We’re about to embark on a massive expansion of the Avatar universe. Early next year James Cameron and 20th Century Fox plan to start filming Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 back-to-back-to-back. One film will be released each year starting in 2016, and despite being that far away from seeing an actual movie on the screen, Cameron is already pumping up his latest ventures.
Talking to Variety, he doesn’t reveal any specific details about the new Avatar films, but he does disclose some of the things he hopes to accomplish, thematically, and how he wants the upcoming movies to comment on the current world.
There’s nothing I need to say as an artist about the state of the world and human affairs that I can’t do through the lens of the Avatar universe. We’ve had a couple of years to think through the story arc of the next three films, and every day that goes by, I believe in the stories I’m telling more and more. We’re not coming out of the block fast to capitalize on the last film.
They certainly aren’t rushing things. By the time Avatar 2 drops it will have been seven years since Cameron’s first adventure on the far away world of Pandora. Since the films were announced more than a year ago, he has been working on finishing all three scripts at once, assembling a team of writers for each film and collaborating with them on the process. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) worked on the screenplay for the first film, Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) wrote Avatar 3, while Armageddon writer Shane Salerno got the nod for Avatar 3.
As massive a hit as Avatar (it is the highest grossing movie of all time), and as spectacular as the visual side of the film is, the biggest criticism has always been that the story is bland and generic. Bringing in fresh eyes and new talent to work with is an attempt to combat that issue with the sequels. I’m sure it also helped finish off and polish three full-length movie scripts at the same time, which is no small undertaking.
Cameron has also been assembling old gang for the new movies, confirming returning cast members like Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and even Sigourney Weaver. That last one is going to take some finagling since her characters kicks the bucket near the end of the first film, but Cameron is nothing if not inventive, and both he and Weaver have commented that there will be some “changes” to her character. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what that means, but it sounds interesting.
Avatar 2 opens in December 2016, while Avatar 3 hits in December 2017, and Avatar 4 arrives a year later in 2018.