Zoe Saldaña Has An Unexpected Take On James Cameron's Legacy As Avatar 3 Approaches: 'We All Thought It Was Titanic'

Zoe Saldana in green makeup as Neytiri in Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Word from the planet Pandora has once again reached us here on Earth, this time from Avatar lead-actress Zoe Saldaña. While teasing Avatar 3, the actress challenged Titanic as director James Cameron's greatest film. In fact, unexpectedly, she feels Avatar is his real legacy.

Zoe Saldaña, who plays the Na’vi Neytiri, was asked about her upcoming projects in an interview with Collider. The Avatar actress confirmed the hype surrounding the next three films, including Avatar 3, which is already in post-production, but she also made a comment connecting the franchise to James Cameron's other behemoth film. 

This is his legacy project. We all thought it was Titanic, and it turned out that Avatar is his legacy, and for us to be a part of something so groundbreaking and trailblazing, it's like it's a legacy for us, too.

When Titanic was released in 1997, it became the most expensive film ever made, which turned out just fine when it became the highest-grossing movie in U.S. theaters upon release. But both those records were broken by Cameron himself with the release of Avatar in 2008. And unlike the big boat disaster movie, Cameron has at least five sequels lined up for the Na’vi. Avatar 2: Way of the Water, which was released in December 2022, became the fourth highest-grossing film of all time

Despite these record-breaking figures, Saldańa's comments were a bit of a surprise to me, as I do think there is more to consider than stats when talking about legacy. Titanic launched the careers of Hollywood alums Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and in my opinion, will always have a place as an established “classic” movie. It is ingrained into pop culture in a way Avatar may never be able to top, with people doing the iconic Titanic pose on every boat they’ve ever been on. Cue Celine Dion.

Jack and Rose in Titanic

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

But Saldaña’s take is supported by more than just box office success, especially when the Avatar director seems to have a one-track mind. Back in 2012, Cameron told the New York Times he was done taking scripts or developing anything else besides Avatar. The movie series has been known to draw audiences in because of its breathtaking design and incredible industry-leading CGI and VFX production, creating a whole new world that surpasses even the most recent films in iconic universes like Harry Potter and Star Wars

And James Cameron just keeps pushing the limits when it comes to these films. As the actress put it, the Oscar-winning director is a trailblazer in his field, with the cast performing insane water VFX filming for Avatar 2. Saldaña hinted in that same interview that the next few movies continue to go further into uncharted territory.

It's going to be amazing. Avatar 3, it’s going to be amazing, and Avatar 4 and 5, it just gets crazy. It's true. It really does. He's blown our mind.

So consider us lucky we won’t need to wait another 13 years between sequels, as the upcoming Avatar 3 was filmed back-to-back with Avatar 2. As of right now, it is included in our 2025 movie release schedule, set for December 19, 2025. 

Saldaña revealed the Avatar cast was headed back to work in mid-February, which hopefully means the current timeline is on track, with Avatar 4 set to release in December 2029, and Avatar 5 in December 2031.

James Cameron has done a relatively good job at keeping details quiet, but has revealed that like in Way of the Water, the audience will meet a new type of Na’vi, revolving around the element of fire.

It seems the director is keen on creating different cultures on Pandora, using the elements as guides, and once again mimicking conflicts that plague our own civilizations. I’m almost tempted to reference a different Avatar franchise with that thought, but I have a feeling that would lead me down a long rabbit hole. Until then, both Avatars are available to watch with a Disney+ subscription.