Why James Cameron Scrapped His Original Script For Avatar 2 (And Then Resurrected It)

No one can ever accuse James Cameron of having too few ideas. The writer and director of "Aliens," "Terminator," and numerous other massive blockbusters is a one-man idea factory, especially when it comes to his "Avatar" franchise. In fact, he had an entire script for "Avatar 2" that he ended up tossing out in favor of what eventually become "Avatar: The Way of Water." 

In a cover feature for the December 2022 issue of Total Film magazine, which hits shelves on Thursday, November 10, Cameron goes into detail about that original "Avatar 2" script. Apparently it was too good to abandon completely, as the director turned the story into an upcoming graphic novel series called "Avatar: The High Ground," which will serve as a prequel to "The Way of Water."

While Cameron has spoken about his scrapped draft before, the Total Film interview gives new context about why he decided to take a different direction, and what fans can expect from "The High Ground." 

'It didn't play enough by Avatar rules'

Cameron explained to Total Film that he loved the ideas from the original "Avatar 2" script, but that they ultimately didn't feel enough like they belonged to an "Avatar" sequel:

"What happened was, we were noodling around. 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. And I thought,' We shouldn't make this movie.' So I set it aside."

Anyone who's ever seen a movie sequel that feels like an unnecessary continuation of the first movie knows exactly what Cameron was worried about — though this is the man who gave us all "Aliens," so maybe he should have had a little faith. Either way, he decided not to make "Avatar 2" as he had written it, and went in a different direction, but there were some things from the draft he simply couldn't let go to waste. 

'You've got the Na'vi fighting with bows and arrows in zero-G'

There were elements from the original "Avatar 2" script that got recycled into what became "The Way of Water" and its sequel, but some things just didn't make the jump and Cameron was loathe to let them go. Instead of abandoning the extra content, he compiled it into three Dark Horse graphic novels that will come out in December and bridge the gap between the first "Avatar" and "The Way of Water:"

"There's some great stuff in it. 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."

The best way to think of "Avatar: The High Ground" is as a sort of "Avatar 1.5," providing some extra context to what goes on between the original and the sequel. Cameron's story was adapted into the three-issue graphic novel by "Flygirl" author Sherri L. Smith and artists Guilherme Balbi, Agustin Padilla, Miguel Angel Ruiz, Diego Galindo, Gabriel Guzmán, and George Quadros, with cover art by Doug Wheatley. Die-hard fans will have to check it out, and even the average "Avatar" viewer might be keen to see those bow and arrow zero-G fights. 

"Avatar: The Way of Water" hits theaters on December 16, 2022.