Despite continued and dramatic delays in delivering Avatar 2, director James Cameron has confirmed plans for even more sequels.
Speaking at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Cameron revealed he now plans four sequels to the original movie, saying "We have decided to embark on a truly massive cinematic project, making four epic films, each of which stands alone but together forms a complete saga [....] that's told in this rich and complex world."
"I've been working the last couple of years with a team of four top screenwriters to design the world of 'Avatar' going forward: The characters, the creatures, the environment, the new cultures," CNN quoted Cameron as saying. "So far, the art I'm seeing, is in pure imagination, really far beyond the first film."
Cameron had already announced plans for a trilogy of Avatar sequels, picking up where the 2009 original had left off on the ecological paradise world of Pandora. The first of these had most recently been planned for release around Christmas 2017, but vacated that release window amidst claims of ambitious cinematography plans – including underwater shoots – delaying production. That the cinematic juggernaut of Star Wars: Episode VIII also staked claim to the same period no doubt helped convince distributor 20th Century Fox to shift release date too.
Avatar 2 is currently expected to release in 2018, with its own sequels loosely slotted in for 2020, 2022 and 2023. In the meantime, the Avatarverse will be expanded through theme park attractions, comics, and Toruk, the First Flight, a Cirque du Soleil production.
The first film in the Avatar series was a visually and technologically groundbreaking production, and broke box office records on release. It remains the highest grossing movie worldwide, ever. Yet despite its financial success, it hasn't fostered the same level of fervour from fans that other big budget sci-fi franchises enjoy, meaning the big question is whether audiences will return when the movies do, or if the original simply benefitted from good timing and a thirst for new blockbusters that is now well-sated.
Cameron's decision to expand the Avatar universe isn't the first example of a former Alien franchise director engaging in "sequel creep", either. Ridley Scott recently announced his Prometheus sequel was expanding to a full trilogy in its own right. The first, Alien: Covenant, is set for release in August 2017.