James Cameron gave plenty of homework to the co-writers of “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
Director Cameron, who tapped into his own parenting style for the family-friendly film, previously admitted that he spent a year trying to “crack the code” of what made 2009 film “Avatar” a history-making blockbuster. After scrapping the initial sequel script, Cameron enlisted a group of co-writers to tap into the spirit of Pandora.
“Starting from development, I thought that this time I want to work with a team of writers. We are doing multiple scripts,” Cameron told ScreenRant. “I’d already decided I wanted to do a trilogy, turned out now I guess it’s a quad-rilogy, if that’s the right word. But I had to have a starting point.”
Credited screenwriters on the film, along with Cameron, are Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Jaffa, Silver, Cameron, Josh Friedman, and Shane Salerno have story credits.
Cameron continued, “I set down and just made a bunch of notes for six months. Literally, just every day sitting at my desk, talking about the world, the characters, trying to fill in what happened the day after Jake woke up in a Na’vi body, and just was carrying the story forward. I knew I had certain goals in mind.”
And sometimes those goals did not align with what the writers’ room came up with: “I walked in on the first day with the whole writers room, and I plopped down 800 pages of notes, single spaced. I said, ‘Do your homework, and then we’ll talk,'” Cameron recalled. “And then we got together, and the first thing I challenged them with was, ‘Before we start talking about new stories, let’s figure out how the first story worked. What were people keying into, what was working for them?’ We had a lot of discussions about that, and every idea we came up with as we went along had to measure up against that standard.”
Cameron shared the requirements for any “Avatar” script in the franchise.
“It had to hit the heart, had to hit the mind, had to hit the imagination, and it had to hit something even deeper, which we had a hard time quantifying,” the “Titanic” Oscar winner said. “Something you could call spiritual, or you could call subconscious. Some kind of connection that you can’t even really describe in words. And I said, ‘If we can’t do that again, then we are going to fail.'”
Cameron previously said during the “The Marianne Williamson Podcast” in 2021 that the missing component was a “dreamlike” quality.
“It didn’t have any ‘-isms’ to it, it was a dreamlike sense of a yearning to be there, to be in that space, to be in a place that is safe and where you wanted to be. Whether that was flying, that sense of freedom and exhilaration, or whether it’s being in the forest where you can smell the earth. It was a sensory thing that communicated on such a deep level. That was the spirituality of the first film,” Cameron said at the time.
He added that a lot of the plot ideas were shut down for the third, fourth, and fifth upcoming “Avatar” installments because they didn’t capture the same level of third-tier magic. “We created and rejected many storylines for the second and third film because they didn’t take us to that transportive, dreaming-with-your-eyes-wide-open feeling,” Cameron said.