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James Cameron’s Avatar remains the highest-grossing film of all time, beating out another Cameron film, Titanic, for the top spot. But the 2009 sci-fi epic about the inhabitants of the lush alien planet Pandora might soon have some serious competition within its own franchise. Despite numerous setbacks and delays, it appears the sequels to Avatar that Cameron proposed long ago might actually take shape sooner rather than later. Here’s what we know so far.
Cameron always planned to make at least one sequel to Avatar, and as early as 2010, he expressed hopes of turning the franchise into a trilogy. By 2013, Cameron and 20th Century Fox had upped the number of sequels to three and hired a heavy-hitting team of writers to helm them. War of the Worlds writer Josh Friedman is writing one film, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver of Rise of the Planet of the Apes are writing another, and Shane Salerno is writing a third. In 2016, Cameron announced plans to make a fourth Avatar sequel, but the writing staff for that film remains unclear. BBC News reported in 2018 that the tentative titles for the films were Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa. Cameron later confirmed that these were “among titles that are in consideration.”
The first of the proposed Avatar sequels was originally set for 2014 but was postponed several times. By 2017, it appeared doubtful that it would even happen, as Cameron announced that it had been pushed back even further to an unspecified date after 2018. But later that year, the franchise announced on Facebook that the four sequels would come out on Dec. 18, 2020, Dec. 17, 2021, Dec. 20, 2024, and Dec. 19, 2025. However, in a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron said, “Let’s face it. If Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5.” Avatar 2 began filming in September 2017, and Cameron announced in November 2018 that principal photography on the first two sequels was complete.
All four films are set to be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau under their Lightstorm Entertainment banner. They will work once again with Joe Letteri at WETA Digital, the visual effects studio founded by Peter Jackson in 1993. The Avatar sequels will be distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Few specifics are known about the plots of the sequels, but Cameron has confirmed that the first two films will explore the planet Pandora’s oceans, saying, “there’s a tremendous amount of water work across Avatar 2 and 3.” The films will feature several new characters from the Na’vi reef people of the Metkayina clan. They will also feature appearances from main characters Jake Sully and Neytiri’s three children.
The bulk of the original cast members are set to reprise their roles in the sequels, including Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Giovanni Ribisi as Resource Department Administration boss Parker Selfridge, Joel David Moore as Norm Spellman, CCH Pounder as Mo’at and Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel. Stephen Lang and Matt Gerald are also set to return, despite the deaths of their characters, Colonel Miles Quaritch and Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, respectively, in the first film. Sigourney Weaver will return to the franchise as well, but this time she’ll play an entirely new character.
In terms of new signings, the original cast will reportedly be joined by Kate Winslet as a member of the Metkayina reef clan, and Fear of the Walking Dead’s Cliff Curtis as Tonowari, the leader of the Metkayina. The franchise also announced earlier this week that Edie Falco would be joining the cast as General Ardmore, the commander in charge of the RDA’s interests in the sequels. It’s unclear how many of the films she will appear in, but it definitely seems to be more than one. Oona Chaplin also joined the cast as Varang, a strong central character who will play a significant role in the entire series of sequels.
The films have also signed on a group of seven child actors, including Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton and Trinity Bliss as Jake and Neytiri’s children, Bailey Bass, Filip Geljo and Duane Evans Jr. as free-divers of the Metkayina clan, and Jack Champion as a human. A first-look cast photo of the child actors is available over at Entertainment Weekly.
“We never had this youthful element before, and that brings a different kind of energy to the film,” producer Landau said of the younger cast in 2017. “They represent the future generation of Pandora and play a very significant role—not just in this movie but throughout all the movies.”
In the wake of Fox’s acquisition by Disney and the integration of the former studio’s films into the latter’s slate, the Avatar sequels have all been pushed back a year. Avatar 2 is being pushed back from Dec. 18, 2020, to Dec. 17, 2021; Avatar 3 from Dec. 17, 2021, to Dec. 22, 2023; Avatar 4 from Dec. 20, 2024, to Dec. 29, 2025; andAvatar 5 from Dec. 19, 2025, to Dec. 27, 2027.
Jemaine Clement joined the cast of the sequels on May 15.
Stay tuned for further updates on the Avatar sequels.