2009’s Avatar remains the highest-grossing movie of all time ($2.8 billion worldwide) and its sequel was initially slated for release in December 2014, leaving a reasonable five-year gap between installments of the sci-fi franchise. After bouncing around 20th Century Fox’s release calendar while the franchise swelled to five films — this is its third delay — Avatar 2 eventually settled for a December 2018 debut, but now you’ll have to wait even longer to return to Pandora again.
This wouldn’t even be newsworthy if 20th Century Fox and Cameron hadn’t announced their planned release schedule in the first place, thus creating expectations that as it turns out, they weren’t ready to meet — though I applaud them for taking the time to get the story right and not just rushing out sequels as product.
Avatar 3, 4 and 5 were supposed to arrive in 2020, 2022 and 2023, and while Cameron din’t directly address the fate of those films, it’s safe to assume that the delay of Avatar 2 will have repercussions for that timeline. In Hollywood, it’s important to strike while the iron is hot, so it’s fair to question whether the Avatar sequels have missed their window of opportunity. Sequels released too long after the original have fared poorly at the box office, such as Zoolander 2, Dumb & Dumberer and Independence Day: Resurrection, just to name a few.
Sources tell the Tracking Board that Avatar 2 and 3 will be shot back-to-back (possibly as soon as this fall) followed by a break for post-production and release, and then Avatar 4 and 5 will shoot back-to-back. It’s highly unlikely all four films would be shot back-to-back, as that would take the cast out of commission for years, not that Cameron is worried about that.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker said he’s prepared for the Avatar sequels to consume the next eight years of his life. Add those eight years to the eight since the original film’s 2009 release, plus the four-to-five years Cameron spent making that film, and you’re looking at 20 years. That’s a long time to creatively explore one franchise, regardless of its limitless storytelling possibilities.
“It’s not an unreasonable time frame if you think about it. It took us four-and-a-half years to make one movie and now we’re making four. We’re full tilt boogie right now, Cameron told The Toronto Star. The director explained that “it’s an epic undertaking. It’s not unlike building the Three Gorges dam.”
Original Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang will reprise their roles in the sequels, while Sigourney Weaver will play a new role, seeing as her character died in the first film. You can safely expect to meet more of the Na’vi people, including new warriors and many children.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief