James Cameron's Avatar remains, after breaking the record five years ago, the highest-grossing movie of all time. With that in mind, it's no surprise that the director has three sequels in pre-production (with a rumored collective budget of $1 billion) and is preparing to shoot them all back-to-back, with leads Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington reprising their roles as lovers and freedom fighters Jake Sully and Neytiri.
Whether the thought of Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 has you jumping for joy or just feeling very tired, the next few chapters of Cameron's epic sci-fi saga are nonetheless going to be barrelling their way into theaters starting from December 2016. The first film, as many of its critics noted, reiterated the themes of imperialism and racism that were also central to movies like Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves, and you can bet that Cameron has a whole lot still left to say about real world issues through a story about 10-foot tall blue aliens.
In fact, Cameron himself has given his assurance that the fantastical nature of Avatar's world won't prevent him from including Real Talk in Avatar 2-4. Little is known about the plots of the movies so far, aside from the fact that the oceans of Pandora will be explored using groundbreaking underwater filming techniques (Cameron is a fan of life under the sea), but speaking to Variety the director strongly hinted that moviegoers can expect to see more real world issues crop up.
"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."
The latter part of Cameron's statement is certainly true; by the time Avatar 2 is released, a full seven years will have passed since the release of the original film, but after that a new Avatar sequel will hit theaters every year until 2018.
Cameron made the statement in the context of a profile piece about Fox chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who is described by Cameron and other directors as being very willing to get involved into the artistic side of filming as well as the business side. Whether you love Avatar or hate it, there's no denying that the filmmaking techniques created for the film - most prominently the performance capture technology that has since been used to great effect in films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - has helped changed the landscape of cinema, and Gianopulos says that this will only continue in the sequels.
"We know it’s going to be a long journey. We know it’s not going to be cheap. We know it’s not going to be without new discoveries and new challenges in the process of producing something that is so beyond the normal form of filmmaking and technology, but what could be more exciting than that."
Avatar pushed a lot of boundaries, if not necessarily in the story that was told then at least in the way that it was told, and with three sequels still to come and a story arc spanning all of them it will be interesting to see what Cameron has planned next for this universe. One thing is certain: if the Avatar sequels are as successful as the first film, then they may well end up dominating the face of cinema within the next few years.
Avatar 2 is set for release in December 2016, with Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 following in 2017 and 2018.