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Since Alita: Battle Angel is hitting theaters next week, producer Jon Landau has been making the publicity rounds to discuss the film he produced alongside longtime collaborator James Cameron. That means questions about the forthcoming barrage of Avatar sequels slated for release starting in 2020 were inevitable, and Landau talked to us about why the path to get these Avatar sequels off the ground was so long. The producer also spoke about how the sequels will give fans more of what they really want out of this sci-fi universe.

Our own Jack Giroux spoke to Jon Landau on the press circuit for Alita: Battle Angel (the full interview is on the way), and asked about the long gap that exists between the original film and the first sequel arriving in 2020. Did they consider how the cultural landscape changed during those years? He explained:

“You know, we don’t have to think about the cultural landscape [how it’s changed since the first movie]; we have to think about the script and the storytelling. There were many years between Star Wars [movies], initially. Not the first movie, but after that. We’re making standalone movies that will standalone.

What we learned about the response to Avatar: people want to return to the world of Pandora, and they want to spend more time with Jake and Neytiri. Rather than rushing into doing the sequels, because Jim doesn’t rush it, we have to build our foundation, and that’s the scripts. Knowing that we wanted to tell multiple stories, we didn’t want to just solve one script, we wanted to solve the scripts for all of the movies we wanted to make before we ventured out to making them, that’s what took us the time.”

So will audiences still be keen on returning to Pandora after all this time? Or has the gap between movies diminished interest in any follow-up? Landau is confident that what Cameron has created will bring audiences back:

“I believe what’s going to happen is people are going to return to the world because the scripts Jim has delivered, they deliver on the promise created by the first movie: where we’re going to go, both in terms of the environment and the emotional story with the characters.”

For those expecting to see this universe expand by heading to other planets and settings outside of Pandora, you might be disappointed. But you’ll still see a wide variety of new locations. Landau explains:

“We made a decision for the sequels not to do necessarily what other science-fiction movies do, which is if they want water, they go to the ocean planet, and if they want snow, they go to the ice planet. We looked at all the wonders the Earth shows us, and we realized we could travel our whole lives and not see all the true wonders Earth has, so Jim made the decision to set the sequels all on Pandora. Our stories introduce to us different environments, and also different cultures.

Again, on Earth, we have a diversity of cultures. By exposing not just one Na’vi clan, but different clans as we move into the sequels, that are different. It’s not that they just go to different places. If you live somewhere else, culturally, you’re going to be different. How does that play out amongst people – getting along, dealing with each other, what type of conflicts it creates, and all of that.”

Sci-fi sequels often take us further than the world they introduced us to, and it’s nice to see that James Cameron and Jon Landau want to explore Pandora more. There’s no need to go anywhere else because it’s a planet that is rich with diversity on its own. At the very least, the world of Pandora feels like it will be enough to spark curiosity among those who may not be excited about the prospect of Avatar sequels (even if the confirmed prospective titles still sound weird). But hopefully the stories bring something significant to the table too. There have been plenty of fascinating worlds created for sci-fi movies that were ruined by disappointing stories, and hopefully the Avatar sequels won’t be among them.

We’ll find out when Avatar 2 arrives in theaters on December 18, 2020.

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