Let’s say El Mayimbe is correct. Let’s say James Cameron has officially told Arnold Schwarzenegger to get ready to spend a year in New Zealand to shoot his role in the “Avatar” sequels as a bad guy in charge of leading Earth’s forces back to Pandora to kick some Navi ass. Let’s say the deal is done, the dates are set, and it’s happening. If we accept all of that as a given, then I’d say this is about as exciting as casting news gets.
I have not been flipping out over the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to film after his time spent working in California state government. I liked “The Last Stand,” sure, but I think he was the single most embarrassing thing about “The Expendables 2.” I like many of the films he has starred in over the years, but I don’t think he is the same person or the same actor today that he was in the ’80s, and I don’t think you can just step back in and pick up where you left off after a certain point in life. Arnold is older. He’s physically different. He’s gone through some pretty major life changes in that time. Why would we want him to try to be the same person he was 20 or even 30 years ago? I’d rather see him work with Cameron in some new way.
I know that Paramount just announced a July 4, 2015 date for what they’re calling “Terminator” right now, a new movie that might be directed by Alan Taylor, whose “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t even in theaters yet. Paramount must feel good about the film if they’re looking to hand this franchise over to him. Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier were announced as screenwriters for the film, and while I like both of them and like much of what they’ve written, the entire idea of new “Terminator” movies just bugs me at this point. I really don’t like the way they’ve dragged it out, and I think the first two films exist as this one thing, and everything else is part of this other thing that I don’t care for at all. It feels like a step backwards in every way.
Having Arnold play a villain for the first time since 1984 for Cameron in a film that builds a new ecosystem or two onto the canvass that Cameron first established in “Avatar” feels like something new, though, and it feels like an appropriate place for Arnold to make a return to this type of thing. I think it’ll be interesting to see if Arnold ends up with his own out-of-body abilities, and if so, what sort of thing they design for him to wear. It’s a dilemma Arnold faces in real life. Look at that creepy cameo they put together for “Terminator Salvation” involving a digitally modified younger version of him. If Hollywood could download Arnold into a younger, stronger, bigger model, they would do it in a heartbeat, and so I think there’s some interesting subtext to Arnold joining this particular franchise. Josh Friedman is writing “Avatar 2,” Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are writing “Avatar 3,” and Shane Salerno is working on “Avatar 4.” I’m sure Cameron has a strong collaborative presence in all three scripts, and I think it’s interesting to see him try a process like this. Not sure I’ve ever seen this sort of parallel development for three sequels at once.
I’m just curious to see what kind of shoot Cameron puts together if he really does plan on making “Avatar 2,” “Avatar 3,” and “Avatar 4” as one big production that he releases in three consecutive years. At this point, that’s one of the only tricks he hasn’t learned, and I’m sure his ambition has him looking for ways to push himself further. I was talking to a friend who got to know Cameron a bit recently, and he was blown away by how constantly curious Cameron is, and how hard he works, and how educated he is on how many different subjects.
As I’ve pointed out before, every time Cameron is gearing up on something, the naysayers love to point out all the flaws in whatever his plan is, and then every time, he makes a movie that ends up being a giant cultural moment, a blockbuster that genuinely busts records. I have no doubt people will naysay the “Avatar” sequels all the way up to the moment they all open and everyone in the world lines up to see them several times. Myself included, hopefully.
“Avatar 2” should be in theaters in December 2016. “Avatar 3” will open in December 2017. And then “Avatar 4” will follow in 2018.