At CinemaCon last week, James Cameron announced his long-gestating sequels to 2009’s Avatar had expanded into a four film series. In a forthcoming interview with Famous Monsters of Filmland (via BirthDeathMovies), the filmmaker expounded on how he plans to shoot and release the films, making some very Cameron-esque comparisons along the way.
The director said he plans to shoot all four sequels “the way you would shoot a miniseries.” That means it won’t be “back-to-back” productions for the movies, but one huge consecutive shoot. “So Monday I might be doing a scene from movie four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from movie one,” Cameron said. “We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story. It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.” He added, “I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well.”
To put it into perspective, he compared his shooting schedule to one of the most famous film series of all time. “It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three Godfather films at the same time.” Gotta give him credit for the confidence he has in the scripts. Although if that comparison holds, expect two and a half incredible movies, and one and a half divisive ones that probably suffer from nepotism.
Cameron went on to talk about what happens once the Avatar sequels are in the can, ready for release. Original reports said to expect a new movie every year, but it turns out Fox and Cameron are smart enough to avoid another surefire box office crusher. “My original plan was to release them a year apart, but we’re opening that up. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to land on the same date as one of the Star Wars sequels. That wouldn’t be fair to them,” he laughed. “No, that’s just good business. I don’t want to go head-to-head with Star Wars. That would be stupid. And hopefully they won’t want to go head-to-head with us.”
It’s true that two sci-fi blockbusters going up against each other would likely lead to some weakened box office take, but something tells me a series with nearly 40 years of history would out blockbuster one with seven. Either way, it looks like Cameron’s new release plan is to drop Avatar 2 in Christmas 2018, followed by Christmas releases in 2020, 2022, and 2023 for the rest of the films. Disney/LucasFilm currently have their Han Solo anthology film coming in May 2018, Episode IX penciled in for a likely Christmas 2019 release, and a rumored Boba Fett movie for 2020. So long as they don’t make a move like they did with Episode VIII, Avatar should have those holiday seasons to itself.
Elsewhere, Cameron discussed his intention to use more real-world photography this time around, even if it’s just to bolster the accuracy of the CGI. “On the new Avatar films, I’m actually going to shoot more real-world stuff. It may only be there as an example from which we then generate CG, or we may actually integrate some of those photographic elements. But I want more photography.” He went on to say that he’d film Aliens differently today, with more real-life references for the CG artists to use. “It always usually boils down to the lighting and the conception of the shot.”
Say what you will about the constant delays and egotism, but you have to admire the ambition Cameron is bringing to this project. Whether it goes down as Godfather or John Carter is yet to be seen.