James Cameron's first Avatar film told quite an epic story: In it, he introduced audiences to an entire new world, Pandora, and its inhabitants, the Na'vi, and waged a war for the soul of the planet, a spectacular blockbuster with something to say about eco-justice. But he has an even grander story to tell across the movie's four sequels.
The first follow-up, titled Avatar: The Way of Water, will hit theaters in December, with the as-yet-untitled third film slated to arrive in 2024. Cameron directed both Avatar 2 and 3 back-to-back, but admits he's unsure if he'll remain at the helm for Avatar 4 and 5.
"The Avatar films themselves are kind of all-consuming," Cameron tells Empire. "I've got some other things I'm developing as well that are exciting. I think eventually over time — I don't know if that's after three or after four — I'll want to pass the baton to a director that I trust to take over, so I can go do some other stuff that I'm also interested in."
Or maybe he won't.
"Movie four is a corker. It's a motherf*****. I actually hope I get to make it," the filmmaker adds. "But it depends on market forces. Three is in the can so it's coming out regardless. I really hope that we get to make four and five because it's one big story, ultimately."
Whether Cameron ultimate vacates the director seat or not, he will surely remain involved in a produceorial position through the full five-film saga to oversee his vision, a vision that began with 2009's Avatar. That movie earned nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Cameron, and won for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Production Design (known as Best Art Direction at the time).
When he signed on to make the sequels, Cameron explains that he told the studio, "I'll do it, but we've got to play a larger game here. I don't want to just do a movie and do a movie and do a movie. I want to tell a bigger story. I said, 'Imagine a series of novels like The Lord Of The Rings existed and we're adapting them.' Now, that was great in theory, but then I had to go create the frickin' novels from which to adapt it."
The next entry in the franchise is The Way of Water, which is set more than a decade after the first film and continues the story of the Sully family: Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their children, Na'vi-born Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton) and Tuktirey (Trinity Bliss) and an adopted human son, Spider (Jack Champion).
"Everything I need to say about family, about sustainability, about climate, about the natural world, the themes that are important to me in real life and in my cinematic life, I can say on this canvas," Cameron says.