Cameron signs for “Avatar” sequels planned for ’14 and ’15

Producer/director James Cameron will officially return to Pandora to direct a second and third sequel for 20th Century Fox, the first of which is expected to be released in Dec. 2014 and the second in Dec. 2015. The films will be produced once again by Cameron and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment in conjunction with Fox.

Cameron will presumably film the sequels back-to-back, but Variety says according to the mastermind (and Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman) no decision on that will be made until Cameron finishes the script sometime next year and plans for production start to move ahead. He says the stories will be “self-contained” but part of a “greater story arc”:

“In the second and third films, which will be self-contained stories that also fulfill a greater story arc, we will not back off the throttle of ‘Avatar’s’ visual and emotional horsepower, and will continue to explore its themes and characters, which touched the hearts of audiences in all cultures around the world,” Cameron said. “I’m looking forward to returning to Pandora, a world where our imaginations can run wild.”

My guess is back-to-back filming will depend on how similar the two films are narratively and location-wise (regardless of what Cameron says about “self-contained stories”), much like “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End,” which were also filmed simultaneously. My guess is it will be much harder and expensive to do all that filming on two separate occasions (let alone getting commitment from stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and others), so expect back-to-back.

This is Cameron’s next directorial project, so rumors of “Cleopatra” with Angelina Jolie and the thought-to-be-in-production “Battle Angel” (among many others) will be shelved. Pretty understandable, I think.

It might be too soon to speculate as to whether the “Avatar” sequels will outdo the total haul of their number-one-film-of-all-time predecessor, but considering much of the cost to make the first film was on building the technology to make it possible, the margin of profit will at the least be much greater on these films (unless they make even more gadgets this time), so the movie financially is a no-brainer for Fox.

I’m curious to see where Cameron goes story-wise. So much of “Avatar” was the novelty of the 3D and having never experienced anything like it before. The story was good, but as everyone likes to point out, archetypal and cliche. He’s really going to have to up the battle scenes and number of new locales (he’s said underwater is a distinct likelihood) all while staying true to the peaceful and “green” message of the original. I’ll admit it’s possible; Cameron’s track record of sequels is the most impressive anyone: he created the first two highly praised follow-ups ever in “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” At the same time, I will be skeptical until we start to see how things shape up in a couple years. Let the waiting begin.


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