In 2009, James Cameron released Avatar and it was an instant success. Avatar quickly became the highesthighest-grossing movie of all time. It was only recently toppled by the juggernaut known as Avengers: Endgame. With success that huge a sequel seemed assured and Cameron soon began talking up Avatar 2. Ten years later, we’re still waiting for Avatar 2, but after much delay it’s happening soon.
Avatar is the saga of a space Marine using a remote control “avatar” to infiltrate native people on the faraway world of Pandora, only to ultimately shift allegiances and join their cause against corporate/pseudo-governmental forces. Not only did Avatar top $2.7 billion at the box office and win multiple Academy Awards, Avatar upped the game technologically as well. Cameron’s use of cutting-edge equipment created an expansive and immersive world that many have since attempted to copy.
The filmmaker loves to play with new tech, and the studios love movies that earn billions of dollars, so sequels were perhaps inevitable. That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy road. It’s been a series of starts and stops, and a decade down the line, Avatar 2 has been slow to materialize.
Now Avatar 2 is in the works and on the way. The wheels are turning and production is moving forward. With that in mind, here is all we know about Avatar 2… so far.
Directing Avatar 2
Though he doesn’t crank them out all that frequently, when he makes a movie, James Cameron leaves a definite impression. Avatar is his baby, so there was never a chance he was going to hand over control of Avatar 2 to anyone else. He’s led the development every step of the way on Avatar 2, from conception to script to hashing out the technology he wants to use.
It’s not just Avatar 2 Cameron has in the works. There are currently also plans for Avatar 3, 4, and 5 in various stages of development. That’s a lot, but as of now, James Cameron has signed himself up to sit in the big chair for all of the impending Avatar sequels.
Writing Avatar 2
Because Avatar 2 has been in development for so long, it’s evolved over time. Cameron’s plan has always been to film multiple sequels back to back and release them in relatively quick succession—the current schedule is for one movie every two years. Because of this, he’s had multiple scripts in the works at the same time.
This is a major undertaking. While Cameron is the only credited writer on Avatar, he has understandably enlisted the help of other writers for Avatar 2 and the subsequent films. He’s still directly involved, but he’s sharing duties this time with Josh Friedman.
Recently, Friedman had a “story by” credit on Terminator: Dark Fate, but he has a lengthy resume. He penned Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds remake, helped develop Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for TV, and will work on Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.
Cameron also worked and is working on the scripts for the later Avatar sequels with various writers or teams of writers. More on that later.
The Plot of Avatar 2
It’s not uncommon for people to refer to the plot of Avatar as Dances with Wolves in space. While not entirely accurate, there are similarities between Cameron’s sci-fi opus and Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning epic. A traumatized hero takes a troubled mission, encounters an indigenous population alien to and in conflict with his own, falls in love, has his perspective changed, and switches allegiances. But what about the plot of Avatar 2?
As usual with big blockbusters of this ilk, there aren’t a ton of details. And those floating around are largely based on rumor and speculation.
Based on what’s available, the plot of Avatar 2 picks up 12 years after the events of the first film. Since joining the Na’vi, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), now a chieftain, and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), now an elevated priestess, have started a family and have multiple children.The story also reportedly opens up the world of Pandora and explores other areas of the planet. We will meet a new tribe called the Metkayina, who live on or near the water. They’re described as “reef people” and “free divers,” and water reportedly plays a large role. Problems arise when the Resources Development Administration once again invades Pandora after being expelled, still hoping to exploit the planet’s valuable reserves of Unobtanium.
Given that the film plans to broaden the scope and do some exploring, it seems likely we’ll also encounter new creatures, people, and environments along the way.
Cameron has indicated Avatar 2 revolves around themes of family and also imprisonment. The kids play a major role in the film and much of the plot hinges on conflict within the family unit. The director even said he filmed a significant fight between Sully and Neytiri from the perspective of their eight-year-old daughter.
Actors Returning for Avatar 2
It’s rare to see a sequel where no one from the first film returns. Sure, some are set in the same world as an earlier film but follow new characters. Avatar 2, however, is not one of those movies, so expect to see familiar faces. Both those you expect and a few that might puzzle you.
As already mentioned, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana will reprise their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri, respectively. The duo forms the center of the first film and will reportedly do the same for Avatar 2, as well as the ensuing sequels. Expect to see a lot of their blue, motion-captured faces. Reports indicate that Sully has ascended to the role of a leadership role among the Omaticaya, the primary Na’vi clan in this story, while Neytiri has become a high priestess. It’s no surprise that they’ve ascended to positions of power and influence, given their roles in the earlier conflict.
