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We've seen a lot of absolutely gigantic blockbusters over the last five years, from the record-shattering performance of James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy to Peyton Reed's summer hit Ant-Man to Zack Snyder's Superman reboot Man of Steel, but none of them have been able to come anywhere close to the high bar set by 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. 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.
Just like we've done for Captain America: Civil War, Batman V Superman, and many other major blockbuster movies, we have put together a special guide to help all of you keep track of the latest developments of Avatar 2 and beyond. Who from the cast of the first movie is coming back? Where will the new story take us? Read on to find out!
What Is The Avatar 2 Release Date?
Right now, the plan is to release Avatar 2 sometime in December 2018. The only problem with this forecasting is that the film has missed several production start dates and potential release dates already. With all the delays the film has experienced, plus the new plan to film all four sequels at once, it's entirely possible that the movie will blow through this proposed release date once again.
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 technology 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.
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, but 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.
The major challenge that Cameron has to face with the script is that while he's trying to write one story, he's also trying to write four movies. It sounds like the script for Avatar 2 will not be a single story, but part of a larger one that will stretch through all of the upcoming sequels. Doing this has proven to be difficult, which the primary reason the film has taken as long as it has. He wants to be sure that the narrative is sound between all four films, while obviously also being consistent with the first. Since the plan is to film all four movies at the same time he has to make sure the scripts for all four films are ready to shoot before he begins filming Avatar 2. Otherwise, he runs the risk of not putting something in this movie that he'll need somewhere down the road.
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.
Now, we have no idea if this means that Jake and Neytiri will already have children when Avatar 2 opens, or if we'll slowly watch them build a family over the course of the sequels, but you can't deny that it sounds interesting.
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.
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.