James Cameron refers to his Avatar series as one, long family drama. Cameron sets out to change the industry every time he makes a movie - and that's exactly what he did with 2009's Avatar. It was a 3D sci-fi epic that used the latest technology to seamlessly combine live-action and computer generated imagery. It pushed the technological envelope while kicking off a new era of 3D filmmaking. Avatar also became an astounding box office success, grossing $2.7 billion worldwide to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time globally. Now, James Cameron wants to revisit Pandora, and he hopes to bring audiences along with him.
The filmmaker is currently shooting two Avatar sequels, with plans to shoot two more for a grand total of four. Like the first Avatar, the new films will push filmmaking technology to its limits. The first film wasn't visually spectacular enough for Cameron, so now he's making a new saga that takes place largely underwater. In addition to new environments, Avatar 2 and its sequels will also introduce new characters, including the offspring of Avatar's heroes: former human Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Na'vi woman Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). As a matter of fact, family will be a central theme in the new Avatar sequels.
In a recent interview, James Cameron spoke about the importance of family and how the overarching Avatar story is really a generational saga not unlike The Godfather trilogy, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (via io9). Cameron said:
“I found myself as a father of five starting to think about what would an Avatar story be like if it was a family drama, if it was The Godfather. Obviously very different genre, very different story, but I got intrigued by that idea. So, that’s really what it is. It’s a generational family saga. And that’s very different from the first film.”
Cameron said he wants to explore what happens when warriors "willing to go on suicide charges" have their own kids. "It's a very different story," the director explains. These remarks tie into something else Cameron said about hoping for Avengers fatigue so that filmmakers could start exploring different stories again. Cameron specifically pointed out the lack of any family dynamic in superhero movies, saying: "It’s just, come on guys, there are other stories to tell besides hyper-gonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!”
Clearly, family is a thing that's central to James Cameron's existence right now, and that is feeding into his Avatar storytelling. The new James Cameron is not the old James Cameron who only cared about cyborgs going on killing sprees, or Marines getting in massive battles with aliens, or Ed Harris sinking to the bottom of the ocean and meeting aliens. It will be interesting to see if this new family-centric, mature approach results in truly compelling storytelling when Avatar 2 through 5 eventually hit the big screen. Assuming Cameron ends up making all four Avatar sequels.
Even if the storytelling ends up lacking - and there are many who would argue the storytelling in the first Avatar was indeed lacking - the movies are sure to look amazing and feature the absolute most advanced visual effects in the world. James Cameron never skimps when it comes to the world-building aspect of things, that much is certain.
- Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
- Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
- Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027