Let's be honest, here. Avatar came out only five years ago, and it hasn't aged well. That's not to say the effects don't hold up. They're still that level of fidelity that is almost as good as real life, just like James Cameron wanted. The issue is that the very idea of Pandora has lost it's weight. After the heady amazement surrounding Cameron's "industry changing" special effects faded, Avatar as a visual project became kitschy, no more compelling than something painted on the side of a stoner's van.
No matter how much James Cameron would like to deny it, the cinematic landscape for Avatar 2 is very different to that of the first Avatar. We live in a post Avengers world, saying something has great special effects means very little now, and [Mad Max: Fury Road](tag:41445) may be about to prove to Hollywood that having something beautiful on screen shockingly requires having it in front of the camera too. No matter what, Avatar 2 has it's work cut out, and James Cameron will need to pull more tricks out of his hat if he wants to casually make another billion dollars and "change the industry" just like the first one didn't.
So what direction could Avatar 2 take? How far could it deviate from what the first film established? It's not like Avatar has a series of films to pay respects to, or leagues of entitled fans to appease (you enjoying yourself over there, DC?)
I would try to think up a reason why the anthology format of story telling is better than committing to endless sequels, but in truth, I've just been digging the concept recently. So many TV properties have been doing it, such as True Detective and American Horror Story, it seems only just that great Hollywood behemoths try it out. Most things are already a sequel now, but Avatar is in just the right spot to take up sequential storytelling united by one neat concept. Now I know it will be hard to abandon that powerhouse performance by Sam Worthington, but taking on a new protagonist is a whole other level of intrigue that Avatar 2 could benefit from.
Sadly, this is unlikely to happen. James Cameron has spoken about his plans to reintroduce Sigourney Weaver (who seems to have a binding contract with the very concept of film sci-fi) for Avatar 2, despite her character dying in the first film. He defended any suggestion of that sounding stupid by stating...
When you have a science fiction series, you're never dead, unless your DNA is expunged from the universe... and then there's always time travel!
...which may as well have translated to "I don't respect science fiction but screw you, I'm James Cameron!"
Other rumours have included casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the villain of Avatar 2 because lol why not? Whether we'll see the return of the amazing Sam Wowthington as "Jake Sooley", who knows?
This option may sound like madness to anyone who truly enjoyed the first film. What do people think of when they think of Avatar? A giant Pocahontas rip-off that's so colourful and schmaltzy, I need to get my blood sugar checked, oh, and the planet Pandora. Is Pandora a planet or a moon? Wow some people in the world have actual dilemmas and I have this.
But why shouldn't Avatar 2 be set somewhere else? It clearly takes place in the a space-faring world just like the Alien films. My point stands that there just haven't been enough films in this series to have Cameron committed to this setting. Think about how much respect Avatar 2 could garner by leaving behind the most mocked film aesthetic of the past decade. This is even a chance to leave behind the N'avi, mad as that may sound. But the very premise of Avatar (ones mind and eventually soul being implanted into a synthesised being) surely doesn't restrict us to giant blue, vaguely orientalist cat people.
So much is ready to be done with a premise that essentially boils down to being a more outdoorsy Matrix. What about transferring into other alien species? What about transferring into other humans, or transferring into a being entire star systems away? This forces the audience to readjust their expectations for Avatar 2, and gives the filmmakers the upper hand. Hey, James Cameron! Leave the giant blue people alone, and you immediately disarm everyone ready to make fun of you!
What are the chances of these changes happening? Well, you've seen Avatar, right? James Cameron is in love with his own creation, and won't abandon his original vision no matter how much it would benefit his narrative. That, and Michelle Rodriguez died in the last one, so there's LITERALLY nowhere for the story to go now.