Whatever you think of the man, you certainly can’t fault James Cameron for his ambition. That is especially the case where his plans for ‘Avatar’ are concerned. Indeed, even though the movie is now nearly a decade old, Cameron has hardly spent the last ten years sitting on his hands. Rather, he’s spent much of that time at work on the sequels. And true to form, those sequel plans are nothing if not ambitious (there’s that word again).
Of course, it’s easy to be ambitious when you’re coming off the back of the highest grossing film in box office history (even more so when you remember that Cameron also directed the previous record holder, ‘Titanic’). Should it come to fruition, Cameron’s grand plan will see no fewer than four sequels, of which the first two have been developed in parallel. This evolved from his original plan, which was for a trilogy of films, through what was reportedly an ever more complex screenwriting process. But while ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘Avatar 3’ are essentially guaranteed at this point, it turns out that the final two sequels are far less certain than it seemed.
We’ve known for a while that the future of the franchise depends upon how the first two sequels fare. Which is reasonable. After all, as successful as the first one was, it’s now ten years old. For all we know, it may turn out that public interest in any sequels (let alone four of them) has dried up during that time. And to his credit, Cameron seems to be conscious of this, promising that in a worst case scenario, ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘Avatar 3’ will each be complete films unto themselves with the meta-narrative (as he terms it) building gradually across each installment rather than relying on cliffhangers.
That’s particularly good to keep in mind as the fourth and fifth films haven’t actually been greenlit yet. This is according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who recently touched on the subject in conversation with Barrons. Before you get too worried, this almost certainly means that Fox also hadn’t given them the greenlight, with the final approval likely depending on the success of the first two sequels. And now that the series is changing hands from Fox to Disney when the upcoming merger wraps up, a whole new set of variables is being introduced to the equation. Will Disney have the same expectations – and thus the same likelihood of greenlighting the final two films – that Fox did? We simply don’t know. It is, however, also true that Disney has more money at their disposal to invest in these films. Think of the possibilities. I’m sure James Cameron already is.
And then, of course, there’s the matter of theme parks. Disney already had something of a stake in the series by way of ‘Pandora – The World of ‘Avatar’, and ‘Avatar’ themed attraction located within Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Florida. With their increasingly vested interest in the future of ‘Avatar’, that alone may be enough to encourage them to see this through to the end. We’ll just have to wait and see.
James Cameron’s upcoming ‘Avatar’ sequels will see the return of original stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, and C.C.H. Pounder alongside newcomers such as Kate Winslet. Principle photography on ‘Avatar 2’ began in September of this year. Production on further sequels is expected to kick off once work on the second wraps. ‘Avatar 2’ is currently slated for release on December 18, 2020.
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