James Cameron has five children, which is what interested him in the developing the plots for the Avatar sequels - but it's also what makes him worry that they may not connect with audiences like the original did. When speaking about his upcoming AMC show James Cameron's History of Science Fiction this weekend, the director actually compared the sequels, scheduled for release in December 2020, 2021, 2025 and 2025, to a famous Hollywood family drama: The Godfather.
James Cameron is trying something different with his Avatar sequels. Photo: AMC
"I found myself as a father of five starting to think about what would an Avatar story be like if it was a family drama, if it was The Godfather," Cameron told a group of journalists, including us. "Obviously very different genre, very different story, but I got intrigued by that idea. So, that's really what it is. It's a generational family saga. And that's very different from the first film."
The first film, an epic adventure that introduced the fantastical new world of Pandora, was also a technical milestone, especially in its use of performance capture and virtual cameras. Cameron said that desire to innovate will remain part of Avatar.
"It's the same type of setting and there's the same respect for the shock of the new, that we want to show you things that not only you haven't seen, but that you haven't imagined," Cameron continued. "I think that's absolutely critical to it. But the story's very different."
It's different because of Cameron's desire to explore what a Na'vi family is like.
"It's a continuation of the same characters, but what happens when warriors that are willing to go on suicide charges, and leap off cliffs on to the back of big orange toruks, what happens when they grow up and have their own kids?" Cameron said. "It becomes a very different story. Now the kids are the risk-takers and the change-makers. So, it's interesting, but it makes sense to me."
And there's Cameron's issue. He isn't sure if what makes sense to him will make sense to the audiences who turned out to his original film in record numbers.
"Everybody's either a parent, or they had parents at the very least, and if you look at the big successful franchises now, they're pretty much uninterested in that," he said.
"So this could be the seeds of utter damnation and doom for the project or it could be the thing that makes it stand apart and continue to be unique. But nobody knows until you make the movie and put it out. Anybody who thinks this stuff is easy or a foregone conclusion or we're just printing money over here at the Avatar studio, it doesn't work that way."
Jake and Neytiri will, apparently, get busy before Avatar 2. Photo: Fox
Cameron is one of the most influential filmmakers in modern cinema, but since his last movie was 2009's Avatar, he admits maybe he isn't as plugged in as he was a decade ago.
"I would say I don't have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist today because I haven't had a show or movie out recently," he said. "So I don't know where tastes are going with respect to science fiction."
This is when the filmmaker said something that has gotten a lot of attention the subsequent days: "I'm hoping we're going to start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. Not that I don't love the movies. It's just, come on, guys. There are other stories to tell besides, you know, hypogonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process."
That's a strong statement coming from the man who made two Terminator movies (and is helping to continue that franchise) and True Lies but, as a father of five, he certainly seems ready to tell new stories. Those stories begin with Avatar 2 and 3, which are both currently in production. If they are hits, he'll continue with parts four and five.