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Over the last 10 years we've seen countless major movie franchises come and go, but few have had the global appeal of James Cameron's Avatar. Released in December 2009, the film continues to hold the record as the highest-grossing movie of all time, pulling in $2.782 billion worldwide and while that record may be about to fall, the strength of Avatar should not be overlooked. We have been patiently waiting for sequels to arrive ever since, and while the filmmaking team behind the franchise has been taking its time, they have some absolutely gigantic plans for the future.
Avatar 2 and its several other sequels have been in development for years and while it has looked a time or two like the movies might never actually happen, the second and third Avatar sequels are actually in production now, so baring massive disaster, they at least will happen. Here's everything we know about Avatar 2 so far.
What Is The Avatar 2 Release Date?
Avatar 2 was originally set for release back in 2015, but one delay after another set in, which pushed the date back again and again. The movie was always slated for a Christmas release, but what year that would happen was never very clear. Finally, release dates for not just Avatar 2, but all the sequels were set, with the first movie coming in 2020 and it seemed like that date might stick. However, one additional delay was announced when Disney set its first release calendar following the Fox merger. Avatar 2 is now set to open December 17, 2021.
What Is The Avatar 2 Rating?
Films with major blockbuster potential like Avatar 2 usually want to get as many butts into those theater seats as possible. So, while there's been no word on the actual story of the sequel, it's unlikely that it will drift into Rated R territory. We should also note that the original film received a PG-13 rating, and it's a good bet that Avatar 2, and the three sequels planned after it, will attempt to stick with the same rating.
The first Avatar was truly a passion project for James Cameron, as the filmmaker spent years and years developing both the script and the technological advancements that needed to be made. So, you didn't really expect him to hand off the sequels to someone else, did you? Cameron will be coming back for not just Avatar 2, but for 3, 4 and 5 as well.
He has some big plans for the technological side of things, and has talked about both filming at higher frame rates using performance capture underwater. You can be sure that Avatar 2 will push the boundaries of what can be accomplished in modern filmmaking. Cameron wants to show that the first film's success was not a fluke. The director is certainly not expecting success to come automatically to the Avatar sequels simply because the first one did well.
What's Avatar 2 Called?
Officially, Avatar 2 has no title beyond simply that, Avatar 2. A collection of potential subtitles were leaked that appeared to give the next movie the title Avatar: The Way of Water. James Cameron later confirmed that the leaked titles were potential names for the film, but he claimed nothing has been decided on yet.
James Cameron was the lone credited screenwriter on the first Avatar movie, but for the four sequels he has brought in a full team of collaborators who have helped him break down all upcoming chapters of the franchise. Josh Friedman, who penned Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds remake and was one of the key people behind the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, was the first one to sign on.
Then, he was followed by Rise of the Planet of the Apes veterans Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and Armageddon's Shane Salerno, all of whom will be working side-by-side with Cameron. Major plot details haven't been revealed yet, but the director has said that the sequels will introduce "whole new worlds, habitats, and cultures," which very well could mean that we will get to meet some different kinds of intelligent alien species.
While the Avatar sequels were written as one large, ever expanding beast, and are being largely filmed together, we're being told that each of the upcoming films, including Avatar 2, are being created as standalone films, rather than being four parts of a larger story.
With so many details about Avatar 2 and the other sequels still scarce, we recently got an update on the content of those films from James Cameron. While speaking about Toruk, the Cirque du Soleil Avatar prequel, Cameron spilled the beans on a major theme for the planned films: family.
The storyline in the sequels really follows Jake and Neytiri and their children. It's more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans.
The one thing we do know about Avatar 2 is that the story will be focused around the oceans of the planet Pandora, and what details we have about new characters would appear to confirm that much.
This will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, but the main character of Avatar might be coming back for the franchise's sequels. Sam Worthington, who has spent the years since his breakout role in the original sci-fi blockbuster starring in movies like Clash of the Titans, Man on a Ledge and Sabotage, had signed a deal that would have seen him playing human-turned-Na'vi Jake Sully for the foreseeable future.
