James Cameron is one of Hollywood’s most successful and profitable directors. Still, when fans heard of his plans to turn his 2009 science fiction movie Avatar into a five-movie franchise, it is safe to say that we were all a bit shocked. Many cinephiles are still wondering if the box-office king of tinsel town can really pull the Avatar-verse off. However, in a recent interview with Empire, Cameron has shared the reasoning behind his multi-sequel decision – and spoilers, The Lord of the Rings is involved.
While promoting the long-awaited sequel to the 2000s movie Avatar, titled The Way of Water, Cameron revealed to the publication that he always aimed to tell a continuous story when it came to the world of Pandora. “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,” he explained. “I don’t want to just do a movie and do a movie and do a movie. I want to tell a bigger story.”
To further make his point on his storytelling approach, the filmmaker hinted that he wants the Avatar franchise to flow as if it was adapted from a completed literary series – citing JRR Tolkien’s iconic Lord of the Rings saga as an example.
“Imagine a series of novels like The Lord of the Rings existed, and we’re adapting them,” Cameron continued. “Now, that was great in theory, but then I had to go create the frickin’ novels from which to adapt it.”
To say that Cameron’s comparison to The Lord of the Rings is bold is an understatement. JRR Tolkien’s literary epic helped shape the fantasy genre today, influencing not just cinema but books, games, and other media.
The novel has also been around since the 1950s and, as the filmmaker said above, didn’t have to be written from scratch, with worries on deadlines from studios and fans.
However, considering that Avatar became the first film to gross more than $2 billion when it first released, you can argue that the world is invested in Pandora, potentially on the same level as Middle-earth. So it makes sense that Cameron would look towards Tolkien’s story approach as he builds out the IP.
Still, that doesn’t mean that Cameron hasn’t had his doubts about his Avatar franchise. “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?” He said. “There’s a lot of pressure on it. I thought about it for a good two years before we finally made a deal.”
Fans can see Cameron’s efforts for themselves when Avatar: The Way of Water hits theatres on December 16, 2022.