Though he’s long been known as arguably the quintessential blockbuster director, James Cameron’s larger-than-life status was taken to the next level after announcing that there would be no fewer than four sequels to his 2009 megahit, Avatar. As if these follow ups weren’t enough, Cameron’s enormous vision has been spun off into video games, a theme park and now an Avatar prequel by famed acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, with Toruk: First Flight.
Toruk is of particular interest to Avatar fans not just as a prequel to the highest grossing film worldwide of all time, but also because according to Cameron, Toruk’s storyline will contain some similarities – thematically at least – to the upcoming Avatar sequels. Cirque du Soleil’s production has managed to impress the director, leaving the door open for potential crossover from the live world of Toruk to the cinematic world of Avatar.
At least, that’s what James Cameron had to say when Variety caught up with him just before Toruk’s premier at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center. The Avatar director spoke candidly about what the storyline of the four upcoming Avatar sequels would focus on – or rather who it would focus on - explaining that all four films will follow the family saga of Jake and Neytiri as well as their children and the family’s interactions with the world's human element. Explained Cameron:
“The storyline in the sequels really follows Jake and Neytiri and their children. It’s more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans. But thematically, ‘Toruk’ manages to land very very closely to the feeling of where the sequel stories are going.”
As of this writing, the release date for the first of the four Avatar sequels is December 2018, but should that need to change, Cameron said that he isn’t too bothered – the most important factor for him is releasing the sequels in close proximity:
“We haven’t moved that target yet, but we will if we need to. The important thing for me is not when the first one comes out but the cadence of the release pattern. I want them to be released as close together as possible. If it’s an annual appointment to show up at Christmas, I want to make sure that we’re able to fulfill on that promise.”
Regarding Toruk’s aforementioned thematic and stylistic appeal, Cameron also had this to say:
“I love some of the costumes and hairstyles, so we might create a resonance there where you actually see some of the things that you see in ‘Toruk’ come into the design of the films. We’ve got most of the sequel stuff already designed, but I like this idea of weaving back and forth between the two worlds, the live world and the film world.”
Toruk: The First Flight tells the tale of two Na’vi warriors on the planet of Pandora as they struggle to find a series of sacred objects. Although Avatar follows the subsequent impact of human arrival on Pandora, Toruk creates a time before humans had arrived on the beautifully lush planet. Brought to life using Cirque du Soleil’s unique brand of dance, acrobatics, costumes and spectacular sets, the lavish production has received mixed reviews since opening last November in Montreal.
At this point it seems like the Avatar franchise is well on its way. There is of course always the concern that Cameron is doing too much and running the risk of oversaturating the public with the Avatar mythology, but as the world’s highest grossing film, there’s more room here to maneuver than most films. Avatar’s fanbase is strong and whether the first sequel arrives in December 2018 or not, its arrival will likely mark a new era of filmmaking.
Avatar 2 is expected to reach theaters in December 2018, followed by Avatar 3 in December 2020, Avatar 4 in December 2022, and Avatar 5 in December 2023.