Nothing’s Too Large for James Cameron (and His Whopping 3 ‘Avatar’ Sequels)

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
James Cameron's Avatar (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
James Cameron's Avatar (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

If a movie is a hit, it gets a sequel. If it's a real blockbuster, it gets two. And then there's "Avatar" — which isn't just getting its own Disney World land, but is also being becoming a full blown franchise in one fell swoop with three, count em, THREE sequels being made simultaneously.


James Cameron is, after all, Hollywood's master of thinking big. Scratch that. Bigger than big. After making the most successful sci-fi epic of the new century, he vastly super-sized the 3D series – a fifty percent increase from the two that were already in the works. The three sequels will be shot simultaneously beginning in 2014, and the first film is expected to open in theaters in December 2015. (Hold the jokes about a blue Christmas.) Since "Avatar" cost over $230 million to make, with three follow-ups going in front of cameras at once, this has the potential to be the biggest and costliest project any studio has ever greenlit.

[Related: ‘Avatar’ Sequels Will Feature Underwater Performance Capture]

This project looks like a monster, but tackling something huge hasn't scared Cameron in the past. Let's take a quick look at the mans' mega resume …

"The Terminator" (1984). Cameron had only directed one previous feature, the pretty unmemorable "Piranha, Part Two: The Spawning." But he still persuaded a studio to give him a shot at a big, ambitious sci-fi action fest that rewrote the rules of genre filmmaking and kicked Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstardom.

"Aliens" (1986). The original "Alien" was so much Ridley Scott's film that it seemed crazy to let someone else do the sequel. But Cameron made the movie leaner and more action packed, boosted the alien critter quotient, and gave Sigourney Weaver's Ripley more butt-kicking force, as bringing out her nurturing side by bringing along a kid to look after.

"The Abyss" (1989). This is where Cameron's ambitions really began to swell. For this underwater sci-fi epic, which cost close to $70 million, Cameron and his crew turned an uncompleted nuclear reactor in South Carolina into the world's biggest studio tank, holding seven million gallons of water. His team also designed special masks and breathing apparatus so the actors could deliver live dialogue under water.

[Related: James Cameron Wins ‘Avatar’ Plagiarism Lawsuit]

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991). Bigger and badder in every way, Cameron's follow-up to "The Terminator" was a rare example of a sequel that surpassed the original. Hey, Cameron literally drops the bomb on L.A. in this movie. 'Nuff said.

"True Lies" (1994). It wasn't enough for Cameron to make a spy story – he had to come up with one of the biggest and craziest spy stories ever. You remember the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character rescues Jamie Lee Curtis as she dangles from a helicopter? Turns out that really was Curtis dangling from an actual chopper in flight – and Cameron himself was filming her with a handheld camera. That's commitment all around.

"Titanic" (1997). It was supposed to be a love story set aboard a ship, but by the time Cameron got through with it, "Titanic" was also one of the greatest disaster films Hollywood ever produced, looking as if Cameron and his team went and built a ship and sank it for the sake of the cameras (and at a cost of $200 million, maybe he did). It also turned Leonardo DiCaprio into (arguably) Hollywood's biggest male star, and Kate Winslet into a box office draw and one of the best-respected actresses of her generation.

And "Avatar" … well, you know all about that, right?

So whatever Cameron has in mind for "Avatar 2," "3" and "4," don't doubt for a minute that the man is aiming to blow us away. Expect to hear a lot about these movies over the next few years.

Watch James Cameron take you on an in-depth look at the making of Pandora: