Why did it take so long to make Avatar 2?

meIt’s been 13 long years since Avatar-or any other movie directed by James Cameron, debuted on the big screen. Hollywood has been transformed since then: In 2009, Blockbuster had yet to file for bankruptcy. Since then, Disney has acquired 20th Century Fox, the studio that financed the first Avatar movie; expensive non-superhero action movies now rarely get the green light, unless they star Tom Cruise; and streaming has paralyzed the movie theater business.

Even Avatar it remains the highest-grossing film in history. When Avengers Endgame briefly ascended to that top spot in 2020, Cameron released a relaunch of Avatar in China to regain the title. It worked: The movie has now grossed $2.9 billion in total. The director has long planned to make several sequels, but every year when Disney announced his next slate, he would add an addendum saying that the Avatar the follow-ups had once again been delayed. The fans began to doubt that. avatar 2 would ever get out, let alone avatar 3, 4either 5.

Now, after years of filming in New Zealand, the sequel has finally arrived: Avatar: The Path of Water It will be released on December 16. Set nearly 15 years after the original film, the film centers on former human soldier Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who fell in love with the planet Pandora and Na’vi warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) in the first film Jake left his body. human to become a Na’vi himself. The couple now have three children, one of whom is voiced by Sigourney Weaver, who played a human character who died in the first film.

As the title suggests, much of avatar 2 is set in and around the ocean and introduces a new oceanic tribe of Na’vi called the Metkayina. Avatar 3, which was filmed simultaneously, will be released in 2024. The last two installments are scheduled for 2026 and 2028. Here’s why it took so long to make the Avatar sequel and why we are getting so many follow ups for years to come.

James Cameron took the time to explore the real world

Cameron is a declared lover of the sea. He has made multiple trips underwater to the wreck of the Titanic; As the story goes, Cameron and actor Bill Paxton were eating in a submarine on the deck of the Titanic on 9/11 and only found out about the terrorist attacks after they emerged from the water.

After Avatar Wrapped up, Cameron built a submarine that could take him to the deepest place in the sea, the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in 2012. He became the first person in history to descend 6.8 miles solo.

It was also a while after the first Avatar film that advocates for alternatives to meat for environmental and health reasons. He and his wife helped produce the 2018 documentary. game changers about athletes on vegan diets, and even invested in a pea protein facility in Saskatchewan. (They have since sold their stake.)

I tried to think of a good term because vegan it has all those connotations,” he said in a recent GQ profile. “’How many vegans does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ ‘No matter. I’m better than you.’ You just want to beat up a vegan. ‘Whack a vegan today: he’ll feel good.’ So the term that occurred to me is futurevoro We are eating the way people will eat in the future. We’re doing it early.”

Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)” class=”fix-layout-shift”/>

A Tulkun in Avatar: The Path of Water

20th century studies

Three movies turned into four

Originally conceived as a trilogy, the Avatar franchise shot up in Cameron’s mind. The director began planning sequels in 2012 and put together a writers room to help him in 2013. “He ended up with more story than he bargained for,” he recently told The New York Times. Times. He added that writing the next four films took four years.

The new movies would feature new groups of Na’vi and new locations on Pandora. Avatar took an incredibly detailed approach to presenting the fictional planet’s flora and fauna, and how nature intertwined with the customs of its extraterrestrial inhabitants, the Na’vi. The writers had to come up with different biomes for the new areas of Pandora, customs for its people, and costumes for the characters, visual elements that took another five years to create.

In the midst of all that creative development, Cameron became deeply involved in the creation of the Disney Parks attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. The former is a virtual reality ride unlike any other at the Disney parks, and Cameron brought his high-tech acumen to the concept. He also took on the role of architect for the Pandora-inspired area of ​​Disney World centered on a huge fake tree.

James Cameron had to invest in new underwater technology

More than a decade after its release, Avatar still looks beautiful. In part, that’s down to the advanced motion capture technology Cameron used to reproduce every fluid movement and facial tic of his actors playing the Na’vi characters. For the sequels, Cameron wanted to use the same motion capture technology for the actors while they were submerged underwater, an unprecedented feat that required years to devise a solution.

Eventually, Cameron and his team were able to create cameras for filming underwater. The director teamed up with visual effects company Weta Digital (best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings movies) for post-production enhancements using artificial intelligence.

“My colleagues within the production really pushed hard for us to do it ‘dry for wet,’ hanging people on wires,” Cameron said. entertainment weekly a year before the film’s release. “I said, ‘It’s not going to work. It’s not going to look real. I even let them do a test, where we caught dry for wet, and then caught in water, a raw level of our catch in water. And it wasn’t even close.”

Filming lasted three years.

Cameron decided to shoot avatar 2 Y avatar 3 at the same time, a smart move considering how long production on the second movie took. But that meant delays in filming. Filming began in 2017 and lasted three years.

Cameron also demanded a lot from his actors. Much of the cast had to shoot underwater sequences in a 900,000 gallon tank built for the movies. Water bubbles and scuba gear interfered with the motion capture process, so the actors spent months learning to hold their breath for minutes. (Kate Winslet reportedly set the on-set record: She held her breath for more than seven minutes.) Post-production on the visual effects-laden film also took a long period of time.

the Avatar The sequels, perhaps unsurprisingly, were incredibly expensive to make. cameron said G.Q. that the film “would have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film ever. That is your threshold. That’s your balance point.” But to date, Cameron’s movies have always paid him back, even as he has set records time and time again for producing the most expensive movies ever. The future of the various Avatar sequels seem to depend on whether you can pull off the same trick with Way of the Water.

More TIME must-reads

write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *