After a 13 year wait, Avatar: The Way of Water is finally hitting theaters, giving audiences a long-awaited return to the alien world of Pandora. As for what took so long, well, the answer is pretty obvious: James Cameron is a known perfectionist. To capture the watery locales of the new film, the legendary director made both the cast and crew learn how to perform underwater to give the film an unprecedented level of realism despite the presence of giant blue aliens.
Cameron also wanted to make sure that, like the original film, The Way of Water pushed the boundaries of visual effects to provide a theater going experience like no other. However, that required waiting for film technology to catch up to his vision for the sequel, which didn’t always happen. Via ScreenRant:
A noted perfectionist, he made no qualms about taking his time and waiting for the technology to catch up to his vision. In 2011, Cameron had talked about wanting to film the Avatar sequels in a higher frame rate, something that didn’t become mainstream in cinema until Peter Jackson made The Hobbit trilogy (and quickly disappeared after). By 2016, he was talking up the possibility of shooting the film in a non-glasses form of 3D, although he later admitted that the technology wasn’t there yet.
On top of waiting for the film tech to meet his needs, Cameron also wanted to have the scripts all the way up to Avatar 5 ready to go before shooting The Way of Water. Understandably, that process added a considerable amount of time.
“The scripts took four years,” Cameron told Vanity Fair. “You can call that a delay, but it’s not really a delay because from the time we pushed the button to really go make the movies [until now], we’re clicking along perfectly. We’re doing very well because of all the time that we had to develop the system and the pipeline and all that.”
The wait for the rest of the Avatar sequels should be much shorter going forward. The films are locked into a bi-yearly release schedule with release dates set all the way to December 2027.
Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16.