James Cameron spoke to The Times UK ahead of the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, sharing that he’d spent an entire year working on the Avatar 2 script before chucking it because he felt it wasn’t subconscious enough. In the process, the 68-year-old Canadian filmmaker revealed why the first film was a smashing success. 

“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,” Variety reported Cameron saying, who added, “We must crack the code of what the hell happened.”

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Cameron and his team concluded, “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.”

While appearing on The Marianne Williamson Podcast last year, Cameron further explained how the third level made Avatar a worldwide box office success. 

“There was a tertiary level as well…it was a dreamlike sense of a yearning to be there, to be in that space, to be in a place that is safe and where you wanted to be”, he said, adding,”Whether that was flying, that sense of freedom and exhilaration, or whether it’s being in the forest where you can smell the earth. It was a sensory thing that communicated on such a deep level. That was the spirituality of the first film.” 

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In the interview with Variety, he added how the follow-up would continue the same tradition as Avatar. Cameron said, “I wrote an entire script for the sequel, read it and realized that it did not get to level three. Boom. Start over. That took a year.” The first film was released in 2009 and the sequel is slated for a 2022 release. 

The director added that he had to threaten to fire all the writers because they were more focused on creating new stories than figuring out what worked with the first one, and then taking steps to protect that connection. 

Avatar: Way of the Water hits theatres on December 16.