Avatar: The Way of Water has been a long time coming. Despite the extended period between movies, though, James Cameron is barrelling forward with his vision for Pandora's future. In fact, the director currently has an additional three sequels in the works, taking us all the way to Avatar 5.
However, whether the series continues long into the future remains to be seen; should The Way of Water not make a splash at the box office, then the next sequel could be a hastened finale. "The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘OK, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly’, if it’s just not profitable," Cameron tells Total Film in the new issue of the magazine, featuring Avatar 2 on the cover.
With a reported budget of $1 billion (yes, with a 'b') for all four Avatar sequels, reconnecting with a cinema-going audience is vital – easier said than done when the film industry has gone through a tectonic shift over the last decade. "We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even," Cameron says. "It’s the one-two punch – the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theatre is all about. This film definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a shit now?"
If Cameron’s instincts are still on the money – and his track record would suggest he’s rarely wrong – it’s likely that plenty of people will find they still give a shit. After all, if any filmmaker knows how to pull off a superlative second instalment, it’s the man behind Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. "The key to a sequel is to be surprising in ways that are not off-putting," Cameron explains. "To reconnect with the familiar that was fun and good, and that caused the first film to be a hit. But doing it in a way that’s unexpected, or that takes you someplace that’s unexpected."
And the filmmaker still backs himself to make Avatar 3. "There are a couple of things that I took out [of The Way Of Water] that I want to shoehorn into movie three, hopefully," he continues. But, he admits: "These are hideously expensive movies. It was a sketchy business case before the pandemic to make a movie that cost this much. At this point, we just have to play it out to see what happens. But what I know right now is: we’re delivering three hours of a pretty much insane experience."
That's just a snippet of our huge interview with Cameron, along with his cast and fellow creatives, featured in the new issue of Total Film, which hits stands (and digital devices) this Thursday, November 10. Meanwhile, Avatar: The Way of Water opens in cinemas on December 16.
And if you’re a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You’ll have it delivered to your door before it’s in shops, you’ll save money on the cover price, and you’ll get exclusive subscriber-only covers. Plus, with the current offer you can get a free pair of EarFun headphones worth £55. Head to MagazinesDirect to find out more (Ts and Cs apply).