There's still a long time to wait before James Cameron's three Avatar sequels hit theaters. The current timeline set is for the films to shoot back-to-back-to-back beginning this fall and for each of the sequels to premiere in December of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
With a giant, seven-year gap between the original Avatar and its first sequel, tentatively called Avatar 2 (though don't expect that to be the actual title), can Cameron maintain audience interest in Pandora and the Na'vi until 2016 rolls around? To keep fans clamoring for more time spent on the picturesque planet, the director has been offering small bites of development info - to preserve excitement during the multiple-year wait time.
To that end, Cameron recently spoke with RTL (thanks to Coming Soon for the transcription) to talk about some of the latest developments. According to the director, most of the pre-production work has been going into software development and character design:
"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."
Story wise, Cameron had previously stated that the second and third installments would complete a three-film storyline that he had originally envisioned and that the fourth film would be a prequel to the original. But with so many complaints about Avatar's uninspired storytelling, the director knows that he has to step up his game. Thankfully it looks like the Avatar 2 script will get a second set of eyes, with a rewrite from The Sarah Connor Chronicles creator, Josh Friedman. Hopefully the sequels' stories will be given just as much thought as the technology.
"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."
As for technological developments, a New Zealand shoot may not be the only thing that Cameron is inheriting from Peter Jackson, he also mentioned the possibility of using the controversial high frame rate popularized by Jackson's The Hobbit and its sequels.
"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."
Many thought that 48 frames-per-second rate utilized by Jackson made the The Hobbit look too realistic, and added an almost soap opera-like quality to the film. After a few tweaks, audiences reacted better to The Desolation of Smaug, so the technology is no doubt improving. If the Avatar sequels can take advantage of both 4K 3D technology as well as an improved HFR system, we could be in for a serious visual treat. That is, of course, if all goes as planned.
"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."
It's good that Cameron is so optimistic but, as we all know, the sequels have already been pushed back quite a few times. Hopefully, now that the ball is rolling - the director can stick to current schedule.
Avatar 2 has a projected December 2016 release, with Avatar 3 planned for December 2017, and Avatar 4 in December 2018.