It’s been a long time since Avatar was wowing cinema goers with its cutting edge visual effects and inventive use of 3D, but work on a slate of sequels has been ongoing for the last decade.
It appears that director James Cameron is intent on topping his sci-fi epic, which is no small feat given it was a genuine phenomenon at the time of release, raking in almost $3 billion at the global box office.
Of course, the world is quite different now. In the ten years since Avatar hit cinemas, interest in the franchise has faded somewhat as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ascended to multiplex dominance.
Can the noble Na’Vi seize back their crown? Only time will tell, but the staggering amount of time, effort and money that has been poured into Avatar 2 means it has the potential to be something rather special.
Originally scheduled for release in 2014, the long-awaited follow-up has been delayed repeatedly and now faces further complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as shooting on the first sequel, rumoured to be titled The Way of the Water, has been able to resume in New Zealand.
Find out everything you need to know about Avatar 2, and the other three sequels, below.
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.
There’s a good chance that the film will meet this latest date, given that it has recently resumed filming in New Zealand, after the country was able to keep its COVID-19 cases remarkably low.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Does Avatar 2 have a title?
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.
Taboo‘s Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie) is also set to appear in Avatar 2 and 3, while Fast & Furious star Vin Diesel has also revealed his involvement in the upcoming sequels.
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.
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.”
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 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?
Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender (Paramount Pictures)
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.