The Aussie actor was even the first to reveal the production start date in November 2013, saying, "I'll be grateful if it finishes. I think Jim is building the ship to Pandora, to be honest." But, now that we know the Avatar sequels will each tell different stories that simply form a complete saga, it's unclear if there will even be a role for Worthington in any of the planned films. Of course, production didn't start anywhere near November 2013, and has, in fact, still not begun to any significant degree, so casting on any of the sequels could change at any time.
If Jake Sully comes back, you know that his alien lady love would come back as well, and that had been the case. Like Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana had confirmed that she would be back as Neytiri in Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5. The actress talked a bit about what she had seen from the production, and even admitted that she and James Cameron got very emotional discussing the story that was then supposed to play out over the next few years.
But, with Saldana becoming a queen of the sci-fi genre in her own right since the release of Avatar, taking part in not just the new Star Trek films, but also Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy, along with the fact that the Avatar sequels have yet to begun production in earnest, it's no longer a guarantee that she'll be involved in a major way. As with most of what's been happening with the Avatar franchise, we'll have to wait and see.
Dr. Grace Augustine
Many of you will probably remember that Dr. Grace Augustine (played by Sigourney Weaver) actually died in her Avatar form in the last movie, but, apparently, the original plan for Avatar 2 was not going to stop her from appearing in the sequel. Less than three months after Avatar's release in 2009, it was confirmed that Dr. Augustine has a place in Avatar 2. In October 2010, James Cameron explained the character's survival by saying "Nobody dies in a science fiction movie," but the real reason will presumably be revealed in the sequel, if Weaver's character will still be involved.
What we do know is that whatever form Weaver takes in Avatar 2 will be evolving over time. A few years ago she said that her part is a little bit different in each sequel and that she'll "transform somewhat" between them. However, it's possible her character has been transforming even within the script writing process. Even more recently, Weaver has said she's not actually playing the same character in the sequels as she did in the original. So, maybe Grace Augustine is dead after all, even though Sigourney Weaver will be back. It's hard to say for sure at this point.
Colonel Miles Quaritch
Remember that quote about nobody really dying in a science-fiction movie? Well, that rule apparently applies to Stephen Lang's Colonel Miles Quaritch, who we last saw getting two arrows through the chest courtesy of Neytiri. While audiences may have assumed that the villain had passed on, it turns out that's not the case. Described as the "Darth Vader" of the franchise, our last information on Quaritch said that he was going to continue to be an antagonistic force in all upcoming Avatar sequels. James Cameron has said that he has a very interesting and unexpected arc through the movies, so he's definitely a character to keep an eye on.
Other Returning Characters
In addition to these major returning characters, several other actors will be returning to the world of Pandora for Avatar 2, if not every sequel that comes after. Dileep Rao played Dr. Max Patel, one of the scientists on the Avatar program who comes to the aid of Jake Sully. Joel David Moore will be back in the role of Norm Spellman, another friend of Sully's, and the only human allowed to remain on Pandora after the rest of humanity is booted out at the end of the first film.
CCH Pounder will be back as Mo'at, the spiritual leader of the Na'vi. Also, Matt Gerald will be back as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, which makes him no less than the third actor who will return for Avatar 2 despite the fact that the character died in the first movie.
The bulk of the new actors joining the cast of Avatar 2 are actually quite young. We know that the story will focus largely on the children of Jake Sully and Neytiri, as many years will have passed between the events of the first two Avatar movies. Jamie Flatters will play the oldest child of the two characters, a boy named Neteyam. Britain Dalton will play middle child Lo'ak. Youngest child, and only daughter Tuktirey will be played by the young Trinity Bliss..
There is a single confirmed human character being played by a child actor, Jack Champion will appear in the role of Javier 'Spider' Socorro. He was born at Hell's Gate, the former human colony, but prefers spending his time exploring Pandora.
