Production for Avatar 2 will start in October of 2014 with production for Avatar 3 and 4 going on alongside as we reported earlier. No information has been released regarding the plot other than that leads Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana from the first Avatar will return. In addition to the three sequels, Cameron has also hired novelist Steven Gould to write four original books to further expand the franchise. Cameron said that he has “long admired the worlds and characters (Gould’s) created in his books and stories,” and that the two are working closely.
Avatar still holds the record for worldwide box office gross with almost $2.8 billion, which beat the previous mark set by another James Cameron film, Titanic. It received nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture, a feat matched that year only the Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker. Building off all of that success, Cameron is obviously excited to welcome audiences back to the planet of the Na’vi, but will he find many people will to make that journey?
While audience interest can be hard to gauge, a number of signs suggest that few share Cameron’s enthusiasm for the Avatar franchise. First of all, the franchise as it stands now consists only of the original movie and a few tie-in materials. In the four years since, there have been no Avatar comic books, spin-off novels, video games, etc. Depending on the release schedule for Gould’s novels, Avatar 2 could be the first new piece of media the franchise has seen in more than half a decade. People certainly remember that Avatar exists, but how many of them care enough to go back after being away for so long?
Furthermore, a lot of the hype behind Avatar came from the return of 3D to theaters. Since then, countless blockbusters have incorporated 3D technology to the point where the feature has become expected. The Avatar sequels will not be able to use 3D or the, admittedly gorgeous, look of Pandora to attract audiences. Sustaining the franchise will require a story worth telling over the course of four films. Considering that many critics and viewers felt the main plot was the weakest aspect of the first film, that seems a tall order for the sequels to meet.
Cameron’s passion project will reach theaters in December of 2016 and, if all goes to plan, return in December 2017 and 2018.