Avatar is the hit everyone hoped it would be and that means one thing: Sequel. Writer/director James Cameron has already started planning. A few weeks ago here he revealed that while there isn't a script, he already has enough ideas for at least two more Avatar universe movies. Avatar 2 seems almost inevitable so the question is: Where does this story go next?
Avatar isn't open ended and doesn't leave a lot of room for further installments. Even if it was, following up a movie this big, this time intensive, is no small feat. But Cameron has this massive, CGI worlds just sitting there waiting for someone to do something with and luckily, I'm here to help. Hey Cameron, if you're listening, here's a few things to jot down on your notepad when you're ready to start making Avatar 2.
Crossing The Uncanny Valley
As a director, Cameron has always worked to push technology to the next level. For Avatar he developed new methods to deliver audiences a completely, fully realized, 3D world. What's the point in making Avatar 2 if it doesn't take things even further? But computer generated animation like the kind used in Avatar is rapidly reaching place where there isn't much further to go. Except that is, into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is what happens when facsimiles of humans which look and act almost like actual humans, cause a response of revulsion among human observers. It's the reason the kids look so creepy in The Polar Express and it's also one of the reasons Cameron animated the movie's alien characters but used live actors for all of Avatar's human roles. Creating realistic, CGI human beings however, is one of the last frontiers in computer animation. If anyone is ever going to pull it off, it might as well be Cameron. You've taken us this far, now cross the valley Jim.
The Dragonriders Of Pandora
For the sequel, Cameron could opt to stay on Pandora and simply pick up where things left off. With the human occupation out of the way, we'd be free to fully explore this massive, computer generated world and really make full use of all the amazing creatures and plant life created for it. Cameron might not even need human characters at all in this scenario, allowing him to deliver a fully, computer animated movie without worrying about the perils of the uncanny valley. Except what do you do on Pandora without evil, corporate overlords to overthrow? The answer seems obvious: Give us the Dragonriders of Pandora. Send Jake around the planet with his team of dragon riding warriors uniting the tribes permanently and exploring every new corner of the planet. Or, there's always the possibility that humanity could come back. If they do, they'll come back pissed and they'll have to do battle all over again. But I'd rather see a more detailed story rooted entirely in the culture and environment of Avatar's spectacularly created moon-planet. We've already covered what happens when humanity attacks: Pandora fights back.
Freaky Friday 2
The big problem with simply picking up where things left off on Pandora is that, with the humans gone, the AVTR program is pretty much done for and the story ends up no longer one about Avatars. If Cameron's still interested in exploring the notion of human beings running around inside alien bodies, he could simply chuck everything and start over with a new story involving new characters on a new alien moon or planet. Maybe the AVTR program gets a second chance on another world, a world with different aliens and creatures and a whole new set of rules. Pink aliens this time? Maybe something with tentacles. While he wouldn't be able to reuse the creatures created for Avatar, Cameron would be able to use the same technology and, you have to imagine that the process of world building becomes a lot quicker and easier the second time around. How many neon flowers do we really need to see anyway? Come up with something new to wow us all over again.
The Spice Must Flow
If Cameron's really intent on getting Jake Sully back for the sequel, but doesn't want to repeat the same lite-brite visuals, then invent some scenario which gets him off Pandora. Maybe Earth needs him for one last mission and blackmails him into rejoining the AVTR program by kidnapping Neytiri or by selling his pet dragon to a dairy company, assuming it gives milk. Or have the Na'vi take the fight to the humans by leaving the planet to kick corporate ass on some other moon. The plot of Avatar already resembles that of Dune, and in Dune after the natives kick humanity off their planet they boil out into the galaxy on a bloodthirsty jihad. The religious elements are there and so are the angry natives. Avatar 2: Na'vi Revenge? It could work. The main thing here is that Cameron could keep wowing us with new ideas and new, never before seen visuals without simply repeating what he's already done. Give that naked blue native a laser rifle and let him kick some more humanity ass.
Jake Used To Breakdance
Someone has to say it: Prequel. There's a whole back story to Jake's life before Pandora that we don't know. What about that war where he lost the use of his legs? Who or what was humanity fighting? What was his role in it? It's only vaguely referenced in the movie, leaving plenty of room for coloring in between the lines. Sure, you'd have to leave Neytiri behind, but there's a whole universe out there that we know nothing about, just waiting to be explored. There's an entire movie in showing us Jake's past as a space marine, in explaining what it is that made him into a Na'vi sympathizer and traitor to the human race… or if you prefer protective of helpless natives and terribly romantic romance of blue women. Avatar feels almost like we're coming in at the end of the story, there's so much more we simply don't know.
Romancing The Smurf
One of the really interesting things about Avatar is the way it appeals to women as much, if not more than, it appeals to men. A big part of why, unlike a lot of science fiction, it works so well for the fairer sex is James Cameron's instinct for emotional entanglements. Girls need a good love story almost as much as guys need a good explosion and Avatar managed to deliver both. If the sequel is going to hold on to the franchise's female audience they'll need to keep that emotion-driven component. If Cameron goes the prequel route, working in a new romance is easy, but if he decides to stick with Jake and Neytiri things get more difficult. With Jake and Neytiri married their future relationship is bound to far less romance novel and more domestic, and it's not like Avatar 2 can use the Sex and the City method by sending Neytiri shoe shopping. Cameron's best bet to hang on to his female audience could be substituting kids for Fabio-style romance. I hear girls like babies in movies almost as much as I like bullets. What happens when a human/alien hybrid mates with an uncomfortably sexy alien? Will the kids have four fingers or five? What do the Na'vi use for diapers? The answers may be in Avatar 2.
What Not To Do
The truth is that he's James effing Cameron and in the eyes of most people, there's no way he can do any wrong. No matter what he does Avatar 2 will be a success, but why tempt fate? There are a couple of things here he might want to stay away from. For instance, much as we all love Sigourney Weaver, I really don't need to see her in the sequel as some sort of ghostly, Obi Wan style stand in for the spirit of Pandora. Sure she died while hooked into the planet, and sure Jake sort of sensed her at the end, but seriously, there's no reason to go there. It's been done in other movies, and done more than enough. In fact let's avoid resurrecting anyone who's already dead. Leave Quaritch in the ground. Leave Michelle Rodriguez exploded. We can move on without them. I also don't need another Leona Lewis song. No thanks. I think that's something we can all agree on. Stay away from celebrity cameos, now that it's a hit you can just bet Tom Cruise or Ashton Kutcher will want to be involved. On the other hand, don't be afraid to name a new character Delgo. You're James Cameron, have fun with it. You've proved everyone wrong. Go ahead and rub it in.