What kind of director has the clout to secure an advance green light for three big-budget space-bound sci-fi sequels? James Cameron, of course, whose all-time box office champion Avatar surpassed his own Titanic as the highest-grossing movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Five years ago, Avatar defied many naysayers and took the world by storm, with Cameron promising plenty more adventures set on the distant Pandora.
While the first film took 14 years between conception and realization as James Cameron waited for the technology to catch up with his vision, the director is moving forward with Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 all at once. The main stars of the original are returning: our heroes Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, along with the megalomaniacal villain Col. Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang. And that's not all.
Cameron's Aliens star Sigourney Weaver is returning, as well. Weaver portrayed Dr. Grace Augustine, a scientist studying the indigenous life on Pandora and who, like Stephen Lang's Quaritch, died before the end of Avatar. Just how exactly Weaver's character will return is a mystery, but the actress recently shed a bit of light on the subject.
Speaking to Vulture, Weaver spoke about filming all three films back-to-back, citing another famous blockbuster trilogy:
"It's going to be an adventure! It will be awesome. I can't even imagine what I am taking on — and what James Cameron is taking on — with filming three 'Avatars' at once, but ... Peter Jackson did it with the 'Hobbit' films, so we have that to look to."
The big question, of course, is how Grace can return at all. After being mortally wounded, Worthington's Sully and Saldana's Neytiri attempted to save her by transferring her consciousness into that of her avatar. Grace doesn't survive, but apparently has a spiritual experience and confirms the existence of an overall conscious entity within the planet itself.
Weaver hinted that Grace undergoes more than one transformation over the course of the next three films, saying:
"It will be challenging for me. I can't talk about it, but my part is a little different in each one. I'll transform somewhat. We'll have to talk again when I survive this. For now, I'm going to skittle around and enjoy this leisure time."
While Cameron has stated that the scripts for the sequels are almost complete, we still don't know much more about the plot details beyond Avatar 2 being set in Pandora's oceans. Weaver's comments do seem to confirm that the sequels will being shooting this fall, as well as echoing Cameron's assertion that Avatar 2 & 3 will complete the over-arcing trilogy he had in mind.
If the fourth film indeed ends up being a prequel to the first film, will Weaver be involved in some way? If so, would the story of Grace's initial exploration of the Na'vi culture count as one transformation? Expect more plot details to surface as Avatar 2 gears up for production.
Avatar 2 is expected to reach theaters in December 2016, followed by Avatar 3 in 2017 and Avatar 4 in 2018.