Director James Cameron is famously ambitious, but he's outdone himself with his latest plan: A fourth Avatar movie — despite the fact that he hasn't yet begun filming either Avatar 2 or Avatar 3. In an interview with MTV News, Cameron revealed that Avatar 4 will be a prequel exploring humankind's arrival on the planet Pandora; he says the fourth installment could eventually lead to (stay with us, now) more films in the franchise that would also be prequels to the original 2009 Avatar. Cameron promises that the Avatar saga "won't imitate Star Wars," but with no end to the increasingly sprawling story in sight, critics are questioning the franchise's long-term viability. Does anyone really want three sequels to Avatar?
Avatar 4 is an intriguing way to enrich the franchise: Skeptics are justified in questioning Cameron's sanity, says Janice Kay of ScienceFiction.com. After all, "what more could be said of Pandora that couldn't be said in a trilogy?" But Cameron's rationale — that the fourth film will "go back to the early expeditions of Pandora" to reveal "what went wrong with the humans and the Na'vi" — could open up interesting new ways to expand the Avatar universe. If Cameron can avoid repeating the mistakes George Lucas made with the Star Wars prequels, Avatar 4 could be welcome indeed.
"James Cameron reveals Avatar 4 to be a prequel"
Avatar 4 sounds dumb and derivative: James Cameron can try to distance Avatar from Star Wars, says Richard Lawson at The Atlantic Wire — but a prequel that chronicles how humans found Pandora "and started fighting with the blue space cats?" This is exactly what George Lucas did with Star Wars, and everyone knows how that turned out. If Cameron is intent on devoting the rest of his career to the Avatar saga, he and Lucas "should really just get on a boat together and sail to a private island somewhere," where "they can make as many techno prequels... as they want" — and where audiences won't be subjected to their green-screen shenanigans.
"Get ready for Avatar 4"
Avatar 4 might not happen anyway: James Cameron's Avatar 4 talk "seems very premature," says Liam Goodwin at Filmonic. After all, "Avatar 2 and 3 haven't even started filming yet," and best estimates indicate that they won't be ready for release until December 2014 at the earliest. And the biggest reason to be skeptical about Avatar 4? Producers have announced that they're planning to film Avatar 2 and 3 back-to-back, "but not a third" sequel — which means that Avatar 4 would necessitate beginning an entirely new production. Given Cameron's notorious perfectionism, it'll be a while before he can even think about filming Avatar 4, let alone get it into theaters.
"Avatar 4 will be a prequel, says James Cameron"