Avatar 2 is finally upon us, taking fans back to Pandora after a whopping 13-year wait, and the film looks to be another visually stunning watch, if the trailers and Avatar reactions and reviews are anything to go by.
Aptly titled The Way of Water, the sequel sees the Na'vi explore the planet's oceans, continuing the stories of Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and the rest of the tribe 15 years after the events of Avatar.
Sigourney Weaver has also returned for the new movie, but isn’t playing the same character, Dr Grace Augustine. Instead, she's playing Na'vi teenager Kiri, the adoptive daughter of Neytiri and Jake in the sequel.
The Way of Water also introduces fans to a whole new tribe, the water-dwelling Metkayina, with Kate Winslet starring as a pregnant member of the clan named Ronal.
Cliff Curtis (The Meg) portrays her husband Tonowari, the leader of the water-dwelling people, while Bailey Bass, Filip Geljo and Duane Evans Jr star as other members of the gang.
Beyond Avatar: The Way of Water, there is a further sequel scheduled for release in December 2024, and plans for another two films to follow in 2026 and 2028 respectively, with some of the cast members recently teasing what fans have to look forward to.
So, read on for everything we know so far about Avatar 2 as well as further sequels.
Avatar 2 UK release date (plus Avatar 3, 4 and 5)
Avatar: The Way of Water was released in cinemas worldwide on Friday 16th December 2022.
This release date marks roughly 13 years to the day since the release of the first film.
Filming on the sequels took such a long time because of the technological advancements required to tell the story and the logistical challenges of filming Avatar 2, 3 and 4 at the same time.
Fans won't have so long to wait for further adventures on Pandora, as Avatar 3 is slated for just two years' time on 20th December 2024.
There will be another two years before the following entry, as Avatar 4 is currently due to arrive on 18th December 2026, while the fifth movie will launch on 22nd 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.
However, it does bode well that much of the principal photography for the first trilogy is now complete, with Cameron offering an update to Dune director Denis Villeneuve as part of Variety's Directors on Directors series.
"[Avatar] 2 is kind of fully in the can, we have a working cut that we're filling in the visual effects and I feel pretty confident with that film," he said.
"[Avatar] 3 is still a bit shadowy, it's way too long and I haven't really turned my energy into a disciplined cutting process on that yet, but I know I've got it. I know I've got the performances and that's the important thing."
He added: "I've done all the capture and I've done most of the live-action shooting. I still have a little bit on some of the adult characters because we were more concerned with the kids ageing out [of their roles]."
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Who's in the cast of Avatar 2? New and returning characters
The following cast members have been confirmed for Avatar 2: The Way of Water.
- Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
- Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri
- Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
- Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge
- Joel David Moore as Dr Norm Spellman
- Vin Diesel as TBC
- Edie Falco as General Ardmore
- Michelle Yeoh as Dr Karina Mogue
- Jemaine Clement as Dr Ian Garvin
- Cliff Curtis as Tonowari
- Kate Winslet as Ronal
- Sigourney Weaver as Kiri
- CCH Pounder as Mo'at
- Jamie Flatters as Neteyam
- Britain Dalton as Lo'ak
- Trinity Bliss as Tuktirey ("Tuk")
- Bailey Bass as Tsireya ("Reya")
- Filip Geljo as Aonung
- Duane Evans Jr. as Rotxo
- Dileep Rao as Dr Max Patel
- Matt Gerald as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet
- Jack Champion as Javier "Spider" Socorro
- Brendan Cowell as Captain Mick Scoresby
- Oona Chaplin as Varang
- CJ Jones as TBC
A key focus of the Avatar sequels will continue to be the characters of Jake Sully and Neytiri, played by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña respectively, who have started a family together in the sequel.
Cameron's longtime collaborator Sigourney Weaver previously confirmed that she would also return for the next movie, but told The Jonathan Ross Show back in 2015 that she won't be playing the same character, Dr Grace Augustine, whose fate was left uncertain by the events of the first film.
It was later confirmed she is playing Grace's 15-year-old daughter, Kiri. Cameron himself explained that she was born of Grace's avatar, despite the latter being "brain-dead," before being adopted by Jake and Neytiri.
The director also revealed that Kiri is "going through some emotional stuff" which changes as soon as she takes her first swim, which becomes a "transformative experience".
"She goes from this anxious and depressed state to one that's joyful and reconnected over the course of a three-minute scene," Cameron told EW.
As well as Kiri, Jake and Sully have four more children – Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Bliss), and adopted human child Spider (Jack Champion).
It also appears that death will be no major obstacle in this sci-fi saga, as it has been confirmed that Stephen Lang (Don't Breathe) will be returning for the sequels as the villainous Colonel Miles Quaritch, who was killed after waging an immoral war against the Na'vi in the first film's final act.
