As it stands, 2009's Avatar is still the highest grossing film of all time. It made ridiculous bucks, sweeping through christmas of that year, and chasing away any other contenders. The movie has been seared onto the financial film landscape, and no one really knows why. Sure, people flocked to go see it, and just didn't stop, but the magic formula that made Avatar billions just isn't something Hollywood seems able to replicate.
I'm saying all this to illustrate just how silly it is for me to give the arbiter of such a high performing movie advice for his sequel. James Cameron is perfectly comfortable with the prospects for Avatar 2; it's just the rest of the world who have no clue of what to expect. The first movie broke records because it appealed to basically everyone, but in retrospect, appeals to no one. Cameron doesn't have audience naivety on his side for Avatar 2, so what could he do to hook us in this sequel?
And this is why James Cameron is perhaps the most driven director of our time, and is completely incorrigible in relation to his audience. He doesn't make movies for other people; he makes movies so he can do neat stuff. In the 90s, Cameron wanted to go see the wreckage of the Titanic, and made the highest grossing movie ever as an excuse to do so. His fascination with deep sea diving has extended into Avatar 2, with his promise to depict the deepest depths of Pandora.
Cameron's insistence on taking Avatar deep under water raises a few questions. Will this depiction of Pandora's ocean ecosystem be a computer generated one, or will James Cameron stick to his guns, and document Earth's actual oceans as he seems to love doing so much? Perhaps that's his response to so many people making fun of the Na'vi being blue. He's just gonna make everything else blue! Though I don't like the ocean as a setting, I'll admit Cameron knows what he's doing there. He broke the record for a manned submersible dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Say what you will about the thematic weight of his movies. He's literally the deepest man on Earth!
Could we see an R-Rated Avatar?
Avatar is weirdly devoid of danger and immediacy. Sure people die and kill each other and it's all very sad just like the script meant it to be, but there's no visceral chaos to pandora that strikes fear into you. When Jake Sully is first chased by a thanator, I don't actually believe that the creature could catch and devour him. Cameron still sees it as such a beautiful and fragile part of this whimsical world that he would never turn it into a monster before an audience's judging eyes. It's worth asking just what Avatar might gain if it got a little gory, and approached the danger nature poses with the same gusto as Cameron's classic, Aliens.
Looking towards Avatar 2, it's somewhat amazing that it's to have the same director as Aliens. With that movie, Cameron exhibits such a hatred for the xenomorph. They were abominations to be exterminated, or more appropriately, nuked from orbit. There was no awkward pathos forced on to Geiger's monstrous creations, and the film holds up because of it. Avatar has the same gun-ho militaristic vibe, but it's mixed with an almost Disney level sentiment that just makes the audience feel weird. Perhaps exhibiting the same cynical aggression as we saw in Aliens would benefit Avatar 2. That is if Neill Blomkamp doesn't do it better with Alien 5 in 2016. Let the race begin!