Despite the fact that every time anyone associated with James Cameron’s big Avatar plans opens their mouth, the news wires light up like Pandora’s bioluminescence, it’s been tough to find out exactly what’s going on with the movies beyond Cameron’s current ambition to shoot the second and third movies back to back. And despite Sigourney Weaver’s comments this year about a fourth film being added to the production batch, Cameron himself has now rolled things back a little bit.
Talking with MTV, he does at least say that the fourth film is being planned, and that he now knows where it might sit in the continuity. “I have an idea for a fourth," Cameron told the site. "I haven't really put pen to paper on it, but basically it goes back to the early expeditions of Pandora, and kind of what went wrong with the humans and the Na'vi and what that was like to be an explorer and living in that world."
Films two and three, he explains, will wrap up the story he’s already got in his head. Four will need to dip back into history to relate something fresh, even if it does lead into what we know. "We'll start, not imitating Star Wars, but it's a logical thing to do because we'll have completed the thematic arc by the end of three. The only thing left to do is go back to see what it was like on those first expeditions and create some new characters that then become legacy characters in later films. It's a plan."
The reason he’s been taking his time gearing up the next films is that he wants the process to be much easier this time around. "We've spent two years refining the whole pipeline," he explains. "It was a hideously complex process to make that film and a lot has been said about that, but we don't want it to be done in the same prototypical way as the first one, we want it to be a much smoother workflow just for creativity reasons."
But what of life after Avatar? Cameron appears committed to Pandora for the foreseeable future, but producer Jon Landau, talking with MovieZine (and helpfully translated by Collider), reveals that one of the director’s other big plans, manga adaptation Battle Angel Alita, is still alive and kicking. “I am sure you will get to see Battle Angel. It is one of my favourite stories, a great story about a young woman’s journey to self-discovery. It is a film that begs the question: What does it mean to be human?' Are you human if you have a heart, a brain or a soul? I look forward to giving the audience the film.”
But he won’t be drawn on casting, especially since the film will likely not hit screens before 2017 and that actual production is a long way off for now. “Who we want to put in the lead role today and who we want to put in the lead role when the time comes, it can be two totally different people who would be right for the role. Now we focus on Avatar for the next four or five years. It will hopefully right after that.” Come on Jim and Jon... Just get the first couple made already.