We recently learned that the (at this point, purely theoretical) fourth Avatar movie would be a prequel, and that Battle Angel would be a few years off. But what of the two confirmed Avatar sequels? With both films scheduled to enter pre-production in January 2013 and Avatar 2 eyeing a 2015 release, James Cameron says he’s about to burrow into his “top secret writing cave” to finish the two scripts by the end of this year — and that one of his challenges will be avoiding what he calls “the Matrix 2” problem.

After the jump, read Cameron’s comments on what he has planned for the sequels. Plus, find out what Pixar and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol director Brad Bird thinks of Cameron’s plans.

Though he plans to write Avatars 2 and 3 at the same time, Cameron wants to ensure they work separately as well, and not just as part of the larger trilogy. “I’m writing it as separate stories that have an overall arc inclusive of the first film,” he told the LA Times. “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.”

As for what the stories will actually entail, Super Hero Hype caught up with the filmmaker to press for more details on the plot. Cameron confirmed once again that Avatar 2 will take us to Pandora’s oceans, but added that the sequels “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,” he added.

Unsurprisingly, we can expect the sequels to continue the strong environmental message put forth by the first one. Speaking about the creation of Avatar’s underwater ecosystem, Cameron explained:

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.

Once the Avatar movies (and presumably Battle Angel) are done, Cameron still plans to redirect his attention to his documentary work:

I’m going to continue in the future making documentaries and continuing explorations stuff as well because I’m always fascinated by that. We don’t have to explore the coral reefs at this point because we understand them very well. We also understand that they’re dying and they’re ultimately doomed if we don’t change our profligate ways.

Whatever Avatars 2 and 3 end up looking like, what’s not in doubt is Cameron’s staggering ambition. Whether the subject is outer space exploration, killing machines from the future, or an ill-fated inter-class romance, Cameron’s never been one to go easy on himself.

But even some of his colleagues seem a bit taken aback by just how much Cameron is trying to do with this franchise. “I love Cameron’s films, but planning 3 sequels ahead is scary,” fellow filmmaker Bird tweeted. “No doubt, Cameron is one guy who can execute a thoroughly imagined universe, but the scope of 3 sequels ahead is humbling to say the least.”

If Bird sounds the tiniest bit skeptical, it only seem reasonable. As Cameron himself has admitted, the first Avatar “just about killed us, and now we’re gonna try to do twice that much” for the two sequels. We’ll see what comes of his labor when Avatar 2 opens in 2015 — assuming, that is, that there are no more delays.

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