Over a decade has passed since Avatar arrived in theatres – back when 3D glasses were a novelty and motion capture was a revolutionary filming technique – however the blockbuster’s long-awaited sequels are finally on their way.
Avatar’s director James Cameron recently revealed to Cinema Blend that filming on Avatar 2 was “100 per cent complete” and that he’s now working on finishing Avatar 3, so it looks as though we’ll be reunited with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) in 2022 after all.
Hopefully the sequels won’t be delayed any further by COVID-19, after the original release date was pushed back by eight years from 2014 for other reasons, but with shooting having wrapped, fingers crossed Avatar 2 will stay on track for 2022.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming Avatar sequels – from announced cast members to the films’ titles.
Avatar 2 release date (plus Avatar 3, 4 and 5)
While it looked for a moment as if Avatar 2 could actually be released this year, the film had to be delayed (again) due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Disney pushing it back to 17th December 2021. Now Disney has pushed it back once again to December 2022.
However, the film seems to be on track to arrive in 2022, after director James Cameron recently announced that filming on Avatar 2 had wrapped.
Speaking to Cinema Blend, the director said: “So where we are right now, I’m down in New Zealand shooting. We’re shooting the remainder of the live-action. We’ve got about 10 per cent left to go. We’re 100 per cent complete on Avatar 2, and we’re sort of 95 per cent complete on Avatar 3.”
Once the first Avatar sequel is finally released, fans won’t have so long to wait for further adventures on Pandora, as Avatar 3 is slated for just two years later on 22nd December 2024.
Cameron added: “The day we deliver Avatar 2, we’ll just start working on finishing Avatar 3.”
There will be a three-year break for the following entry, as Avatar 4 is currently due to arrive on 19th December 2026, while the fifth movie will launch on 17th December 2028.
Of course, take this ambitious plan with a grain of salt; Avatar 2 was initially scheduled for release in 2014, so that gives you an idea of just how unreliable these official dates have been up until now.
What will the Avatar films be called?
BBC News reported that it had “seen documentation” which revealed the titles for the four sequels as the following:
- Avatar: The Way of Water
- Avatar: The Seed Bearer
- Avatar: The Tulkun Rider
- Avatar: The Quest for Eywa
However, nothing has been officially confirmed just yet and, even if the documentation is accurate, the titles could very well change before release.
Avatar 2 cast – new and returning characters
The core cast from the original film, including Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington, are all on long-running contracts, so they will be returning for the sequels.
Kate Winslet is reuniting with director James Cameron after their iconic tragedy Titanic, while Nurse Jackie’s Edie Falco, Star Trek: Discovery‘s Michelle Yeoh and The Walking Dead‘s Cliff Curtis have also bagged roles.
Avatar 2 story and plot
James Cameron has revealed only a few details about the sequels. The first, and most important, is that much of it will take place underwater.
“There’s a tremendous amount of water work across Avatar two and three,” Cameron told Collider. “It’s ongoing into four and five, but the emphasis is on two and three.”
Recently, 20th Century Studios released a teaser picture of the cast doing some motion-capture work in a water tank, showing that Cameron wasn’t kidding about the importance.
From the set of the sequels: @ZoeSaldana, Sam Worthington, Kate Winslet, and Cliff Curtis taking a break from underwater performance capture for a quick photo!— Avatar (@officialavatar) May 13, 2020
Fun fact: Much of the performance capture took place in this 900,000 gallon tank, built specifically for the sequels. pic.twitter.com/NSfqoZ6jXJ
We also know that each sequel will be a standalone adventure, rather than another instalment in a serialised story.
“Each movie is a standalone movie that we would want to go see,” producer Jon Landau told Collider. “You don’t need to have seen the first Avatar to see Avatar 2. It sits there and we’re gonna take people on a visual and an emotional journey that comes to its own conclusion.”
Later, Landau also revealed that Avatar 2 is something of a family story.
“This is the story of the Sully family and what one does to keep their family together,” he said.
“Jake and Neytiri have a family in this movie, they are forced to leave their home, they go out and explore the different regions of Pandora, including spending quite a bit of time on the water, around the water, in the water.”
