Avatar director James Cameron let fans in on his approach as he goes into post-production on Avatar 3.
Cameron is in the middle of an immensely successful run with Avatar: The Way of Water, setting a new standard financially as he approaches his third $2 billion box office hit. But Cameron has no plans to rest on his laurels with the nearly $5 billion franchise, as plans for Avatar 3, 4, and 5 are already in motion.
Following Avatar 2's release, Cameron has already teased some of what's on the way for the next chapter in the story, revealing the new narrator for the third movie and sharing what kind of locations on Pandora will be explored next.
James Cameron's Trick on Avatar 3
Speaking with NPR, Avatar director James Cameron opened up about his approach to making successful sequels within the Avatar franchise.
He started by giving an update on where he is in terms of progress on the new Avatar sequels, confirming that Avatar 3 is "essentially in post-production" and that he's completed filming "the first act" on Avatar 4:
"The shooting scripts are all written. We've already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it's essentially in post-production. We've done the first act of movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak."
Cameron went on to discuss his "trick" for such sequels, explaining that he wants "to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected" for audiences who want "some degree of familiarity" with the franchise:
"The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction."
Cameron also examined the idea of civilizations using technology for evil, analyzing things "through a science fiction lens," looking at how technology has failed people:
"Well, look, it's just me analyzing through a science fiction lens and even through a historical lens with Titanic, it's very similar thematically is how technology changes us, how it fails us, how we use it cleverly. You know, I see technology as a double-edged sword that, you know, threatens our destruction, but also is going to be part of our deliverance if we could figure out the right balance. It's all about balance."
Avatar 3 Director Learning What Works Best
Almost no director in history has been able to find success critically and financially the way James Cameron has, with Avatar still being the highest-grossing movie of all time. To get there, his core focus appears to be on making sure that his stories don't get too stale even as they come from the same universe.
Avatar 2 accomplished this in a unique way with Miles Quaritch's return, especially with Jack Champion's Spider being introduced as the villainous colonel's human son while Quaritch took on an Avatar body in his return.
Now, Avatar 3 will look to bring a similar round of unexpected moments as the sequel introduces the fire-focused Ash people from a different part of Pandora.
Jake Sully and his family will also be in for tougher challenges than ever after losing his oldest son, Neteyam, although the fan-favorite protagonist will surely have plenty more tricks up his blue sleeve moving forward.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters. Avatar 3 will premiere in theaters on December 20, 2024.