Avatar 2 was not always The Way of Water. In fact, the sequel to the box-office juggernaut Avatar originally had a very different plot – and you can soon see that story play out, just not in cinematic form. After James Cameron scripted the 130-page sequel, titled Avatar: The High Ground, he decided to scrap the idea of transforming the story into a movie.
"We were noodling around," he tells Total Film in the new issue of the magazine, featuring Avatar: The Way of Water on the cover. "I was working with a team of writers. We had a lot of ideas. We kept trying to corral it into a box, and it never quite fit. So at a certain point, I said, ‘I’ll just finish it, and see if it’s a movie.’ I did. It came out, I think, at 130 pages. It was like, ‘Man, this is a great story. This is a hell of a read.’
"But it was missing one of those critical elements about sequels, which is that it didn’t go enough into the unexpected. It also didn’t play enough by Avatar rules, which is to connect us to the dream world, that which has a spiritual component that we can’t even quite quantify in words. It ticked every other box, but it didn’t tick that one."
In the end, Cameron set the story aside – but Avatar: The High Ground was not forgotten. "We figured out a way to restructure the elements that we needed to distribute across the first two of the sequels, and relaunched it in a completely different way," he says. The result is a graphic novel – coming December 6 – that tells the story of the Na'vi between the first movie and The Way of Water.
"There’s some great stuff in it," he continues. "I mean, you’ve got the Na’vi fighting with bows and arrows in zero-G. I mean, I’m there! I want to see that movie. But it just didn’t achieve enough of the overall story and thematic goals that I had in mind. So we’re turning it into a Dark Horse graphic novel. You’ll be able to see that interim battle that took place between movie one and movie two.”
That's just a snippet of our huge interview with Cameron and his cast, featured in the new issue of Total Film, which hits stands (and digital devices) this Thursday, November 10. Meanwhile, Avatar: The Way of Water opens in cinemas around the world on December 16.
And if you’re a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You’ll have it delivered to your door before it’s in shops, you’ll save money on the cover price, and you’ll get exclusive subscriber-only covers. Plus, with the current offer you can get a free pair of EarFun headphones worth £55. Head to MagazinesDirect to find out more (Ts and Cs apply).