The world of Pandora is full of stories yet to be told, but Avatar: The Way of Water originally had too many to tell.
In a new interview with Variety, screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver explain that The Way of Water was almost a different movie, with one of its original drafts containing material that will be seen in Avatar 3 (which has the working title Avatar: The Seed Bearer). That’s on top of a new graphic novel, Avatar: The High Ground, which also has a story first slated to be in The Way of Water. All told, the grand scope of James Cameron’s vision looks bigger than ever.
Talking to Variety, Jaffa and Silver detail the job of writing the long-awaited sequel to one of the biggest sci-fi movies ever made. The pair landed on Cameron’s radar through their script for the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, making them ideal candidates to pen a spectacle-driven sci-fi that still has soul.
Jaffa and Silver weren’t alone. They joined writers Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds) and Shane Salerno (Alien vs. Predator) in helping Cameron expand Avatar across sequels. Uniquely, Jaffa and Silver had too much to work with, which they called “a delicious challenge.” Variety doesn’t detail what was cut from Way of Water and left for Avatar 3, but it’s understood that early drafts of The Way of Water were so unwieldy that Cameron chose to craft Avatar 3 around what was left out.
“Carrying this burden was always an issue in terms of getting the first act of that first movie moving, and there was just an enormous amount of material in there,” Silver told Variety. “So somewhere after we had started writing, [Cameron] called us up and he said, ‘Look, we’ve got too much material. We’re going to split it into two movies.’”
This is also how Cameron’s four-movie plan grew to five. With The Way of Water split in two, what was meant to be Avatar 3 is now Avatar 4, and Avatar 4 is now Avatar 5.
Cameron clearly has a big story to tell, but The Way of Water seems so humongous that it’s impressive it tells a coherent narrative at all. Dark Horse Comics recently published Avatar: The High Ground, a graphic novel that adapts some of Avatar 2’s unused story while framing it as a “prequel”; Cameron himself has said High Ground covers events glossed over in Way of Water’s opening. Producer Jon Landau recently told Inverse The High Ground could have been a movie, but it didn’t check off enough boxes to warrant a hefty investment.
“It was never not a full-fledged movie to [Cameron],” Landau told Inverse. “It just wasn’t the right movie for Avatar 2.”
If the third movie of the Avatar series is anything like Jaffa and Silver’s The Way of Water, audiences are in for another ride.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters.