Avatar Will Continue After James Cameron. Can It Survive Without Him?

Cameron plans to “hand the baton” to new directors after Avatar 5.

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20th Century Studios

James Cameron’s Avatar franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. While the next three films in his saga have each been pushed back by about a year — we won’t see Avatar 3 until 2025 — Cameron is determined to build out the world of the Na’vi for as long as he’s able. “I know what I’m going to be doing the next six or seven years,” Cameron said in 2022. “We’ve begun a franchise at this point. We’ve begun a saga that can now play out over multiple films.”

The success of Avatar: The Way of Water has all but guaranteed the survival of the franchise. Cameron has three films written and even partially filmed, and he doesn’t plan to stop with Avatar 5. The director recently told People that his ideas for the saga could continue in even more films. “We’re fully written through movie five, and I’ve got ideas for six and seven,” Cameron said.

Enthusiasm aside, though, that may finally be the end of the road as far as Cameron is concerned. “I’ll probably be handing the baton on at that point,” he said. “Mortality catches up. But I mean, we’re enjoying what we’re doing. We’re loving it. We get to work with great people.”

The story of the Sully family could continue for years to come.

20th Century Studios

Cameron has invested a lot of time into the Avatar franchise, and it’s clearly paid off. Zoe Saldaña, who portrays Neytiri in the films, calls the franchise Cameron’s “legacy project.” There’s no doubt Cameron will be synonymous with the Avatar universe when he’s ever obliged to retire. But what happens when Cameron does have to step back from the world he created? Can his legacy survive without him?

There’s every chance that Cameron is now preparing his successor (or even successors) on the set of the Avatar sequels. Transitioning from one director to another will likely feel seamless, at least from a technical standpoint, but whether another filmmaker will be able to capture Cameron’s classic, bombastic style remains to be seen. Directors have struggled with Cameron’s legacy before: the Terminator sequels have all tried to recapture the magic of his apocalyptic thrillers. Aside from Terminator: Dark Fate, which Cameron produced, they haven’t succeeded.

That said, Cameron seems confident the Avatar sequels will be in good hands. He likens his work on the franchise to that of George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry, the creators of two of the biggest sci-fi sagas ever. Both Star Wars and Star Trek have been guided by a handful of filmmakers, and while there have been bumps in the road, both are doing just fine. Hopefully, the same can be said for Avatar in 40 years: unless Cameron can find a way to crack immortality, we’ll have to make peace with his departure sooner or later.

Avatar 3 hits theaters in December 2025.

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