James Cameron Compares ‘Avatar’ Sequels to Episodic Television: ‘It’s Really One Big Story’ (Exclusive Video)

As “Avatar: The Way of Water” continues to light up the box office, there is plenty more story to be told in the world of Pandora. And according to James Cameron, the next four “Avatar” sequels complete what was envisioned as “one big story,” adding that “Avatar 4” and “Avatar 5” are fully written and designed and ready to go.

“I think the thing people should remember here is we were gone for a long time from the marketplace,” Cameron told TheWrap during an interview for our “Way of Water” cover story conducted ahead of the film’s release. “But part of that was that we were putting into a pipeline five movies. I mean one that we’ve already done, four new films and shooting two movies back-to-back – Movie 2, Movie 3, part of Movie 4, and that has to do with sort of a story point and a big time jump that takes place. Because we wanna shoot out the kids cause they were aging so quickly. (“Avatar 4”) is fully written and fully designed, (“Avatar 5”) is fully written and fully designed. These movies exist in our minds. These stories exist.”

Indeed, Cameron now says after the decade-long gap between the first two films, the plan is to release the sequels at a more regular cadence to cater to audiences’ investment in the characters.

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“We know exactly what we’re doing. We know what these movies are gonna be. We just have to go through the process of getting them done. So ideally two years from now, (“Avatar 3”) comes out, ideally maybe three years after that [“Avatar 4”] comes out, and then ideally maybe a couple years after that (“Avatar 5”) comes out. So we won’t be away from the marketplace, so we’ll have that sense of a persistent world, an ongoing story that I think people want. If they’re gonna invest in these characters, if they’re gonna invest in this world, we want to give it to them at a regular cadence. That was the game plan. And that’s why one of the reasons we were gone so long.”

The Oscar-winning filmmaker added that thanks to the years of development, writing and design work for all four sequels at once, there’s a complete epic saga to be told, comparing each “Avatar” sequel to an episode of television in an ongoing series.

“Each of those scripts had to come to its own story conclusion and its own emotional resolution,” producer Jon Landau said.

“It’s one big story,” Cameron added. “It’s really one big story, but it’s like episodic television. Each one has its own proximal resolution. The character problems continue across the cut.”

All of this being said, Cameron wisely knows that best-laid plans are still dependent upon the marketplace’s response to “Avatar: The Way of Water” and its sequels, saying he’s not yet confident they’ll get to make “Avatar 5” (although it’s worth noting this interview was conducted before “The Way of Water” was released).

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“You’ve got market forces at play. Are we profitable? Nobody makes a sequel to an unprofitable movie. So yeah, we’ve gotta see what happens.”

Given the performance of “Way of Water” so far, at the very least “Avatar 3” seems like it’s guaranteed to happen. Beyond that, will the franchise face diminishing returns, or will Cameron complete this epic saga himself over the next six years? Time will tell.

As of now, 20th Century Studios has set December release dates for “Avatar 3” in 2024, “Avatar 4” in 2026 and “Avatar 5” in 2028.