China, for those who are unaware, is one of the biggest countries and film markets in the world. What's more, the Chinese come out in droves for 3D. So it makes sense that studios want to keep those audiences happy. You may recall that the remake of Red Dawn, originally about the Chinese invading America, was changed in post-production to implicate the North Koreans instead, for fear of alienating that market. So it's a little ironic that James Cameron is now considering "alienating" the Chinese entirely… by making them Na'Vi in the Avatar sequels.
Cameron is now pursuing co-production of his sci-fi franchise with China, meaning that the upcoming Avatar films will likely include a more prominent Chinese cast, both human and Na'Vi, the resident alien race on the planet Pandora. "We can certainly use Chinese actors as performancecapture actors because any accent issues will hide within the Na’vi accent," Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter. "So we can have Chinese Na’vi; [and in the live-action sequences] we can also have Chinese actors who speak English in the film. We are projecting a future in Avatar, and if you project that future out, it is logical that there would be a number of Chinese amongst the contingent on Pandora."
Avatar would not be the first sci-fi series to suggest that China will be a prominent, even equally prominent cultural force in the space age. Joss Whedon's "Firefly" took place in a future where all the characters were bi-lingual in English and Chinese (although their accents were atrocious), even though, for some reason, none of the main characters were actually Chinese themselves.
Cinematic concessions to other countries for financial aid is not uncommon. There are rules in Canada that require American productions shooting in their country to cast a certain percentage of Canadian acting talent. So if indeed the Avatar movies are co-financed in China, a certain amount of Chinese casting stands to reason. Some might express concern that James Cameron may be diluting his artistic vision to appease one specific foreign market, but it's perhaps equally disconcerting that Cameron might not have considered casting any Chinese actors otherwise.
An interesting development, with some shades of grey betwixt the cracks. What do you think? Good thing? Bad thing? Or just plain practical?
CraveOnline will be back with more Avatar sequel news after Giovanni Ribisi nukes the planet from orbit. (It's the only way to be sure.)