The common refrain around James Cameron‘s plans for four more “Avatar” movies is that nobody wants to see them. But it’s worth remembering that even months before it opened, many were predicting that the original “Avatar” was going to flop. Well, $2.7 billion worldwide later, Cameron proved everybody wrong. However, there are no guarantees in life, and even the director knows that each of his planned “Avatar” sequels will need its predecessor to succeed.

Chatting with Vanity Fair, the filmmaker was candid about his ambitious plans, and the fact that if audiences don’t show up, he won’t get a chance to complete the vision for his five film arc.

“The scripts took four years. You can call that a delay, but it’s not really a delay because from the time we pushed the button to really go make the movies [until now,] we’re clicking along perfectly. We’re doing very well because of all the time that we had to develop the system and the pipeline and all that. We weren’t wasting time, we were putting it into tech development and design. So when all the scripts were approved, everything was designed. Every character, every creature, every setting. In a funny way it was to the benefit of the film because the design team had more time to work. . . . Most of the actors, the key principals, have all read all four scripts, so they know exactly what their character arcs are, they know where they’re going, they know how to modulate their arc now across the first two films,” Cameron explained. “We all know where we’re supposed to be dramatically in the saga, and that’s great. Let’s face it, if ‘Avatar 2‘ and ‘3‘ don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a ‘4‘ and ‘5.’ They’re fully encapsulated stories in and of themselves. It builds across the five films to a greater kind of meta narrative, but they’re fully formed films in their own right, unlike, say, ‘The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where you really just had to sort of go, ‘Oh, shit, all right, well I guess I better come back next year.’ Even though that all worked and everybody did.”

Essentially, it sounds like Cameron is giving himself space in case one of his “Avatar” movies doesn’t work; the films will stand on their own, even without a followup. However, he hopes it all pans out and promises that “Avatar” fans (are there any out there?) will be pleased with what he has cooking.

“It will be a natural extension of all the themes, and the characters, and the spiritual undercurrents. Basically, if you loved the first movie, you’re gonna love these movies, and if you hated it, you’re probably gonna hate these. If you loved it at the time, and you said later you hated it, you’re probably gonna love these,” he explained.

The first test for audiences will arrive when “Avatar 2” opens on December 18, 2020.