Sigourney Weaver also appears in Avatar 2. This one raises a few more eyebrows since her character, Dr. Grace Augustine, dies in Avatar. Weaver’s involvement actually came out early on after the sequels were announced. Granted, this is science fiction, and a world where a character’s consciousness can inhabit an avatar, so there are definitely feasible ways to resurrect the dead.
For her part, Weaver has indicated she plays a different character. That makes the most sense, though it raises different questions. How do they account for the fact she looks exactly like a dead person? Then again, this is a movie where actors are frequently obscured by digital effects, so she could easily play a Na’vi or other species. The Alien star said she had to learn some aquatic-based skills for the film, so perhaps she plays one of the Metkayina.
Weaver also indicated she will be around for multiple sequels but said her “part is a little different in each one. I’ll transform somewhat.” That’s an intriguing prospect that could mean many things. Perhaps her character changes and evolves over time; perhaps she plays different characters in each, but ones that fill similar narrative roles.
Whatever her role, Weaver is not the only actor in Avatar 2 whose character perished in the first film. Stephen Lang will also be back. Again, viewers of Avatar may remember the arrows Neytiri put in the chest of his character, Colonel Miles Quaritch, last time.
Death is apparently not what it used to be and Quaritch will not only return, but also reprise his role as one of the primary antagonists of the Avatar universe. Quaritch has been called the Darth Vader of this tale, and while Cameron hasn’t said how he’s back, he did say, “His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga.” So, expect to see more of the muscular villain in this film and future installments.
These are obviously the biggest pieces set to return for Avatar 2, but they’re not the only ones. Plenty of supporting players will also be back. Giovanni Ribisi’s RDA stooge, Parker Selfridge, will be back. Joel David Moore’s Dr. Norm Spellman, Sully’s pal who sided with the Na’vi and remained on Pandora, also returns. As does sympathizer Dr. Max Patel, played by Dileep Rao. Matt Gerald reprises his role as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, again, despite the character dying in the first film. On the Na’vi side, CCH Pounder returns as Mo’at, Neytiri’s mother and the spiritual adviser of the Omaticaya.
Avatar 2’s New Actors
Since Avatar is the second highest-grossing movie of all time, it’s a safe bet that plenty of actors wanted to be involved in Avatar 2. With the world set to expand, there’s plenty of room for new characters and with that, new actors. Some are newcomers, others are character actors we’ll recognize from films we can’t quite name, and still more are major, major stars. There are details about some of these characters, but others remain complete mysteries.
Starting with the characters we know, Cliff Curtis reportedly joins the cast as Tonowari. The leader of the Metkayina, he’s listed in the credits for all the upcoming sequels, so we’ll probably be getting to know him quite well. Curtis has dozens of credits on his resume, but he currently stars on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead and recently appeared in Doctor Sleep and Hobbes & Shaw.
Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet also joins the Avatar 2 party. She plays a Metkayina named Ronal, and though her role is described as significant to the plot, it doesn’t sound like it will be all that large. This marks her second time working with James Cameron, as you might recall Titanic, the previous highest-grossing movie of all times before Avatar came along.
Oona Chaplin plays a character named Varang. That certainly sounds like a Na’vi name, and Varang is said to be a key character, one who appears in the upcoming sequels as well. There aren’t any more specifics, but she sounds like she’ll be important moving forward.
We know the names of a few more characters, though not much about their personalities or roles. Michelle Yeoh plays Dr. Karina Mogue, a human, though that’s all the detail we have. Jermaine Clement shows up as Dr. Ian Garvin, and while we know he’s a marine biologist, that’s all. The Sopranos’ Edie Falco plays General Ardmore, a new commander in charge of the RDA. She’s sure to be a thorn in the Na’vi side.
We don’t know who he plays, but Harry Potter veteran David Thewlis is part of the cast. And Vin Diesel takes a break from cinematic street racing for a visit to Pandora in some capacity. Perhaps this will set the stage for Fast and Furious in Space. Fingers crossed.
The Kids in Avatar 2
Since family reportedly plays such a major role in Avatar 2, Jake and Neytiri’s children promise to be a pivotal part of the narrative. In the 12 years that have elapsed since Avatar, the couple has reportedly had three kids.
The eldest is a son named Neteyam, played by Jamie Flatters, a British actor most known for roles on the comedy series So Awkward and the crime drama Liar. Lo’ak is their second son and middle child. He will be played by Britain Dalton, most known for his role on the Billy Bob Thornton series Goliath. Jake and Neytiri’s youngest child is an eight-year-old daughter named Tuktirey, played by Trinity Bliss in her first on-screen role. The three young actors are all signed up from Avatar 2 through the following sequels.
