Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa also discuss the challenges in crafting ‘The Way of Water.’

At this point, if you are an Avatar fan, you’ve known for a quite a while that the Na’vi saga has been mapped out all the way through Avatar 5. One thing that you might not know is that there is a little something that separates Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 from Avatar 4 and Avatar 5. In an interview with Variety, screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver revealed how the process of writing the story led to some surprises that forced them to expand the story.

This all happened because way back in 2013, franchise director James Cameron decided to gather all writers of future Avatar installments — Josh Friedman (Snowpiercer series) and Shane Salerno (Armageddon) pen Avatar 4 and Avatar 5, respectively – and talk out every idea they had in mind for the future of the film series. The director did this so that the team was in synch, and decisions made from screenwriters of movie 2 were informed and connected to events that played out or paid off in movies 3 and 4.


However, almost immediately, they realized there was a problem with Avatar 2, as Silver explains:

“From the beginning, one of the challenges — I’ll say it was a delicious challenge — is that there was too much material. […] Carrying this burden was always an issue in terms of getting the first act of that first movie moving, and there was just an enormous amount of material in there. So somewhere after we had started writing, [Cameron] called us up and he said, ‘Look, we’ve got too much material. We’re going to split it into two movies.'”

Tonowari, played by Cliff Curtis, in Avatar 2 The Way of Water
Image via 20th Century Studios

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The Screenwriters Had to Open the “Pandora Box”

The “too much material” bit might have been an understatement. As they started to work on ideas, Cameron sent the writers binders of plans and thoughts he jotted down along the years that amounted to about 800 pages of information – something they ended up calling “Pandora-pedia.” On top of that, Silver and Jaffa had the tough job of reintroducing Pandora and the Na’vi to returning and new audiences. So, in one movie they’d have to update the audience of what happened in Pandora in the last 14 years, introduce Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldaña) kids, explore new territories and new Na’vi species, and more. It was definitely too much, even for a three-hour movie.

The duo of screenwriters also explained that the Avatar sequels were planned to be adventures that could stand on their own while also having a connection to each other. However, due to the fact that Jaffa and Silver’s idea was broken down into two films, Avatar 3 (which is 95% filmed) will feel more like a direct sequel with a lot of connections to Avatar: The Way of Water, while Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 will be more independent.

Avatar: The Way of Water is currently playing in theaters everywhere. You can watch our interview with Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña below:

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