At long last, James Cameron’s sequel to the billion-dollar Avatar draws near. But while Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16, Cameron’s first idea for the sequel, Avatar: The High Ground, will soon be available to hold in your hands.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cameron discussed the background of Avatar: The High Ground, a graphic novel from Dark Horse coming out on December 6. Cameron didn’t reveal much, other than that it takes place entirely during “minute four” and “minute five” of The Way of Water. But he did reiterate that Avatar is a multimedia franchise that prioritizes moviemaking above all.
“I’m not trying to build an empire here,” Cameron said. “I’m just trying to make some cool movies.”
News of The High Ground first surfaced on November 12, when Total Film (via GamesRadar) spoke to Cameron about the project.
“We were noodling around,” Cameron told Total Film. “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.’”
While The High Ground told a story Cameron liked, he believes it wasn’t bold enough to warrant a laborious and financially risky multimillion production.
“It was missing one of those critical elements about sequels, which is that it didn’t go enough into the unexpected,” Cameron said. “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.”
Cameron says he and his writers found “a way to restructure the elements that we needed to distribute across the first two of the sequels, and relaunched it in a completely different way.” Enter: Avatar: The High Ground, penned by writer Sherri L. Smith (working off Cameron’s scripts and notes) and illustrated by Guilherme Balbi.
The fact that The High Ground doesn’t take place between the two movies, as most prequel comics do, but during the opening minutes of The Way of Water, suggests that a lengthy, multi-year montage awaits in theaters. The logline for the movie says as much, which confirms it takes place “more than a decade” after Avatar.
Audiences don’t have a decade to catch up on the story of Avatar: The Way of Water, so James Cameron’s comic book will tell them all they need to know. Does this mean Avatar is now a comic book movie franchise?
Avatar: The High Ground will be published by Dark Horse Comics on December 6. Avatar: The Way of Water will open in theaters on December 16.