When James Cameron set out to make Avatar back in the 2000s, he admitted he had intentions to turn the franchise into a trilogy, but it’d be surprising to learn that he was already plotting a five-film franchise at that time. After the release and subsequent success of Avatar in 2009, Cameron got to work writing what we believed to be two sequels that may or may not shoot back-to-back. But as writing continued, this expanded to three sequels, and then eventually four sequels.
After years of writing and development, production is currently underway on both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, with the majority of filming on Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 to commence after Avatar 2 hits theaters in 2020—over a decade after the first Avatar hit theaters. While the original film is the highest grossing movie in history, there are no doubt going to be plenty of people who’ve never seen Avatar curious if they can jump into this franchise starting with Avatar 2. The answer, apparently, is yes.
Avatar producer Jon Landau recently took part in a Q&A at Collider’s IMAX screening of Alita: Battle Angel, which he also produced, and he revealed that each of the Avatar sequels is being approached as a standalone film:
“Each movie is a standalone movie that we would wanna go see. You don’t need to have seen the first Avatar to see Avatar 2. It sits there and we’re gonna take people on a visual and an emotional journey that comes to its own conclusion. Okay, step back. Is that a movie we would wanna make just as a standalone story? Yes. Now we do the same thing on Movie 3, Movie 4, and Movie 5. What we have the luxury of on Avatar is the world of Pandora. We get to keep it there but everything can be new, we’re not treading new ground.”
One of the big questions surrounding these Avatar sequels has been whether there’s still an interest in this franchise a decade later. Unlike Star Wars or Harry Potter, Avatar hasn’t quite remained in the zeitgeist for all this time, despite a major theme park presence at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But branding these sequels almost as something new and standalone, that doesn’t require an intense familiarity with the first Avatar, is a very smart move.
For more on the Avatar sequels, click here for what Landau said about the live-action sequences and the franchise’s geography, and click here for a great story about Kate Winslet learning to hold her breath. Watch the full Q&A video below.