Avatar: The Way of Water comes 13 years after the record-breaking original grossed nearly $2.85bn (£2.5bn) and is set for release in December.
“When I sat down with my writers to start Avatar 2, I said we cannot do the next one until we understand why the first one did so well,” Cameron told The Times in a new interview. “We must crack the code of what the hell happened.”
What were the conclusions of his team’s research? “Well, all films work on different levels. The first is surface, which is character, problem and resolution. The second is thematic. What is the movie trying to say? But Avatar also works on a third level, the subconscious,” the director explained.
“I wrote an entire script for the sequel, read it and realised that it did not get to level three. Boom. Start over. That took a year.”
Asked if spending years on scripts just to can them was the reason why audiences had had to wait 13 years for a sequel, Cameron replied: “Well, I was also off doing deep-ocean exploration for a while.”
Avatar 2 was quickly branded “the most insanely complicated movie ever made” after footage of the film was released in August.
Liam O’Donnell, who is a writer-director, tweeted: “Just the amount of data they captured... Underwater performance capture with 15 cameras. 2 cams on every actor’s face capture. Underwater reference capture for fully CG creatures. Oh yeah and infrared depth capture to place CG characters in the live action footage.”
Kate Winslet, who stars in the sequel alongside Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington, previously revealed that she beat Tom Cruise’s record for underwater filming, holding her breath for seven minutes and 14 seconds.
Avatar: The Way of Water is out in cinemas 16 December.