Avatar: James Cameron Compares Sequels to Lord of the Rings

James Cameron pitched creating the Avatar sequels as something like Peter Jackson adapting The Lord of the Rings but with Cameron having to write the source material himself. Cameron opened up about the long process of creating sequels to his blockbuster box office hit from 2009. Avatar: The Way of Water opens later this year, and it is but the first in a series of planned Avatar movie sequels. Speaking to Empire, accompanied by a fresh image from the film, Cameron revealed how he pitched the sequel to 20th Century Fox prior to it becoming a part of Disney. 

"What I said to the Fox regime at the time was, 'I'll do it, but we've got to play a larger game here. I don't want to just do a movie and do a movie and do a movie. I want to tell a bigger story'," he says. "I said, 'Imagine a series of novels like The Lord of the Rings existed, and we're adapting them.' Now, that was great in theory, but then I had to go create the frickin' novels from which to adapt it."

But Cameron wasn't sure he would return to the Avatar universe at all. He admits to Empire that he was hesitant to try to follow the record-breaking success of the first Avatar film.

"I had to think long and hard whether I even wanted to make another Avatar film, because it was kind of ours to lose," he explains. "When you've done something that's been that transcendent in terms of success, do you really want to go try and do that again? There's a lot of pressure on it. I thought about it for a good two years before we finally made a deal."

Things have changed. There are plans for four Avatar sequels, though they are not guaranteed. While the still-untitled third Avatar movie was filmed alongside Avatar: The Way of Water, the fourth and fifth films will depend on the success of these first two sequels.

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"The big issue is: Are we going to make any damn money?" Cameron told Entertainment Weekly in December 2021. "Big, expensive films have got to make a lot of money. We're in a new world post-COVID, post-streaming. Maybe those [box office] numbers will never be seen again. Who knows? It's all a big roll of the dice."

Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16th. The original Avatar returns to theaters on September 23rd.