writing process.

/Film reported that at the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex Film Festival, Cameron explained he wrote 1,500 pages of notes about the world and cultures of Pandora in the first year of development (which may help Steven Charles Gould pen the four standalone Avatar novels).

Then, Cameron hired four writers to develop the scripts: Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), and Shane Salerno (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem). Cameron said the cooperative process was inspired by his time working on the FOX television series Dark Angel:

I knew I was going to have to “parallel process” which meant I would have to work with other writers. And the best experience I had working with other writers was in television when I did ‘Dark Angel.’ The television room is a highly collaborative, fun experience.

Sam Worthington in Avatar James Cameron Used Dark Angel Experience to Write Avatar Sequels

Each writer or writing team was assigned to a single movie, tasked with developing the script while Cameron divided his time across all three sequels. The whole team often met together and discussed their films in order to form a cohesive overarching storyline to the trilogy.

Cameron said:

But what we did that was unique was we sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one (sort of) three-film saga.

Living up to the major box office success of the original Avatar is a tough feat to accomplish, but creating three films instead of one is a much bigger challenge, especially considering sequels usually decline in quality – though Cameron has bucked that trend more than once.

Zoe Saldana in Avatar James Cameron Used Dark Angel Experience to Write Avatar Sequels

However, Cameron’s “parallel process” and television writers’ room style is an indication that the writing team is giving equal effort to all three sequels. Additionally, the quick successive release dates have worked for franchises such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games.

Will Cameron’s writing process lead to a highly successful trilogy surpassing even Avatar at the box office? There’s no way to tell until the films debut in theater starting in 2016. Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Avatar 2 is scheduled for release in December 2016, followed by Avatar 3 in 2017 and Avatar 4 in 2018.

Source: /Film

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  1. Do people actually want this?

    • James Cameron does and that’s good enough for James Cameron. He probably wants to fund another (admittedly awesome and necessary in the name of science and exploration) trip down to the bottom of the ocean.

    • I don’t NOT want it. I’m pretty indifferent. I never saw the first one. For me, 2016 is all about Dawn of Justice.

    • FOX wants this.

    • The marketing will make people want it

  2. “…but creating three films instead of one is a much bigger challenge, especially considering sequels usually decline in quality”


    I enjoyed Alien quite a bit but Aliens was a superior sequel and one of the best SciFi shows of all time. Oh and coincidentally, look who directed it?!

    If anyone can surpass the success of Avatar it would be Cameron.

    • They immediately address that right after you stop your quote: “…though Cameron has bucked that trend more than once.”
      Anyway, you can’t really compare Aliens to ALIEN. They’re two entirely different beasts. And depending on what you want out of a movie either could be said to be better than the other.

      • Yep, Alien was more of a psychological horror in the vein of Jaws where it’s all about the tension than revealing the creature while Aliens was just a big, loud action film with lots of guns.

        Depending on my mood, I can prefer one or the other.

      • Did I miss something or is Aliens NOT a direct and linked sequel to Alien? If so then it is a valid comparison, ESPECIALLY in this instance where we are not comparing the type of movie it was, only if it was better than the original.

        Movies can and often do have a different tone/cadence than the previous movie. As long as it is a continuation of the story, its a sequel.

    • Alien was a sophisticated gothic-inspired haunted house story, while Aliens was refighting the Vietnam war in space. And twice as dumb.

    • While Avatar was not really a “great” movie as far as my tastes went, I have to admit some of the special effects and animation were pretty good. Alien (Ridley Scott) and Aliens (James Cameron) (#1 and #2 in the series) were two of my all-time favorite SCI-FI movies, and I doubt they will be surpassed by very many contenders for a long long time. Even though some Cameron flicks have been good, and some not so much, overall he has a pretty admirable track-record, so I have to give him honors for that in a tough market. I respect him more than alot of directors.

  3. 8hour days working on creative writing…I could do that. Sounds fun.

    • It’s not as fun as you’d think. I did that on top of normal warehouse working during the day (I’d work my normal job until 6PM then from 8PM until 6AM the next morning, I’d be working on creative writing hobbies and helping others improve their writing if they asked for my help and advice).

      The worst aspect is spending most of those 8 or more hours with writer’s block that you just can’t shake off, even worse if you have a set deadline to get something finished and handed in. Every day would begin and end with massive headaches and major cramp in my wrists, hands and fingers.

  4. “James Cameron does what James Cameron does BECAUSE James Cameron IS James Cameron.”

  5. Alien vs Predator: Requiem was by no means a masterpiece. I do not recall a single quotable line from that entire script. As opposed to Aliens.

    “Guess she doesn’t like the cornbread either.”

    “Get away from her you B-CH!”

    “Game over man!”

    There are entire websites dedicated to ALIENS quotes. Why would you hire that person to write an AVATAR sequel?

  6. I have no doubt that Cameron will surpass the original. I agree with mongoose that Aliens (in some ways) surpassed the original, and among his own films T2 was better than The Terminator.

    Moreover the plot of the first Avatar was simply a ruse used to introduce the audience to the cool world he had created. Now that we know how Pandora works I expect a far more layered story and plenty of new surprises.

