Shortly before "Avatar" came out, director James Cameron told MTV that he has a larger story in mind for the movie's universe. "We'll follow Jake and Neytiri," he said. "I have a trilogy-scaled arc of story right now, but I haven't really put any serious work into writing a script."
At that point, there was nothing official to announce. People knew the movie was going to make money -- this is James Cameron we're talking about -- but no one could know just what a monumental success "Avatar" would become. Now that we know? Cameron's much more open to discussing what's next.
At a Q&A with Cameron held in Los Angeles earlier this week, Ain't It Cool News reported that the director said, "Yes, there'll be another." Four simple words, and we have confirmation that a sequel will happen. Not that anyone really doubted it I think, given the amount of money spent developing the technology and the time required to transform stars Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana into Na'vi.
Now that there's confirmation, we can really get to the nitty-gritty of thinking about what's next. A few weeks ago, MTV contributor Josh Wigler considered the possibility of future stories in the "Avatar" universe moving away from Pandora and onto another of the planet Polyphemus's orbiting moons. A companion novel released alongside the movie, "Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide," indicates that there are two moons orbiting the gas-giant with nitrogen-oxygen atmospheres (a la Earth).
That said, I would still expect Pandora to factor heavily into the next movie. As we all saw in "Avatar," there are a variety of distinctly different Na'vi tribes that call the planet their home. And with the first movie focused as it was on the tribe built up around the Hometree, we really never got a sense of how intra-species politics work between the different tribes.
I think it's likely that the next movie will delve deeper into the Na'vi people and the differences between them. They are painted in very broad strokes in "Avatar," a subjugated race, outclassed and outgunned by human colonists. With the RDA out of the picture for the time being, we should come to recognize the Na'vi less as a singular group and more as a varied species, with the same sorts of subdivisions and class difference that define the human race.
One scenario I could picture for the sequel would focus squarely on internal strife among the Na'vi. Presuming that Cameron has plans for a cliffhanger-conclusion in the second and third entries in his planned trilogy, the entirely of the second movie could set up a Pandora world war of sorts, only to have human aggressors show up at the very end, while the indigenous population is at odds. This would create a nice bridge into the third film, in which the Na'vi would be forced to band together once again.
There's also Unobtainium, the rare mineral that brought humans to Pandora in the first place. It isn't discussed a great deal in the movie, but the "Activist Survival Guide" notes that humans use it for interstellar/deep space travel. In another scenario, the RDA could conceivably return to the Na'vi with an outstretched hand, as Earth's supplies of the valuable mineral start to dwindle.
And now that Jake and Neytiri are both properly coupled Na'vi, a damsel-in-distress storyline -- or perhaps a genre-twisting gentleman-in-distress? -- seems inevitable. One of the two will be captured or in some way taken out of the picture by malevolent forces, requiring the other to embark on a desperate quest to save him/her. A more personal, Na'vi-centric story would be a refreshing change after the sweeping epic that is "Avatar."
These are just a few ideas; I'm sure whatever Cameron's cooking up, it's far more detailed and filled with otherworldly wonders that we've yet to even see. But now that a sequel is confirmed to be coming, the speculation can begin.
What do you think we can expect to see in the sequel to "Avatar"? How do you think the rest of the trilogy could play out? Share your thoughts and pitches in the comments section below!