James Cameron announced today that the three sequels to his beloved 2009 blockbuster "Avatar" would shoot in New Zealand. The first film will be out in 2016, and the location was chosen due to large tax subsidies the New Zealand government provides, and probably also because of the varied landscape of the country and its close proximity to WETA, the New Zealand-based visual effects company that will handle a majority of the sequels' complicated visual effects.
In an interview shortly after the announcement, with the Associated Press, Cameron explained what audiences should expect from the subsequent films: "It's going to be a lot of new imagery and a lot of new environments and creatures across Pandora," he told the AP. "We're blowing it out all over the place. At first I thought I was going to take it onto other worlds as well, in the same solar system, but it turned out not to be necessary. I mean the Pandora that we have imagined will be a fantasy land that is going to occupy people for decades to come, the way I see it."
So, we're going to be stuck on Pandora for three more movies.
And while some of the first sequel will take place underwater, it's not wholly set underwater, which was how previous reports had described the sequel: "There's a fair bit of underwater stuff. It's been inaccurately said that the second film takes place underwater. That's not true," Cameron said. "There are underwater scenes and surface-water scenes having to do with indigenous ocean cultures that are distributed across the three films."
The filmmaker made a startling comparison when describing the journey the films would take. In the first "Avatar," Jake (Sam Worthington), a crippled marine, was signed up for a program where his mind would inhabit the body of a hybrid being that looks a lot like the planet's local Na'vi culture. At the end of the movie, he actually had his consciousness melded with his avatar body -- he was now more than human and Na'vi.
"It was very Jake-centric. His story seen through his eyes," Cameron said. "We spread it around quite a bit more as we go forward. It's really the story of his family, the family that he creates on Pandora. His extended family. So think of it as a family saga like 'The Godfather.'"
The sequels, which are currently being worked on with a small army of writers that includes Josh Friedman ("War of the Worlds"), the husband-and-wife team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes") and Shane Salerno ("Savages"), are expected to be filmed simultaneously. Elsewhere, work continues on the "Avatar"-themed land at Disney's Animal Kingdom in sunny Orlando, Florida.