We now have an answer as why there will be a gap of at least a decade between the top-grossing film of 2009, “Avatar,” and its first sequel. The Oscar-winning writer/director James Cameron (“Titanic”) was waiting for technology to catch up with his vision for a return to the world of Pandora. His company, Lightstorm Entertainment, just renewed a five-year agreement with Christie, the industry leader in projection equipment.
Cameron will get his hands on the company’s marquee product, Mirage 4KLH RGB laser projection system, which was first used last year to screen Ang Lee‘s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” in 3D, 4K resolution. It is capable of playing at the high frame rate (HFR) of 120 frames a second; i.e., five times that of regular film.
In making the announcement, Christie CEO Jack Kline said, “Christie is fully committed to sharing our ongoing research and development efforts, including product roadmaps, with our co-visionary, Lightstorm, so that its productions will repeat the awe-inspiring success of ‘Avatar’ in the years to come.” Added Cameron, “To push the boundary of digital cinema, one needs visionary, like-minded collaborators and that description fits Christie to a tee.”
Cameron recently confirmed that while pre-production is in full swing on “Avatar 2” — “we’re pretty well designed on all our creatures and sets” — it won’t be ready in time for its original release date of December 21, 2018. As he explained, “we’re making Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5. It’s an epic undertaking.”
He likened the scale of the production to “building the Three Gorges dam” and compared the making of the first movie to these four. “I know where I’m going to be for the next eight years of my life. It’s not an unreasonable time frame if you think about it. It took us four-and-a-half years to make one movie.”
The original “Avatar” pitted Cameron against his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow at the 2009 Oscars. She prevailed as her war drama “The Hurt Locker” was named Best Picture and she became the first woman to win Best Director. While “Avatar” took home only three Oscars (art direction, cinematography, visual effects), Cameron had the last laugh as his film shattered box office records taking in a staggering $2 billion worldwide.
While Cameron clammed up when pressed about plot details of “Avatar 2,” we do know that leading man Sam Worthington will be returning to the role of astronaut Jake Sully, who at the end of the first film joined the Na’vi tribe on Pandora to be with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). In an interview with We’ve Got This Covered, the Aussie actor revealed: “This is going to be Jake eight years later, and he’s got a family now. This film is going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen. The world is bigger than the first one, but essentially, it’s a movie about family.”
As he explains, “Jake will still have that essence of a kid seeing the world for the first time, but he’s been living in the world for a while now, so what’s this world he’s seeing now for the first time? The film will explore that within this family dynamic.”
And all of you Sigourney Weaver fans, don’t despair by Worthington’s description of “Avatar 2.” She will be back as Sully’s one-time boss, Dr. Grace Augustine in all four of the follow-up films. She and Cameron first worked together on “Aliens” (1986) which netted her a Best Actress Oscar nomination; she lost to Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”).