Avatar 2 To Feature Ambitious New Technology
Recently, I chose to resurrect an old article I originally published back in the heyday of The Number Of The Blog, defending James Cameron‘s much maligned science fiction epic, Avatar. This was in response to a post that Kat Blood wrote about the in development sequel, citing the weaknesses of the original. In my defence article I wrote about Cameron’s entire career and how he has always sought to push cinematic technology to new heights with each subsequent film that he makes. After the massive success of Avatar, Cameron has since announced that his career will only be divided between documentaries and Avatar sequels, as events on Pandora are incredibly malleable and will allow him to tell any story that he sees fit, and allow him to continue to develop a rich and detailed world that he has already laid the foundation of. This certainly makes a lot of sense, and while he may end up feeling different in the future, for now that seems to remain the case. It’s definitely true that the beauty of Pandora has a lot more to show us, and Cameron has made it clear that a second Avatar film will take us into the depths of Pandora’s oceans. This should be a rather eye-opening endeavour, considering that many of the lifeforms on the surface of Pandora were modelled on our very own creatures that exist deep in the oceans – lord knows what the waters of Pandora may hold.
Of course, one of the biggest point’s of contention is that it is extremely hard to make underwater scenes convincing. It’s no secret that water is one of the hardest things for special effects to realistically emulate, so setting many of the scenes, with already heavily CGI characters could render (guffaw) proceedings problematic.
Everyone remembers this right?
However, that’s not the only pressure (ha!) that Cameron will find himself under; after all, Avatar 2 will be the sequel to the highest grossing film of all time ($2.7 billion worldwide), and when you consider all the negative attention it seems to get years later, there’s a genuine question as to whether a sequel could ever live up to those monumental figures. Cameron has since gone on record and stated that not only is he well aware of the challenges that face him, but also that he is going to tackle them face on. He believes that the success of Avatar 2 will rely on him breaking yet another new technological barrier, this time by evolving underwater special effects in cinema. It’s certainly an ambitious goal, but one that is likely achievable, especially with Cameron at the helm. If that man has proved anything in his long career is that he truly understands special effects and technology and he is on the cutting edge. Cameron and producer partner Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar) recently attended the NAB Technology Summit where they unveiled their plans for the future and how they were going to advance the medium. Some choice snippets to look over include:
1. A team of digital artists from the first film is working to create underwater performance capture – i.e. actors being filmed in motion capture while submerged underwater. This will allow them to glean actual actor experience moving in a liquid medium – so that the CGI characters better fit an underwater backdrop i.e. they exist and interact with it as if they were actually there – reducing the potentially disastrous water conundrum to just another environment that CGI has to interact with. Naturally, this is a complicated process and there are many challenges that the production must overcome, though the men are confident that they are well on the way to fulfilling their goals.
2. They are considering following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit and filming in a higher frame rate, but that in itself presents its own set of problems. Cameron has been outspoken about the higher frame rate medium and has expressed positivity towards it, but perhaps he is rethinking his stance after the overwhelmingly negative response that that received from audiences and critics alike. By the same token, Cameron has never been a man to compromise his own stance based on the lamentations of others so it’s unlikely that this would be the sole reason behind his undecided opinion on the matter.
3. Avatar’s sequels will be shot specifically for the 3D format. Cameron after all did revolutionize the way it is done and he will be certainly making use of the technology that he helped create. He personally doesn’t believe in the post production conversion process.
Much of Avatar‘s criticism from audience’s was levelled at its story (or lack thereof), and while some of you may be disappointed that all Cameron and co. are talking about at this juncture is technology it makes sense. Cameron never set out to create a completely original, incredible story with Avatar, and in this writer’s opinion; it was a classic story told well and through an exciting new prism. It was entirely serviceable, but there’s no denying that where Avatar truly shone is in its astonishing special effects. It’s a simple fact that the technological achievements of Avatar made a profound and exciting change to cinema and revolutionized the industry (Landau prefers to refer to it as “evolutionary” instead). The second film is going to be recognized as a continuation and thus is going to be met with similar expectations. I believe that Cameron and co. will deliver on the technology, and while it may be the unpopular opinion, I don’t really care what he delivers in terms of story. Face it, none of Cameron’s films have had particularly profound plots – his films have never been about great scripts. His flagship film series (The Terminator, in case you didn’t know) doesn’t even make any sense and took a room of television writers to somehow (much to everyone’s shock, including Cameron’s) make sense of the whole damn thing and give it a surprising and poignant ending.
While of course, I’d like to join the demand for a better story for Avatar 2, I don’t really feel that’s anyone’s priority right now. If they manage to deliver that with the technology though, then I’m sure this film will be a truly incredible feat.
Picture it now – living in a world where we’re able to film actors in a big fish tank – and then convert that into imagery into the most realistic simulated underwater experience ever? With some of the best visuals that technology could ever hope of producing? Yeah, that will probably make this film a success. Not only that, but a world that has access to technology that powerful is only a better world. Consider this, they can finally make a great Aquaman movie, or Namor the Submariner, or the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea epic that David Fincher has been dying to make for the last six years.
It’s going to be hard to make Aquaman awesome on the big screen, but this will certainly help.
The truth is, consider Avatar as a massive and beautiful technology demo, it’s entirely designed to make a shit-ton of money, yes, but it’s also designed to revolutionize the industry and move it into the future, one big leap at a time. You all should know by now that in Hollywood money talks, so get your anticipation for this film into gear, because even if you aren’t psyched on the Avatar franchise and the world of Pandora – be excited about what the future holds after this movie changes things. Bring it on Mr Cameron, bring it on.
No official release date has been announced for Avatar 2 & 3 yet, though it’s expected we may see the sequel in summer 2015. If that’s true it’ll be a rather congested year for major blockbusters, going up against The Avengers 2 and Star Wars: Episode VII. Stay tuned at The Monolith for more updates!