James Cameron is a director known for pushing the limits of moviemaking technology to realize his vision. Whether he's ushering in CGI with the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day or ringing in the new era of 3D with Avatar, it's always interesting to watch Cameron challenge himself as he tries to pull off something unprecedented. It's because of that trait that many viewers are fascinated to see his four Avatar sequels, the first of which is said to explore the world of Pandora further by taking audiences underwater - which should be a visual treat when seen through Cameron's lens.
The Oscar winner has spent the last few months detailing the writing process for Avatar 2 and its followups, as well as the narrative approach the team is going for, but Cameron's filmography is known more for its spectacle than complex storytelling. Cameron has already expressed his desire to film the sequels in a high-frame rate, but his goals are characteristically more ambitious than that. He eventually wants to get to the point where 3D is changed forever.
While accepting membership into the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (hat tip IndieWire), Cameron discussed how he wants technology to evolve down the road:
“I’m going to push. Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rates (HFR) — the things we are working toward. I’m still very bullish on 3D, but we need brighter projection, and ultimately I think it can happen — with no glasses. We’ll get there.”
Cameron should be commended for not simply resting on his laurels and looking for ways to revolutionize the industry, but there is some concern that the technological advancements could usurp the actual plots of the films. A common criticism of the first Avatar was that despite the jaw-dropping special effects, the story it told was very basic and run-of-the-mill, which contributed to the property not having much of a cultural footprint in the years since 2009. In particular, the HFR could be an issue for moviegoers, since the use of that in the Hobbit films and this fall's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk was widely panned. Certain viewers would probably prefer Cameron focus on making the Avatar sequels the best movies they can be instead of toying with something many are not a fan of.
Still, the Avatar writing group has some fascinating concepts to work with. Cameron has said the sequels are a "family saga" about Jake Sully, Neytiri, and their children's dynamic with the humans, and Stephan Lang's villainous Colonel Quaritch (one of the highlights of the original) has an important role to play in all three films. The hope here is that the Avatar franchise can morph into something reminiscent of the modern Planet of the Apes movies starring Andy Serkis as Caesar; well-made sci-fi pieces that dive into relevant themes via a tale of the Na'vi trying to co-exist with human beings. Interestingly enough, Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are penning the script for Avatar 2, so that is a positive sign.
The argument can be made that the decision to make all four Avatar sequels as one giant production is something of a risk, but people have doubted Cameron before only to be proven wrong. At this point, the director has earned the benefit of the doubt, and viewers know they're getting an experience unlike any other when they sit down to watch one of his films. Time will tell if Avatar can be as popular as it was when it first came out, but chances are Cameron's innovations will make the followups must-see on the big screen. From the sound of it, Avatar 2 should have more substance than its predecessor, which will only complement the tremendous style its creator is going for.
Avatar 2 is expected to reach theaters in December 2018, followed by Avatar 3 in December 2020, Avatar 4in December 2022, and Avatar 5 in December 2023.