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.
The Start Date
So when are they lighting the fuse on this rocket? 20th Century Fox was originally planning release dates in December 2016, December 2017 and December 2018 for the three films with production on Avatar 2 scheduled to begin in the fall of 2014, with the, then, three planned sequels shooting back-to-back-to-back with Avatar 3 and Avatar 4. This was basically James Cameron mimicking the system that worked so well for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, right down to the winter theatrical premieres. With another sequel being added into the mix, the movies are now expected to begin filming in 2017, with the release for Avatar 2 currently being set in December 2018. The next sequels are expected to follow in 2020, 2022 and 2023, respectively.
As is not usual with big productions with so many moving parts this didn't exactly work out. Cameron has been honest about the difficulties that he's having putting together first three, and now four films that tell a coherent story. Unlike the previously mentioned Lord of the Rings, Cameron is writing an original story himself, so he's not simply adapting an existing plot.
Now, we're almost at the end of 2016, with only the barest hint of pre-production underway, and a current filming plan that will see four sequels film concurrently. Most recently, word from James Cameron noted that Avatar 2 is currently doing preproduction performance capture work. While the director says the film is in production, he's still been refining the scripts even recently. Exactly when filming will begin is not currently known, but with Zoe Saldana recently wrapped on Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it will have to fit sometime in whatever her current filming schedule is if she's still to have a significant role in the franchise.
Once principal production on all four films has been completed, the extensive post-production process will begin, and in between movies you can probably expect that the production teams will come back together for reshoots.
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. All sequels are expected to be filmed at the same time as Avatar 2, with the sequels releasing in 2020, 2022 and 2023. But, could there be even more movies after that? The composer behind Avatar, James Horner, said a few years ago that Cameron actually already had four film scripts in the can at that point. At the time that was one more than the three movies Cameron had said he was planning on making. Apparently, the plan was to reorganize those four scripts into three movies. However, that's been tried before. Peter Jackson was originally only going to make two Hobbit movies but when he ended up with enough material for three, that's what happened, so this may be why the new plan includes a fourth sequel. In the world of the cinematic universe, the studios do not turn down franchises that can continue on while with great success. No movie has ever printed more money than Avatar so the possibility for four more movies, or even more than that, is better than you might think.
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 if the December 2018 release date for Avatar 2 was still correct, Cameron recently said:
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 one of the other films 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.