James Cameron knows what he thinks about Avatar. And, ahead of the release of the long-awaited sequel to the massively-successful science fiction epic, he knows what you think about it, too.
“There’s skepticism in the marketplace around, ‘Oh, did it ever make any real cultural impact?’ ‘Can anybody even remember the characters’ names?'” Cameron says in an extensive new Hollywood Reporter profile, arguing that it’s “an irrelevant argument,” because Avatar is more than a decade old, and only one movie so far, while — as he puts it — “Marvel had maybe 26 movies to build out a universe, with the characters cross-pollinating.”
Of course, Avatar is about to become a multi-film franchise all in itself, with no less than three movies already in the works to follow The Way of Water. (The third Avatar is entirely shot, while the fourth is partway through shooting, according to Cameron.) The writer/director explained that’s all down to his desire to go as big as possible with the property after the success of the first movie in 2009.
“I want to tell an epic story over a number of films. Let’s paint on a bigger canvas. Let’s plan it that way. Let’s do the Lord of the Rings. Of course, they had the books. I had to write the book first, which isn’t a book, it’s a script.”
It’s actually multiple scripts, for multiple projects; beyond the Avatar movies, there are also publishing plans connected to the franchise, with Dark Horse Comics publishing the graphic novel Avatar: The High Ground on December 6, in a story that started as an interlude early in the screenplay for Avatar: The Way of Water.
Although he’s certainly ambitious, Cameron is also realistic; noting the impact that COVID has had on the movie industry — “I knew it would never come back a 100%… I don’t think it ever will. But maybe 80%’s enough,” he says —he’s also aware that the five-movie plan for Avatar might never be fulfilled.
“We’ll probably finish movie three regardless because it’s all shot. We’d have to really crater for it not to seem like it was worth the additional investment,” he says of the series.” We’d have to leave a smoking hole in the ground. Now, hopefully, we get to tell the whole thing because five’s better than four, four’s better than three, and three’s better than two.”
In case that’s not enough Avatar for you, don’t worry; Cameron says that he also has ideas for a sixth and seventh film in the series if he’s lucky enough to get there, but he wants everyone to know that his ultimate ambitions are benign. “I’m not trying to build an empire here,” he says at the close of the piece. “I’m just trying to make some cool movies.”
Avatar: The Way of Water is scheduled for a December 16 release.
If all of this has you more excited about Avatar: The Way of Water, why not revisit the trailer?