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I am, quite frankly, surprised by this announcement.
It's a pleasant surprise. I'm more than happy for James Cameron to make whatever he wants, and adding another film to his development slate can only be a good thing. But a little while ago, he basically announced that he was done developing new properties and claimed that he was in the "Avatar" business exclusively.
My guess is now that he's deep into the nuts and bolts part of actually writing those sequels and preparing for the sure-to-be-crushing experience of doing part two and part three as one giant production, he's realizing that maybe he doesn't want to spend the entire rest of his life just doing stories about Pandora. While I agree with him that he's created this fictional planet where he can pretty much tell any story and metaphorically tackle any topic, I also look forward to seeing him try something different because I think he remains exciting and intriguing no matter what the subject matter.
In this case, if you're interested in spoilers, all you need to do is track down a copy of The Informationist by Taylor Stevens, a novel that was published last year. I haven't read it, but I'm certainly curious now, and it sounds like the female lead is a perfect fit for Cameron's sensibilities. According to Deadline, the book deals with Vanessa "Michael" Munroe, an information specialist who is hired to track down a billionaire's daughter who vanished in Africa years earlier. It sounds like Munroe's journey to find the girl pushes her to some extreme places, and with a backdrop like that, I'm dying to see how Cameron handles it.
For one thing, the idea of Cameron shooting in a place as volatile and wild as Africa is exciting. But honestly, no one has a better handle on creating strong, interesting female leads in action films, and considering how uneven the landscape still is, it is always good news when Cameron gears up to do this. It sounds like they've got a long way to go before this one is in front of cameras, but when I reached out today to Jon Landau, Cameron's producer, he seemed excited. Landau replied, "If you get a chance to read the book… you will see why it is a perfect fit for us that will make a great movie."
Consider me sold.
The "Avatar" sequels are in pre-production now. I'm sure we'll have years of coverage of those for you, and I hope this ends up as something Cameron actually gets around to making. Development is a tricky beast, and I wish them well with it.