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What the Hell Happened: Multiple 'Avatar' Sequels Are On the Way

Concept art for 'Avatar 2.'
Concept art for 'Avatar 2.' By Courtesy of @officialavatar/Twitter
By Madi L. Fabber, Contributing Writer

Name one character from “Avatar.” Quickly.

No, not of the “Last Airbender” sort. Name a character from James Cameron’s 2009 film about blue aliens that is somehow such a culturally important movie that it has an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the box office records it has set.

Despite the fact that “Avatar” held the record for the highest grossing movie ever for ten years (until “Avengers: Endgame” usurped its title), the film has never inspired the same devotion and familiarity as other important films of the 2000s. Commended for its elaborate use of special effects and technology, the praise for Avatar is mostly for its cinematic innovation, rather than its storytelling impact.

Besides the new themed area at Walt Disney World that opened in 2017, and that one time Cirque du Soleil made a Pandora-inspired show that ran from 2015-2019, the epic science-fiction film has stayed relatively outside of the cultural consciousness for the past decade. However, as the chaos of 2020 is nowhere near done with us yet, James Cameron himself has recently confirmed that “Avatar 2” has been entirely filmed, and “Avatar 3” is “95% complete.”

Wait, what?

Apparently, these movies have been in the making for quite some time. Four years before the first “Avatar” even came out, Cameron hoped that if the first movie was successful, he would end up making two sequels. Shortly after the original film hit one billion in box office earnings, a sequel was confirmed in Jan. 2010. By 2012, we were up to three sequels and, as of 2016, the writing team had enough material to reach even an “Avatar 5.”

The rest of the production process, however, has progressed at a significantly slower pace. The first of the sequels has had no less than eight distinct delays, the most recent of which being the global pandemic halting production this past March. However, since the movie was set to be filmed in New Zealand (one of the countries doing the best in the fight against COVID) years ago, the production crew was luckily able to resume filming back in May.

Live-action filming has recently wrapped, which Cameron confirmed on Sept. 22 at the 2020 Austrian World Summit, but the actual premise of the film will remain a mystery. Cameron refused to divulge details in the interview (which, by the way, was conducted by Arnold Schwarznegger) in the interest of maintaining the magic of the reveal. Though we don’t know specifics, we do know that much of the original cast will be returning, with Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana heading the charge and reprising their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri, respectively. Also worth noting, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang are returning as well — despite the deaths of their characters in the first film. Though Weaver will reportedly be playing an entirely new character, it is currently unclear how exactly Lang will fit into the sequel. Some new additions to the cast include Kate Winslet (marking her first collaboration with Cameron since “Titanic”), Vin Diesel (though it isn’t confirmed which exact sequels he will be in), and a slew of child actors (who all had to learn how to act underwater, since much of the sequel will feature the previously unexplored territory of Pandora’s waters).

If the current slate of intriguing updates is any indication, there’s truly no telling what exactly Cameron has in store for moviegoers. Though the progress made on the movie is promising, even if all goes well it will still be a while before audiences are able to return to Pandora. With a rumored budget of 250 million dollars, and a massive standard of visual effects to deliver, the current expected release date of “Avatar 2” is Dec. 16, 2022. The rest of the films will each be released two years apart, meaning that the conclusion (at least, before they add yet another sequel) to this epic adventure is set for 2028 — a full 19 years after the original film’s release.

We can only hope that, with such a long wait, the production team took the time to find a font other than Papyrus for the promotional materials.

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