According to Gamesrader, Jake and Neytiri will have three children in the Avatar sequels: Neteyam, Lo’ak and Tuktirey.
Everything else is up in the air, but we expect more details to come out as we inch closer to its 2021 release date – check back here for more info as we have it. Catch up on the first Avatar film by buying the DVD or BluRay on Amazon now.
Avatar 2 trailer
An official trailer for Avatar 2 has not yet been officially released – but we’ll keep this page updated with any new clips so watch this space!
Why was Avatar delayed?
Like most films around the world, shooting on Avatar 2 was halted as the world locked down – but thanks to New Zealand’s powerful response to the coronavirus, production has now restarted.
“We feel very comfortable because of the actions of [the NZ] government and also the responsibility the people took to really curb the virus there,” producer Jon Landau told Radio New Zealand in May.
“So we feel we’re coming back to the safest place in the world possible thanks to a team of people that we’ve worked with. We believe we have a very thoughtful, detailed and diligent safety plan that will keep everybody as safe as possible in these unprecedented times.”
From the New Zealand set of the Avatar sequels, we're grateful to be safely back in action. pic.twitter.com/t8xTsUVdM6— Avatar (@officialavatar) June 22, 2020
The film resumed shooting on Monday 15th June, with Landau claiming that they were going to hire 400 New Zealanders to work on the film.
Avatar 2 first look images
Arguably the most captivating thing about the first Avatar movie was its setting, the incredible and fully realised world of Pandora, where the Na’Vi have lived peacefully for generations.
The official Twitter account promises you’ll see plenty more of it in the films to come, not just the familiar landmarks of the first entry, but all-new areas of the breathtaking planet.
The concept art below shows off beautiful beaches, with ocean adventures said to feature heavily in the upcoming sequels, as one of the most challenging parts of production has been mastering underwater technology.
In the #Avatar sequels, you won’t just return to Pandora — you’ll explore new parts of the world.— Avatar (@officialavatar) January 7, 2020
Check out these brand new concept art pieces for a sneak peek at what’s to come. pic.twitter.com/bfZPWVa7XZ
Avatar 2 filming techniques
Initially, the films were reportedly delayed because Cameron was intent on making them a technological marvel on the same scale as the original.
To do so, he turned to underwater CGI, which has never been done in any great measure beforehand, and meant a long spell of pre-production.
Cameron explained the main issues of this filming technique in an interview with Collider.
“The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror,” he said.
“That moving mirror reflects all the dots and markers, and it creates a bunch of false markers. It’s a little bit like a fighter plane dumping a bunch of chaff to confuse the radar system of a missile. It creates thousands of false targets, so we’ve had to figure out how to get around that problem, which we did.
“Basically, whenever you add water to any problem, it just gets ten times harder. So, we’ve thrown a lot of horsepower, innovation, imagination and new technology at the problem, and it’s taken us about a year and a half now to work out how we’re going to do it.”
Why has Avatar 2 taken so long to film?
In addition to the demanding technical side, Cameron’s desire to have all four sequels written and ready to go before shooting began on Avatar 2 slowed things down quite a bit.
“The scripts took four years,” he told Vanity Fair. “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.”
Then, when the film was finally underway, the coronavirus pandemic hit and production was shut down worldwide – but New Zealand’s unique recovery has meant that filming can begin again sooner than on other productions around the world.
Finally, Avatar can do things a little more quickly…
How do the Avatar movies relate to The Last Airbender?
Well, they don’t relate at all – Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated series from Nickelodeon that recently reemerged in the popular consciousness due to new streaming deals on Netflix, and bears no relationship to James Cameron’s film series.
There is one connection between the two Avatars, however – when M. Night Shyamalan turned the cartoon series into a critically-derided live-action movie (pictured), he was unable to use the “Avatar” title thanks to Cameron buying up the copyright, meaning he had to use the suffix “The Last Airbender” instead.
It’s unclear whether Netflix’s upcoming live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series will have similar issues, though with more of Cameron’s Avatar movies coming there could be more confusion to come.
You can buy Avatar on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon, or stream on Disney+. Check out our list of the best movies on Disney+ and the best 2020 movies, or visit our TV Guide to find something else to watch.