Only months after the release of Avatar, director James Cameron was already dropping hints about what fans could expect from the inevitable sequels. One of his earliest declarations was that Avatar 2 would take audiences into a region of Pandora unexplored by the original film - the oceans.
It's been confirmed that Avatar 2 will be Cameron's next project and that it will be shot back-to-back with Avatar 3. Although screenplays for the sequels have yet to be written, there are some factions of the Internet rumor mill that seem to believe the first sequel will take place entirely underwater.
Empire recently caught up with Jon Landau, one of the Avatar franchise's producers, while he was out promoting Avatar's upcoming Extended Collector's Edition. Landau revealed that the oceans of Pandora will indeed be featured in Avatar 2, but they won't be the focus of the film:
"Water will be a part of the movie, but it won’t be all of the movie ... There’s been a lot of rumours that it’s an underwater movie – it’s not. Just like the Floating Mountains, and the Na’vi's interaction with the mountains, were a part of Avatar, it’ll be the same type of thing."
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise since Cameron previously stated that Avatar 2 would definitely expand the scope of the first movie, but not at the expense of revisiting established locations. Yet, the innovative filmmaker clearly has a larger story in mind - one that goes beyond Pandora and involves other planets in the Alpha Centauri AB system.
If the franchise does indeed wind up traveling to other worlds, it won't be until the third film. Landau indicates that Avatar 2 will likely take place entirely on Pandora:
"I think the next movie will stay on Pandora. That’d be my guess. Not all the answers are there yet, but I think we’re happy with Pandora."
Landau also insists that even though the sequels are shooting back-to-back, it's important that they stand on their own. So don't expect Avatar 2 to end with a cliffhanger à la Back to the Future Part II or The Matrix Reloaded:
"The next [film] will kick off where the last one ended, but just like Avatar resolved itself and doesn’t feel like a set-up to another movie, you don’t want Avatar 2 to feel like a set up for 3."
Not only does that decision seem creatively stronger, in my opinion it also shows more respect for the audience. The majority of Avatar fans are already passionate and no one needs to be baited into seeing another film. Franchise or not, I think each film should tell a contained story - even if there's a larger arc in place.
They’re further-out projects ... Neither one has that shooting script yet and both are really worthy projects to make."
My list of criticisms for the first Avatar is largely the same as everyone else's, but I really do have high hopes for the follow-ups. Landau previously discussed Cameron's successful track record with sequels and the pressure that created for Avatar 2. Here's hoping they knock it out of the park.