Avatar 2 in Production
Though it took some time to finally get there, filming began on Avatar 2 on August 15, 2017. Primary production took place in Manhattan Beach, California, and Cameron and company shot Avatar 3 at the same time.
In November of 2018, while promoting Alita: Battle Angel, the Avatar Twitter page posted a video of Cameron saying all the principal photography was complete. This, however, wasn’t exactly accurate. What he meant was that the performance capture photography was complete, but they still needed to complete the live-action portion.
Production on the various Avatar sequels is currently going on in New Zealand at multiple studios. At this point, production seems kind of like an amorphous blob where it’s hard to tell where one film ends and the next begins. They’re even apparently shooting pieces of Avatar 4. Visual effects work has even been in the works at Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop since July of 2017.
The Technology Of Avatar 2
As mentioned earlier, James Cameron is a filmmaker who likes pushing technological boundaries. In Avatar, he used motion capture and 3D in ways audiences hadn’t seen yet, creating an immersive, realistic experience like no other. Since it’s been a decade, and technology evolves at a break-neck pace, he has new toys to play with.
Thus far, Cameron has discussed a number of possibilities. As far back as 2014, producers brought up the possibility of using MAGI, a system created by Douglas Trumbull that combines 4K, 3D, and a frame rate of 120fps.
How, exactly, Cameron deploys this technology, or the combinations thereof, in Avatar 2, remains to be seen. Especially since he recently walked back some of the earlier talk of shooting in a high frame rate after the release of Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. It sounds more like he’ll use it in spots, but not for an entire movie.
Since water plays such a heavy part, the production also entails a great deal of performance capture on submerged actors. The crew had to do many tests but eventually got everything they needed.
Avatar was a huge leap for the use of cinematic 3D. It was innovative and a huge draw for audiences. If James Cameron has his way, Avatar 2 might see a similar technological advancement, a 3D movie without 3D glasses. This technology does exist, but it’s never been utilized on this scale, and there are potential issues with projecting it on a movie screen, especially when viewers face the screen from many different angles and distances. While theoretically possible, it’s likely cost-prohibitive at this stage, even with what is assured to be a massive budget.
Avatar 2’s Release Date
At this point, Avatar 2 has had many release dates. The first was in December 2015, where it would have gone head to head with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Though the December release has always figured into the plans, it was subsequently slated for release in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020.
Obviously, none of those happened. Complications have led to multiple delays. There have been issues with the scripts, casting, and production, all of which make sense. Not only is this a major Hollywood production—big even by studio standards—trying to knock out multiple films of this size is a Herculean undertaking for sure. That’s a crazy amount of moving parts and planning.
But right now, however, they seem to have a solid release date for Avatar 2. It’s currently scheduled to hit theaters on December 17, 2021. Not only does that sound reasonable, it also looks like all the pieces are in place for Cameron and company to hit their target.
Not only did the original Avatar find incredible success in a similar slot, given Lucasfilm’s recent accountment that they’re stepping back from cranking out so many new Star Wars films, at least for a few years, there’s also likely to be less box office competition.
Avatar 2’s Title
Right now, the title of Avatar 2 is just that, Avatar 2. We’ve heard nothing official. That said, there was a BBC article in 2018 that claimed to know the title for not only Avatar 2, but sequels three, four, and five as well.
According to the report—which is unsubstantiated, so take it with a huge grain of salt—the title of Avatar 2 is Avatar: The Way of Water. Given that the plot reportedly revolves heavily around coastal clans on Pandora, that makes sense.
Cameron later said that this and the other titles are under consideration, but no decisions have been made. So as of now, nothing is set in stone.
Beyond Avatar 2
As mentioned multiple times, Avatar 2 won’t be the last chapter in the story. Far from it. In fact, there will be three more. By the time we see the next film, 12 years will have elapsed since the first, but we won’t have to wait so long for new adventure on Pandora.
Avatar 2 is scheduled for a release on December 17, 2021, and 20th Century Fox plans to release a new sequel every two years. Avatar 3 hits theaters December 22, 2023, Avatar 4 arrives December 19, 2025, and Avatar 5 appears December 17, 2027.
While all the films taken together form one continuous saga, they are all also said to stand on their own as individual films.
If that earlier report that says Avatar 2 will be titled Avatar: The Way of Water is to be believed, the subsequent sequels are called Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider, and Avatar: The Quest for Ewya, in ascending order. At least those are possible titles.
These sequels also have writers who have been working on the scripts for some time. James Cameron is involved in all of them, but Avatar 3 also features the writing of Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, the duo behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, among other films. On Avatar 4 and 5, Cameron teams up with Shane Salerno (Armageddon). Though there are reports that all these writers worked on all participated in the writing process for all the movies to some degree before receiving their assignments.