    • The thing with Aliens and Terminator 2 is that more money went into making them and the films are much bigger, with huge sets and big setpieces when compared to the more compact nature of the earlier films. You watch them and automatically see this much bigger entity.

      Same thing when comparing the first Mission Impossible film to Ghost Protocol, there’s this overwhelming feeling of “this one feels a lot bigger in every way”.

      • Not really sure what going bigger has to do with anything. We all well know that bigger doesn’t always mean better. I’m sure you can rattle off a slew of movie sequels that went bigger, only to do poorly at the box office (Matrix 3 anyone?)

  7. Speaking from a purely financial standpoint, Avatar is gonna be a tough film to beat past. It isn’t entirely impossible that one of the sequels might top the original, but all three? Not likely. I suspect people will flock to see the sequel, but if it doesn’t have a story people can get into and enjoy, there will be fewer people that are interested for the third and forth installment. The numbers are only going to decrease as time passes.

    But, I could be completely wrong. Just my bitcoin.

  8. While Dawn of Justice will not doubt be great, we’re in the Avatar business. James Cameron is going to make a statement that shakes the entire industry!

    • Unfortunately Dawn of Justice and Avatar 2 are only interested in the business aspect, while not caring much at all for how good the story will be.

      • By Dawn Of Justice, I assume you mean the DC film? If so, how do you know they won’t care about the story? Have you read the script? Are you on set during filming?

        If the answer to those questions is “No” then I can only assume that you’re one of those people hoping that BVS: DOJ will flop, although for what reason, I’ll never understand.

  9. I gotta be honest, I dont think Avatar was all that great. I know people have already said this and pointed out why but for me it felt like it wasn’t all that original or even good. for example –

    The plot was made up of different films, the idea of a marine or soldier going after something for their own gain (while reflecting real life) was basically every scifi film with a military in it. The only thing I can say is that graphically I think it was good, not great but good. I think people were in awe of it because of the 3d and how Cameron seemed to want to push it.

    Side Note: I blame him for every single 3d movie that comes out. I made the mistake of taking my nephews to see Man of Steel in 3d and regretted it almost instantly, gave me a head ache. I know that was a conversation not shot it.

    I think the sequels wont even be original, I predict (being sarcastic here) that we will see Avatar Knights who can use the power of the tree of life to move objects with the wave of their hand and a once nice good guy slowly becoming an evil villain.

    (Oh and recently watched the first two alien films and again they were pants.)

    • You um do realize that virtually every movie is a rip off of something else, right? You can over simplify the plot any movie they way you just did above and find 10 movies that are exactly the same.

      You think Star Wars was unique? It was just cowboys in space. Start substituting all those fantastical elements with more mundane items from the Old West and I bet you can find a similar cowboy movie that matches it.

      In fact there are only about 7 basic plots (some have bumped that up to 20) and every single movie or book ever made or will be made can fit into.

  10. It’s unlikely that Avatar 2,3,4 will beat Avatar 1, and well nigh impossible all three will, or that each will top the last, in box office returns.

    Whatever the story, better or worse, people will not be flocking to see it to see the big new vision and big new tech, since so many other films have used the same 3D tech now. And the big new vision was introduced in Avatar 1.

    The people who came out depressed after Avatar 1 because their own lives were not technicolor enough to match Avatar will come to see Avatar 2. If they’re like drug addicts, the second hit won’t have the same high as the first, so they may drift away after binging on the second film.

    Curiosity will bring people to the second film, just because the first was such a hit, but the story will have to sustain audiences to #3&4. And curiosity factor will be much lower than with #1 when it was the big new vision that it no longer is.

    Overall, I think returns will be much lower than #1. If the story is atleast reasonable, then it should hit $500mil for #2. Guessing beyond #2 is impossible without knowing how good the story is.

  11. Dear Mr Cameron… Please, please, please stop going on about the WhatevAvatar sequels and make something a lot more interesting and engaging. You have talent and lots of technical expertise so why waste it on these sequels… Maybe you could do something in the historical epic genre or romantic comedy to stretch yourself instead of going over old ground yet again… PS Dark Angel was an okay series but that was twenty years ago. Move on.

    • Romantic comedy? Lol.

    • Dark Angel was one of my all-time favorite series, and what difference does it make how long ago it was? I loved Avatar, and I’m quite interested to see how Cameron wants to follow it up. Xandra, who are you to tell Cameron what to do? Ovviously, not a fan.

  12. I would much rather Cameron go and do Battle Angel than any of these Avatar sequels.

  13. Avatar was a letdown. Visual effects were great, 3D was great, but that’s pretty much all there is to it. Lots of people complained about the story, I agree, and eventhough I am sensitive to ecological cause it was cheesy at best. But what I didn’t hear much about as complaint goes, is about the designs. They were not inspired at all. Wheter it be animal or nature related, but especially all the tech designs were really lame. Don’t start me about the Avatar… meh.
    I too was waiting for Battle Angel, but let’s face it: Jim aged, and not for the best. His best films are way behind, early in his career. So I would be affraid now that he would sabotage Battle Angel.
    I admire you Jim for what you done, but it’s been quite some time you didn’t use your potential for really great creative film. Yeah for business and income you’re the best, but that’s not what is important in the long run.