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 decade 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.
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 3-D and they will look sumptuous… they will be, to the best of my ability, the best 3-D that’s possible to make.”
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and CCH Pounder will reprise their original roles, with Sigourney Weaver, who played Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, expected to return in 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 is bringing 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.”
Plotlines are being kept under wraps, but we know the films will be set on Pandora. A year ago, 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.”
And way back in 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.”
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.
As reported in May of 2019, Avatar 2 is currently still set to premiere on December 17, 2021, almost 12 years to the day after the original’s premiere, although production in New Zealand was put on hold in March of 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. Sequels 3, 4, and 5 will roll out December 2023, December 2025, and December 2027 respectively.