Everything We Know

Everything We Know About James Cameron's Avatar Sequels

We break down all the details of James Cameron's sprawling sci-fi saga, which is currently slated for at least four sequels, beginning with The Way of Water.

by | December 18, 2022 | Comments

When we last saw the final images of James Cameron’s blockbuster 2009 film Avatar, all humans, with the exceptions of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and a select few others, had been expelled from the Na’vi planet of Pandora and sent back to Earth. Lucky Jake was then transferred permanently into his avatar with the aid of the Tree of Souls.

In the years since, children have grown up and parents have welcomed grandchildren waiting for sequels that never arrived. Snapchat launched. The Cubs won a World Series. Why the interminable delay? Cameron, a renowned perfectionist, had to wait until the technologies for underwater CGI caught up to his ambitious visions of a world completely submerged in H2O. Now that it finally has, Cameron’s master plan is in place: he’s shooting four sequels back to back, two at a time.

Still image from Avatar: The Way of Water

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

To say this is the longest anticipated wait for a sequel in movie history would not be an understatement: Avatar remains the highest-grossing movie of all time with $2.8 billion worldwide at the box office.

Speaking at a Vivid event in Sydney, Cameron told vfxblog, “I guarantee one thing: Avatar 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all going to be in 3D and they will look sumptuous… they will be, to the best of my ability, the best 3D that’s possible to make.” And now that we’ve seen Avatar 2 — or, rather, Avatar: The Way of Water — we can certainly confirm that the visuals are as stunning as we all expected them to be. Read on for more details.

[Updated 12/18/22]

Who’s In Them?

20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and CCH Pounder will reprise their original roles, with Sigourney Weaver, who played Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, returning to voice a different role. Notable newcomers include Titanic star Kate Winslet, Game Of Thrones’ Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin), David Thewlis (the Harry Potter films), and Cliff Curtis (Fear The Walking Dead).

If your favorite character died in the first film, not to worry. Cameron has brought back Stephen Lang as Col. Quartich, last seen expiring from two arrows embedded in his chest, for all four films.  The director sounds pretty excited about it, as he told Empire Online:

“The interesting conceit of the Avatar sequels is it’s pretty much the same characters…. There are new characters and a lot of new settings and creatures, so I’m taking characters you know and putting them in unfamiliar places and moving them on this greater journey. But it’s not a whole bunch of new characters every time. There’s not a new villain every time, which is interesting. Same guy. Same motherf–ker through all four movies. He is so good and he just gets better. I know Stephen Lang is gonna knock this out of the park.”

What Are They About?

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

Plotlines are being kept under wraps, but we know the films will be set on Pandora, like The Way of Water. Back in 2018, Cameron gave a thematic overview to Gizmodo: “I found myself as a father of five starting to think about what would an Avatar story be like if it was a family drama, if it was The Godfather… So, that’s really what it is. It’s a generational family saga. And that’s very different from the first film.”

Even as far back as 2010, Vulture quoted Cameron discussing his plans for Avatar 2. “Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment — a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest. I’m not saying we won’t see what we’ve already seen; we’ll see more of that as well.”

All of that tracks with what we see in Avatar: The Way of Water, as it focuses on Sully (Worthington), the family he has made with Neytiri (Saldana), and specifically the experiences of their various children. Going forward, it’s likely Neteyam, Lo’ak, Tuk, Kiri, and Spider will figure more prominently in the storylines.

What Were The Technical Challenges?

Mark Fellman/20th Century Fox

(Photo by Mark Fellman/20th Century Fox)

Shooting with complicated underwater motion-capture technology is, as you might expect, difficult. Cameron told Collider, “The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror… Basically, whenever you add water to any problem, it just gets ten times harder.”

While Cameron says that water will be a part of Avatar 4 and 5, the real emphasis will be on 2 and 3. The stars of The Way of Water have spoken at length about the kinds of training they had to endure in order to shoot the complicated underwater scenes, with Kate Winslet famously breaking Tom Cruise’s record for the longest breath held underwater while shooting a film scene.

When Will They Come Out?

20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Avatar: The Way of Water was originally set to premiere on December 17, 2021, almost 12 years to the day after the original’s premiere, but production in New Zealand was put on hold in March of 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. The film eventually opened on December 16, 2022, and it will be followed by sequels 3, 4, and 5 in December 2024, December 2026, and December 2028, respectively.

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