This week, Cameron himself revealed that Avatar 4, whenever it happens, will be a prequel following humanity's first days on the alien moon.
But right now, he's busy writing the sequels. The man behind The Terminator and Titanic tells Hero Complex that he's about to go all hermetic in a "top secret writing cave" to ensure that he finishes the screenplays before the end of this year.
He elaborates on the challenge of creating two distinct stories that are nonetheless unified with each other and the first Avatar, saying,
"It's a little bit of a daunting writing task because it's two scripts and they've both gotta be done at the same time. I'm writing it as separate stories that have an overall arc inclusive of the first film. I don't want to suffer from the 'Matrix 2' problem, where it just ends, like, what the hell? It's gotta end. There's gotta be a sense of conclusion, but also a sense that the journey will continue, and that's a fine line."
For The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, directors Lana and Andy Wachowski shot both as one massive production, and chose to essentially create one giant movie, divided right down the middle. As a result, the third movie paid off characters and situations introduced in Reloaded but forgotten by the time Revolutions rolled around. So Cameron is apparently trying to avoid similar issues with his first-ever trilogy.
The director has been saying for quite a while that Avatar 2 and 3 would see the Na'vi getting into some aquatic shenanigans. That was never a surprise, given his fascination with deep sea exploration, a fascination reflected by documentaries like Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep. Talking with Coming Soon, Cameron says that the focus won't be on the depths of Pandora's seas, clarifying,
"It's all the scuba diving I did before I even started the deep ocean stuff that has more of a direct connection to Avatar 2 & 3, which by the way won't take place completely in or under the water. That's just part of the environment of Pandora that we're going to see."
With the first film's message of environmental preservation, it makes sense that the Avatar sequels will expand upon the theme, extending the message to encompass other ecosystems, as Cameron says,
"We're making up an ocean ecosystem for Pandora. That's gonna have less to do with the deep exploration that I've done than it has to do with my concerns about conservation of Earth's oceans. The fact that we're basically overfishing, climate change... a few degrees of temperature rise are gonna basically take out the coral reefs. All those beautiful images of the coral environments we all grew up with won't exist in 50 years at the rate we're going in terms of pumping greenhouse gases into the environment. These are the things that concern me."
So, James Cameron hopes to have scripts for the next two Avatar movies finished up by the end of this year. Presumably that means first drafts. Stay tuned for more information on the ongoing Avatar saga.