Avatar 2 will also introduce us to an entirely new civilization of Pandora, the ocean-based Metkayina. Three major young roles have been cast from this group. Filip Geljo will play Aonung, the son of the Metkayina clan leader. Bailey Bass will play the role of Tsireya, a character described as a graceful and strong free diver. Finally, Duane Evans Jr. will play a character named Roxto.
Other New Characters
There are plenty of new grown up characters joining the cast of Avatar 2. The biggest addition to the cast is James Cameron's leading lady from Titanic Kate Winslet. She'll play a character named Ronal, but beyond a name we don't know much about her. Based on the fact that Winslet was holding her breath for seven minutes at a time during production, it leads one to believe she'll be playing one of the reef people of Pandora.
Other new actors joining the Avatar franchise include Fear the Walking Dead's Cliff Curtis as Tonowari, the chief of the reef people. Oona Chaplain will play Varang, who sounds like another Na'vi, but we don't really no for sure. Most recently, Jemaine Clement has joined the cast as one of the few confirmed new human characters, a marine biologist named Dr. Ian Garvin
James Cameron is known for his love of technology. He seems to always be looking for new ways to use the newest techniques to do something unique in his movies. His use of 3D in Avatar is one of the main reasons that the technology is still used today and his work on motion capture, especially with faces, was a big part of what Cameron used to sell Avatar to both the studio and the public.
But that was 2009, what has James Cameron been up to lately? Avatar producer Jon Landau has spoken with a man named Douglas Trumbull about a new film process that combines 4K resolution, 3D and high frame rates (up to 120 per second) into one package. This sounds like a match made in heaven for James Cameron. He's a big proponent of both 3D and HFR so it would be far from surprising if this tech was adopted for this, or future Avatar sequels.
Because 3D essentially requires two frames in order to create it, getting 3D and a high frame rate at the same time is difficult, add in four thousand lines of resolution and the math gets even more complicated. All these things together, however, could bring Pandora to life like never before.
Speaking of 3D technology, it's possible that the most challenging aspect of these new films will be Cameron's desire to use a 3D process that, wait for it, doesn't require the audience to wear special glasses while watching the movies. That technology is currently available, but the difficulty lies in utilizing it on a large screen meant for more than one viewer, and with people sitting at a wide variety of angles and distances from that screen.
In theory, scaling up a glasses-free 3D image should be possible, but it hasn't been done at this point, and the cost of the process isn't commercially viable yet. Of course, with all the delays that have already occurred with the Avatar sequels, it's not impossible that James Cameron's films could be delayed long enough for production and the tech to catch up to one another.
Following Avatar 2 there will be at least three more movies. Avatar 3 is filming concurrently with Avatar 2, and is scheduled for a December 2023 release. Originally, the plan was to wait to film the other two movies until after Avatar 3 had been released. However, all that was before Disney purchased 21st Century Fox.
The latter two movies had not been officially given the green light by Disney at that point. but Avatar 4 and 5 are now on the official Disney release calendar and set for December 2025 and 2027 respectively. Based on how long these movies take to make, it seems likely the latter two films will be going into production earlier than previously planned.
Now, with so many delays behind this franchise already, you might be wondering if the current sequel schedule is now firmly set in stone. Well, not quite. James Cameron's high standards rule where this is concerned, and, to his mind, the important thing is doing the films right instead of simply doing them quickly. When asked a while back if the December 2018 release date for Avatar 2 was still correct, Cameron said:
We haven't moved that target yet, but we will if we need to. The important thing for me is not when the first one comes out but the cadence of the release pattern. I want them to be released as close together as possible. If it's an annual appointment to show up at Christmas, I want to make sure that we're able to fulfill on that promise.
So, it looks like, aside from some much appreciated perfectionism, Cameron is also concerned with the release pattern of all the sequels. He doesn't want Avatar 2 to be released and then end up having an unexpected delay for Avatar 3 or for one of the other films to stop the flow of Avatar goodness into theaters for the next few years. This likely means that all films will have to be pretty near to completion before we get to see Avatar 2 in theaters.
As always, stay tuned to CinemaBlend and we'll keep you up to date on all the latest in the Avatar 2 production saga.