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The surprises about Avatar never end. That James Cameron's 2009 film became the highest-grossing movie of all time for 10 years is a marvel. That 10 years later we're still waiting on a sequel is unexpected. That FOUR planned sequels are ahead is a full-on shock. And that Avatar's villain, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) -- who was apparently killed in the end -- is coming back for not just Avatar 2 but all of the planned sequels? OK. That sounds bonkers, but In James Cameron We Trust.
Stephen Lang was surprised to learn he was returning too. He recently weighed in on his incredible journey so far with Avatar, and everything they still have to come, promising a "broader canvas" in Avatar 2 and also an evolution for his character.
Stephen Lang was put on notice back in 2017 when James Cameron publicly announced Quaritch would remain Avatar's villain for the sequels. Here's what Cameron told Empire at the time:
The interesting conceit of the Avatar sequels is it’s pretty much the same characters. There are new characters and a lot of new settings and creatures, so I’m taking characters you know and putting them in unfamiliar places and moving them on this greater journey. But it’s not a whole bunch of new characters every time. There’s not a new villain every time, which is interesting. Same guy. Same motherfucker through all four movies. He is so good and he just gets better. I know Stephen Lang is gonna knock this out of the park.
Considering anyone who watched Avatar seemingly watched Neytiri kill Quaritch, Avatar 2 will have to explain his return, which could be done in any number of ways. For his part, Stephen Lang told The National it felt satisfying to know James Cameron wanted him to come back that much:
It’s very satisfying to know that the character was valued enough and made enough of an impression to [have Cameron] say ‘we’re not done with him yet’. That, initially, was kind of wonderful, to me. My job is really to advocate the role that I’m playing, and so it’s satisfying to have that much more time to discover Quaritch, find out what makes him tick, talk about him, and hopefully defy expectations that people have for the character, to create new expectations.
It sounds like a lot of character work is ahead for Quaritch, last seen as the head of mining operation RDA's private security detail. Here's more from Lang:
I’m working now with a much broader canvas than I was with the first Avatar, and it keeps me in concert with James Cameron to really go to town and examine the character in detail. That, to me, is totally tremendously satisfying and challenging.
James Cameron has four more Avatar films planned, with Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 filmed at the same time, along with pieces of what's to come. But Cameron has said himself that if Avatar 2 and 3 don't make enough money, chances aren't good for Avatar 4 and 5 to hit the big screen.
However, Stephen Lang is certainly operating from the standpoint that he's making four more films as Quaritch, and he definitely wants to show the character's evolution from Avatar, instead of making him a static two-dimensional villain. He previously teased how the world of Pandora would affect Quaritch deeply. Here's more on that to The National:
He has evolved, definitely. We’re making four more films, so if he doesn’t evolve, we’re in some kind of trouble. And it’s not always a question of evolution, it’s about becoming more deeply entrenched. I’m still discovering it. That’s something I’ll be discovering as we continue to work because we’re by no means near finished with this process.
Yes, by no means finished. James Cameron's plans for Avatar set a new definition for ambitious. He's also said he hopes the sequels are as successful as Avengers: Endgame, which dethroned Avatar in 2019 as the highest-grossing movie of all time. Cameron is pretty certain Avatar will get that title back with a re-release, and other Avatar 2 stars have also sounded pretty confident.
The bar for Avatar is pretty much that high. Doing well may not be enough, considering the investment. It needs to capture that zeitgeist again. Will it? I'm curious to see what James Cameron has been cooking up. So far, we've just seen sneak peeks of the sequels, showing off huge set pieces and some beautiful concept art.
Avatar 2 is currently scheduled for release on December 17, 2021. Here's what we know so far about the first sequel.