For quite some time, I’ve been relatively certain that all this talk of James Cameron making not one or two or three but four Avatar sequels was complete and total hogwash. How could you do it? Cameron clearly has an ego, so I understand why he would talk about such lunacy, but there’s no way audiences are going to keep coming back for four more servings of blue, self-glorifying nonsense. It just can’t happen.
Well, it is. At least that’s what it seems from the announcement today that 20th Century Fox has dated releases for all four sequels, starting in 2020 and ending in 2025, eight years from now. The biggest gap between the films will be between the third volume in 2021 and the fourth volume in 2024. Here are all four official release dates via The Playlist:
Avatar 2: December 18, 2020
Avatar 3: December 17, 2021
Avatar 4: December 20, 2024
Avatar 5: December 19, 2025
Considering the ninth Star Wars film in the Skywalker saga will be coming out in 2019, this gives Cameron some open room to build the franchise back up after such a long time away. There will, of course, still be Marvel and DC to contend with but in terms of big-label sci-fi franchises, Avatar will likely have an open marketplace, even more so if the fourth Star Trek film of the new franchise is a ways off.
Still, Cameron will have a few major problems awaiting him with the release of these movies. First of all, if he’s the main writer on these, we already have a near-fatal issue. The reason people made fun of Avatar so much, despite its groundbreaking success at the box office, was because of its script; its technical and visual bonafides are rarely seriously criticized because Cameron succeeds in building a involving, visionary world almost every time he gets behind the camera. When he writes, however, his clearly passionate political beliefs are presented with no great challenges or thoughtfulness, coming off as wildly self-righteous. Such things can grow off-putting awfully quick.
So, Avatar 2 will have to be a particularly big show of filmmaking might for Cameron and he will have to secure the international audiences as well. If China doesn’t like (or get to see) Avatar 2, for whatever reason, the financials on this would be immediately shot to hell. It’s a tremendous risk for everyone involved but Cameron is that director who is driven by such feelings, perhaps more than any other director currently working. If he can lay it all on the line with these movies, his reputation as one of the great visionaries of popular movie-making will be reinforced. We’ll know better where he stands in three years.