James Cameron: Avatar 4 will be a prequel

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There have been some conflicting reports of late on what exactly director James Cameron has in mind for the future of his Avatar movie franchise. In June, comments made by Avatar star Sigourney Weaver led us to believe that Cameron was planning to shoot three Avatar sequels back to back to back. Then, last week, Cameron’s long-time collaborator and Avatar co-producer Jon Landau told the Courier Post Online that while Cameron was planning to shoot both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in short order, Avatar 4 was not yet on the man’s short term schedule.

While that leaves us wondering when/if Avatar 4 might hit theaters, we can confirm that James Cameron wants to make a fourth Avatar film. At a recent press event to promote the September 10 release of a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition of Cameron’s massive hit movie Titanic, MTV asked the director what plans he has for the future of the Avatar series. Though Cameron is a bit vague on the specifics of Avatar 4, he makes it plain that the inevitable movie would be a prequel and that it would kick off the second arc of Cameron’s overarching Avatar storyline.

“I have an idea for a fourth,” Cameron said. “I haven’t really put pen to paper on it, but basically it goes back to the early expeditions of Pandora, and kind of what went wrong with the humans and the Na’vi and what that was like to be an explorer and living in that world.”

“Because when we drop in, even in the first film in Avatar 1, as it will be known in the future, we’re dropping into a process that’s 35 years in to a whole colonization. That will complete an arc and if that leads into more, we’ll start, not imitating Star Wars, but it’s a logical thing to do because we’ll have completed the thematic arc by the end of three. The only thing left to do is go back to see what it was like on those first expeditions and create some new characters that then become legacy characters in later films.”

That’s an ambitious plan, especially given that Cameron is talking about a film that is still hypothetical and won’t even enter pre-production for at least four years. Then again, Cameron goes on to tell MTV that making Avatar sequels should be far, far easier now that the first movie has laid the technological and canonical ground work for Cameron’s Avatar universe. “It was a hideously complex process to make [Avatar] and a lot has been said about that, but we don’t want [the sequels] to be done in the same prototypical way as the first one, we want it to be a much smoother workflow just for creativity reasons,” Cameron added.

That’s great news for Avatar fans, but we have to wonder if perhaps this far-reaching scheme isn’t a bit overly ambitious. What happens to this franchise if Avatar 2 is a flop? Will Cameron drop his planned third and fourth Avatar films, or will the director be forced to make them regardless of fiscal gain simply because he’s already put so much effort into mapping out the tale he wants to tell? We have faith in James Cameron — even his early work under Roger Corman is surprisingly watchable — but we worry that the man may be biting off more than even his massively popular, intensely wealthy jaws can chew. 

Then again, like we said, Avatar 4 is a long, long ways off. It seems a bit premature to worry about a film that won’t materialize until the end of the decade, so instead let’s all start grilling Cameron about the far more imminent Avatar 2. Isn’t it odd how little we know about that film compared to the hypothetical fourth Avatar movie?

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