First announced during last week’s CinemaCon event, Cameron’s grand vision for Pandora will get underway in late 2018, before Avatars 3, 4 and now 5 are peppered around a similar Christmas window in the years thereafter. Such a sprawling cinematic slate naturally raises a lot of question – chief among them being the potential mileage of the director’s CG-laden yarn – but during an interview with Film Monsters of Filmland, Cameron did at least confirm that the planned Avatar quadrilogy will shoot concurrently.
Much like a TV miniseries, the filmmaker has opened up the option to hop from one sequel to the next depending on production timelines, ultimately allowing for each standalone film to fall under the same universe.
“It’s not back-to-back. It’s really all one big production. It’s more the way you would shoot a miniseries. So we’ll be shooting across all [AVATAR scripts] simultaneously. So Monday I might be doing a scene from Movie Four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from Movie One. … We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story. It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, this person hasn’t died yet, so you’re still in this phase of your life.’ It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three GODFATHER films at the same time.”
Cinematic universes are, of course, all the rage in Hollywood. One glance across the upcoming slate reveals Disney’s Star Wars, the seemingly unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC’s embryonic Extended Universe and, finally, Universal’s planned Monster-verse.
Heightened competition is something Cameron is aware of, too, particularly when it comes to release plans. Thanks to The Force Awakens, Rogue One and Episode VIII, December is all but considered Star Wars month for the next few years, and here the director weighs in on a potential release clash with Avatar 2 and the planned Han Solo Anthology movie. Yes, the latter is currently pegged for May 2018, but don’t be too surprised if Disney bumps Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s origins film to later in the year a la Rogue One.
“My original plan was to release them a year apart, but we’re opening that up. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to land on the same date as one of the STAR WARS sequels. That wouldn’t be fair to them. [Laughs] No, that’s just good business. I don’t want to go head-to-head with STAR WARS. That would be stupid. And hopefully they won’t want to go head to head with us.”
For now, Avatar 2 is expected to swoop into theaters in time for Christmas 2018 – hence the possible clash with Disney and Star Wars – followed in quick succession by Avatar 3 in Christmas 2020, Avatar 4 around the same window in 2022, and (finally?) Avatar 5 in 2023.