James Cameron is holding nothing back with his sprawling plans to continue the Avatar saga by adding a third sequel to his previous two-sequel master plan, bringing the total number of Avatar films including the existing one to four. In addition, Cameron and Fox have assembled an impressive screenwriting ensemble including Josh Friedman that is tasked with tackling the ambitious three-film project.
Cameron intends to shoot and direct all three Avatar films simultaneously beginning sometime in 2014. Avatar 2 will be released in December 2016 or two years after Cameron had initially planned to provide the first sequel, followed by Avatar 3 in December 2017 and Avatar 4 in December 2018. He will co-produce the new trilogy with his Lightstorm Entertainment partner Jon Landau, with Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana expected to reprise their starring roles.
Friedman is best known for writing Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise. He also worked on Fox’s short-lived The Sarah Connor Chronicles television series, which is ironically set in the Terminator universe that Cameron ushered into existence.
Joining Friedman on the Avatar writing team are Shane Salerno (Savages) and the sought after duo of Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, who helped reboot the Apes franchise with the hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Cameron has publicly mentioned on numerous occasions that the then two Avatar sequels would explore the seas and oceans of Pandora. Any additional settings and plot details are being kept under tight wraps as early pre-production work and technology tests continue.
The risk for Fox and Lightstorm in investing in three additional Avatar films is waning demand in the nearly four-year old original that will be seven years old when Avatar 2 is released. Though state-of-the-art for its time and to-date the most impressive 3D cinematic experience available, the original Avatar hasn’t created a legacy that persists today. Much of its appeal came from technological innovations more so than narrative or storytelling. Cameron’s new ideas will need to both dazzle intellectually and technologically if lightning is to strike not only twice but four times total, all while avoiding franchise fatigue by delivering new installments only twelve months apart from one another.