One of the very best movie adaptation novels that I’ve ever read was written by Orson Scott Card, based on James Cameron’s “The Abyss.” He wrote three chapters of backstory for the main characters of Bud, Lindsey, and Coffey, and Cameron liked them so much he gave them to the actors to use as their backstory for the film.
Since it was written before Cameron hit the wall on budget and time, the novel was adapted using the original ending, so when I sat down in the theater, I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going, and I was shocked when the ending appeared to be lopped off for no apparent reason. It was infuriating, and for a while, I had real problems with the movie simply for that reason. I still think it’s the one time Cameron has ever really hurt himself with an edit, and once the original ending was finished and restored for a home video release, it definitely changed the way the entire final third of the film played.
There was quite a bit of talk around the release of “Titanic” that Cameron was going to write a novel to flesh out the characters and to build up their inner lives. Never happened, and I’ve always wondered how far he got into it, or if he even started writing at all. Cameron is one of those guys whose ambition is so outsized that I can’t fault him for the times he hasn’t quite delivered on something, because I know he genuinely wants to do all of the things he discusses. We are finite creatures, though, and we cannot always accomplish everything we want. Even so, he still loves to make the grand announcements.
It is a great idea to bring another writer into the process if Cameron ever hopes to actually finish the screenplays for the “Avatar” sequels and actually make the movies. Today it was announced that Steven Charles Gould will be writing four stand-alone novels that will not only adapt all of the films in the series, but that will expand on those ideas and on the world of Pandora.
Gould is the author of “Jumper” and its sequel “Reflex,” and he is the current president of the Science Fiction Writers of America. So as Cameron works with Josh Friedman, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and Shane Salerno to finish the screenplays for all three of the sequels, Gould will go to work on the books. The “Avatar” sequels are set to start production next year, and he’ll be filming all three of them as one massive project with December 2016, December 2017, and December 2018 marked as release dates for the three films.
That certainly gives Gould room to do something that is not your typical run-and-gun movie tie-in. Deadlines on those can be crazy, and I can’t blame writers who rush through that process because that’s the nature of the beast. Here, Cameron’s giving Gould plenty of room to write books that should stand alongside the films nicely, books that are more than “just” adaptations.
I’m really curious about how this will all play out. Cameron is aiming as high as he possibly can here, and if he really does pull off all three of those films, this may well stand as his single largest artistic accomplishment, the building out of a full science-fiction world that is all his own.
We’ll be covering all the steps along the way, and I sincerely hope to see these films and read these books in the timetable Fox laid out today.