"I’m not going to say exactly how we’re bringing him back, but it’s a science fiction story, after all," Cameron told Deadline in 2013. "His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga."
Other returning cast members include Giovanni Ribisi as corporate stooge Parker Selfridge, Matt Gerald as mercenary Lyle Wainfleet and CCH Pounder as Neytiri's mother Mo'at, while Joel David Moore and Dileep Rao reprise their roles as Jake's human allies Dr Norm Spellman and Dr Max Patel.
In addition to reuniting much of his original cast, Cameron has also made some big-name additions to the Avatar universe, including a reunion with his Titanic star Kate Winslet.
The actor, who recently earned acclaim for her harrowing role on HBO's Mare of Easttown, plays a free-diving Na'vi of the reef tribe Metkayina named Ronal, who is pregnant.
Cliff Curtis (The Meg) plays her husband Tonowari, the leader of the water-dwelling people, with relative newcomers Bailey Bass, Filip Geljo and Duane Evans Jr among the other members of the clan.
Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco will play a military commander working for the sinister Resources Development Administration (or RDA), while Brendan Cowell (Press) is a Pandora-based hunter working for the private sector.
It has also been confirmed that Oona Chaplin (Taboo), Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious) and CJ Jones (Baby Driver) will also be part of the Avatar saga, but little is known about their characters at this stage.
Behind the camera, Simon Franglen (Titanic) has been brought on board to score all the forthcoming Avatar sequels after the original composer, James Horner, passed away in 2015 (as explained by producer Jon Landau).
What will the Avatar films be called?
BBC News previously 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 story and plot
Prior to release, James Cameron revealed only a few details about Avatar 2, the most important being that much of the story will take place underwater around a settlement by the Metkayina people.
"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.”
More recently, the director told EW that the military organisation waging war on the Na'vi in the first film – the RDA (Resources Development Administration) – remains a threat to Pandora, with Jake waging guerrilla warfare against the organisation.
"[Jake]'s trying to keep his kids alive and trying to adjust his own life," the director said. "Is he still a warrior? Are these young boys who are 14, 15, 16, coming up, getting all excited about wanting to go to war and fight for their people and for their land? How's [Jake] going to be a hypocrite and hold them back when he has to go do it?"
The RDA's advancements force Jake to seek out the Metkayina, but whether the tribes will unite against their common enemy remains a mystery.
Avatar 2 star Stephen Lang also said that fans will be "enchanted and fascinated" by the upcoming films.
"Look, there are people who are going to just adore this world," he told Entertainment Weekly. "It's just a beautifully imagined universe that Cameron has conceived of here.
"The partners we have, the people working by his [side], are committed to the vision of it and they bring so much to the table, from the actors to the caterers and everybody else. I'm looking forward to it as much as everyone else. It's been so long in the making, so long a part of my life."
In May 2020, a teaser picture of the cast doing some motion-capture work in a 900,000 gallon water tank was released online, showing that Cameron wasn't kidding about the scale of the work.
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."
Avatar: The Way of Water trailer
The full theatrical trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water was released on Wednesday 2nd November 2022, which showed off some more of the storyline to expect.
The spectacular visuals are sure to go down well with fans of the first film, but it seems an emotional story about family will continue to take focus.
The teaser trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water was released in cinemas to accompany Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on 5th May 2022.
The trailer was released online on Tuesday 10th May 2022 and shows off scenes underwater and beyond in the new film, with a look at the Sully family all these years later.
Can the Metkayina people prosper or will they face a human threat once again?
Catch the trailer above.
Why was Avatar 2 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 was able to restart relatively quickly.
“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 2020.
“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.”
Avatar 2 resumed shooting on Monday 15th June 2020 and finally wrapped that September, after a truly epic production cycle that has stretched far beyond what most fans had expected.
Before coronavirus became an issue, the sequels had already taken a long time to start filming, largely due to Cameron's bold choice to work on three of them simultaneously.
That required all the scripts to be written and a huge amount of design work to be completed before cameras could start rolling, not to mention the substantial technological development required to make his underwater vision a reality.
"It was highly optimistic that we could start quickly until scripts are written," the filmmaker told Vanity Fair in November 2017. "If there’s no scripts, there’s nothing, right?
"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."
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.
In his episode of Variety's Directors on Directors, Cameron explained: "Earth is not one ecosystem; it has desert, it has rainforest, it has ocean, polar, arboreal, forest and so on.
"So I said: 'Well, I'm inspired by Earth. I'm going to do a planet that's so rich and so complex, that has so many different ecosystems, I can just spend as much time here as I need to'."
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.
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.”
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 re-emerged 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, 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 ahead.