James Cameron Considered Traveling Outside Of Pandora For The First Avatar Sequel

"Avatar: The Way of Water" is one of the purest cinematic experiences of 2022, a movie that improves on most of the problems of its predecessor, gives us better characters with actual personality, and, of course, plenty of incredible visuals.

Taking place over a decade after the events of the first film, "The Way of Water" finds the Sully family on the run from a resurrected Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), taking refuge with the Metkayina clan of the coral reef and learning the aquatic ways of their tribe until trouble comes knocking at their door.

The sequel is, simply put, a spectacular film, especially when we're in the water. James Cameron shows us some incredible environments on Pandora, giving us the gift of the space whales known as the tulkun — which turns the film into the most expensive "save the whales" ad out there — all culminating in one of the best third acts in a blockbuster movie in years. 

With "The Way of Water" somewhat recreating the formula of the first film, Cameron seems to carve a pathway for the rest of the sequels, having Jake move from tribe to tribe, seeing different Na'vi cultures and exploring more of Pandora while fighting the humans. However, the franchise almost took us away from Pandora instead of exploring the rest of the lush moon.

The star of the show

More than Jake Sully, his kids, or any other character, Pandora is the star of the "Avatar" franchise. It is the moon orbiting the fictional gas giant Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system that evolves, changes, and grows the most during every film. As we explore new places, we see different relationships between the various Na'vi tribes and their moon, as well as how humans are destroying it for their own capitalist gains.

With how pivotal Pandora is to the movies, it is kind of surprising that James Cameron actually debated whether to set "The Way of Water" anywhere else, but according to the book "The Art of Avatar: The Way of Water" by Tara Bennett, that's exactly what he did. 

According to producer Jon Landau, Cameron and the team wrestled with where to take the story early in the process, and whether to stay on Pandora or go somewhere else. 

"We have always viewed Avatar as a metaphor for the world in which we live. We realized that we could traverse our world and not see all the wonders this planet holds. This idea helped lead lim to the conclusion to not venture to other alien planets in the sequels, but to instead explore the diversity of locations and cultures that Pandora could still offer. Front and center of those biomes were the oceans, which reflect a passion for preservation and conservation that Jim and I share."

And yet we're leaving it

This is the best decision they could make. Pandora is such an integral part of the "Avatar" experience that people got depression after seeing the first film and realizing they couldn't actually visit the moon. 

More than the Pocahontas story, more than the jokes about Jake Sully or the Na'vi tale sex, it is the fully-realized moon of Pandora that makes people fall in love with this franchise and has them wanting to revisit it over and over again.

And yet, Landau recently unveiled plans for "Avatar 5" to leave Pandora anyway and visit Earth. This would be a huge mistake, as it would take away from the beauty of the movies in featuring a world that — as Landau himself says — is a metaphor for Earth, how we treat it, and how much of it we can't see due to travel and economic restrictions. Worse yet, the plans of visiting Earth so Neytiri can open her eyes to the nuances of humanity and to learn that not all humans are bad is plain dumb, especially considering she already knows humans who are good and are against the war on the Na'vi. But it'll be years before we see that movie, so maybe they'll figure out a way to make it work.

Thankfully, Cameron and his team recognized the power of staying on Pandora for "The Way of Water," and we hope he does that again for the sequels. There's already been talk of a villainous fire nation of Na'vi coming in "Avatar 3," so it'll be interesting to see what their environment is like.