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Avatar Writers Ran Into The Unusual Challenge Of Having Too Much Material When Creating Avatar 3

The first "Avatar" film is the very definition of a modern-day epic. Running two hours and 42 minutes, "Avatar" follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine sent to one of the most hostile places known to humanity — the alien planet Pandora. This vibrant and colorful world is home to fantastic creatures and an indigenous population known as the Na'vi. The Na'vi are generally peaceful and live in symbiosis with their planet, often showing reverence to nature and honoring animals whenever their hunters make a kill. This is in stark contrast to the humans in "Avatar," who seek to plunder the planet for precious and valuable resources.

Although some humans, like Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), wish to live in peace and understand the Na'vi, others like Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) want to oppress or outright annihilate the Na'vi, expressing a certain level of both contempt and misguided respect for the alien planet. 

Of course, as noted by The Numbers, when a movie makes just shy of $2.9 billion and becomes the biggest global movie of all time, there will invariably be sequels, and director and creator James Cameron has certainly taken his time in crafting the next installments of "Avatar." The original "Avatar" was released in 2009, while its freshly minted sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water" has now premiered over a decade later. This means that there are plenty of stories that occurred off-screen and in that unseen period of time, which "Avatar: The Way of Water" does its best to fill in.

Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 were shot back to back

As mentioned above, "Avatar: The Way of Water" picks up 14 years after the first movie, and Jake Sully and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have managed to create a family, complete with biological and adoptive children. Besides their offspring Neteyam, Lo'ak, and Tuk, Jake and Neytiri have adopted a reincarnated Dr. Grace, who is now a Na'vi child named Kiri, and a human child nicknamed Spider (Jack Champion). Having defeated Colonel Quaritch at the end of "Avatar," one might have assumed that the Na'vi would be allowed to live in peace, but humanity isn't exactly known for its ability to just give up — especially when there are strange and exotic resources on the line.

Similarly to "Avatar," "Avatar: The Way of Water" has a marathon of a runtime, clocking in at three hours and 12 minutes. However, it seems as if there were plenty of scenes and plots that have been cut or reserved for the nearly finished "Avatar 3." Speaking with Complex, director James Cameron explained the hectic dual-shooting schedule and said, "We were still working pretty fast and it was long days. It's because we were making two movies at the same time, so we're making movie two and movie three at the same time, and even a bit of movie four. So it was like every day was like that, doing both movies at the same time. And it kind of drove the cast a little crazy, too. It's like, 'OK, yesterday we were working on movie three. Today we're back on two. Where are we?'"

Cameron has lots of movies in mind for the Avatar franchise

Since "Avatar: The Way of Water" and "Avatar 3" were essentially shot back to back (much like the "Lord of the Rings" movies), the story and future arcs of the franchise had to be planned out well in advance, which may help to explain the lull between the original movie and its immediate sequel. Filming two movies together is a massive undertaking, which director James Cameron fully embraced — one doesn't make the most successful movie of all time and then rest upon one's proverbial laurels.

Cameron has already stated that he has several future "Avatar" installments in mind, going so far as to have general ideas for "Avatar 6" and "Avatar 7" – that is, if the audience still wants more Na'vi and Pandora. However, at this point there is almost no way the world won't see an "Avatar 3," with Cameron telling The Hollywood Reporter, "We'll probably finish movie three regardless because it's all shot. We'd have to really crater for it not to seem like it was worth the additional investment. We'd have to leave a smoking hole in the ground. Now, hopefully, we get to tell the whole thing because five's better than four, four's better than three, and three's better than two."

Avatar: The Way of Water was split into two movies

Despite creating both "Avatar: The Way of Water" and the as-yet-unnamed "Avatar 3," it seems as if the writers of the movies ran into the issue of simply having too much material and details to cover in the span of one or two movies. As reported by Variety, James Cameron approached several different writers and assigned them each to a different "Avatar" movie. The first sequel, written by the duo of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, ran into some story issues, with Silver saying, "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," Silver added. "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.'" By splitting the sequel to "Avatar" into two separate movies, the entire franchise gained an additional installment, at least when viewed through the original story scope for "Avatar" presented by Cameron. 

Since the same writers wrote both "Avatar: The Way of Water" and its subsequently filmed sequel, there should be some consistency between the stories, though it sounds like the editors and post-production crew for "Avatar 3" definitely have their work cut out for them, with the unedited cut of the movie rumored to be nine hours long

Considering that runtime, maybe "Avatar 3" will be split into yet another film.