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Avatar 2: release date, first images and everything we know

(Image credit: Disney)

The original Avatar took over the world with its amazing performance capture, CG backgrounds, and 3D photography. James Cameron's bewitching tale became the highest grossing film of all time when it released in 2009, until Avengers: Endgame came along. And since success tends to lead to sequels, there will be an Avatar 2, and more adventures on top of that in the ensuing years.

Originally slated for 2014, the as-yet-untitled Avatar 2 is the first of four sequels in the works - and Cameron recently revealed it's 100% done, with the third very far along, too. We're heading back to Pandora, where the indigenous Na'vi people fought off the human invaders ravaging their beautiful lands to mine precious "unobtainium". However, we also know we'll be travelling underwater for Avatar 2.

But what can we expect from the sequel to what was once the biggest blockbuster hit of all time? We've sent out an early recon mission to Pandora to find out everything you need to know about Avatar 2's release date, title, plot, cast and more.

Avatar 2 release date (and Avatar 3, 4 and 5's release dates)

Avatar 2 is now 100% finished, and Avatar 3 is "sort of" 95% done, (via Deadline). In a video chat from New Zealand in September 2020, Cameron said "We’re 100% complete on Avatar 2 and sort of 95% complete on Avatar 3," with his team currently cracking on with outstanding live-action work.

Cameron also mentioned that "about four and a half months" of production were lost to coronavirus disruption, despite New Zealand's relatively strong response to the pandemic. After a filming hiatus, production restarted in June 2020, but the break contributed to the following delays:

  • Avatar 2: December 17, 2021 to December 16, 2022
  • Avatar 3: December 22, 2023 to December 20, 2024
  • Avatar 4: December 19, 2025 to December 18, 2026
  • Avatar 5: December 27, 2027 to December 22, 2028

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The big-budget return to Pandora, the vibrant world James Cameron created for the original Avatar back in 2009.
  • Where can I watch it? This will be an absolutely massive tentpole release, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of multiplexes where you can see it – as long as James Cameron doesn’t set the technical bar so high that average cinemas can’t handle the screening specs. You should expect it to arrive on Disney Plus after its theatrical release.
  • When can I watch it? December 16, 2022.

Avatar 2: first images revealed

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(Image credit: Disney/20th Century Fox)
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(Image credit: Disney/20th Century Fox)
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(Image credit: Disney/20th Century Fox)
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(Image credit: Disney)

The first images of Avatar 2 above – concept art from the watery parts of Pandora – were unveiled during CES 2020. They show more of the movie's ocean-based settings.

Does Avatar 2 have a proper title?

Nothing official beyond Avatar 2. A 2018 BBC report claimed that the four new films may be titled Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa (Eywa being the name of the Pandoran deity worshipped by the Na’vi). 

Alas, if you think they sound a tad uninspiring, the bad news is that they may well be real. "Those titles are among the titles that are in consideration," Cameron told ET. "No final decisions have been made yet."

Alternatively, he could just keep things simple by going the Alien route with Avatars, Avatar3, Avatar Resurrection and Avatar Vs Predator. Or maybe not.

Avatar 2's story: what we know

Plot specifics are currently as elusive as the 'Unobtainium' the human invaders were trying to extract from Pandora in the original Avatar. We do know, however, that the story will pick up around a decade after the first film, and that Jake Sully (whose human consciousness was permanently downloaded into his Na’vi body) and Neytiri now have children: Neteyam, Lo'ak, Tuktirey. It’s also been confirmed that much of the movie will take place around Pandora's oceans, with the newly introduced sea-faring Metkayina clan playing a key role. 

"We made the decision for the sequels not to do necessarily what other science fiction movies do, which is if they want water they go to the ocean planet; and if they want snow, they go to the ice planet," Cameron's long-term producing partner Jon Landau said in an interview with Slashfilm. "We looked at all the wonders the Earth shows us, and we realized we could travel our whole lives and not see all the true wonders Earth has. So Jim made the decision to set the sequels all on Pandora. Our stories introduce us to different environments, and also different cultures." 

Of course, there are also going to be run-ins with those annoying, moon-pillaging humans of the Resources Development Association (RDA). "The storyline in the sequels really follows Jake and Neytiri, and their children," Cameron told Variety. "It's more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans."

While Avatar 2 will be the second act of a five-movie saga, the plan is for it to function as a film in its own right, while still being part of a wider arc. Indeed, Cameron's desire to craft a story that was truly worth telling is one of the main reasons Avatar 2 has taken so long to materialize. 

"We're making standalone movies that will stand alone," Landau told Slashfilm. "Rather than rushing into doing the sequels, because Jim doesn't rush it, we have to build our foundation, and that’s the scripts. Knowing that we wanted to tell multiple stories, we didn't just want to solve one script. We wanted to solve the scripts for all of the movies we wanted to make before we ventured out into making them. That's what took us the time."

Avatar 2 cast: new and returning characters

Unsurprisingly, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are stepping back into their performance capture suits to play leads Jake and Neytiri, while Giovanni Ribisi (RDA chief Parker Selfridge), Joel David Moore (sympathetic human Norm Spellman) and CCH Pounder (Na'vi spiritual leader and Neytiri's mother Mo'at) are all reprising their roles.

There are also surprise returns for Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, whose characters Grace Augustine and General Quaritch both died in the first movie. Cameron confirmed to Entertainment Weekly way back in 2014 that Weaver is coming back as "a different and in many ways more challenging character" – it seems reasonable to assume Grace's return may have something to do with her consciousness passing into the Tree of Souls. 

Grizzled soldier Quaritch, meanwhile, seems set to be a key antagonist in the four new movies. "I'm not going to say exactly how we're bringing him back," Cameron told Deadline in 2013, "but it's a science fiction story after all. His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of the new three-film saga." It's worth bearing in mind this quote is from almost seven years ago (it's now a four-film saga), and you never know what might've changed in the meantime. 

There are plenty of newbies joining the cast, too – including Cameron's reunion with his Titanic star Kate Winslet, who's playing a character called Ronal. There are also roles for Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement (Dr Ian Garvin), Harry Potter's David Thewlis (Peylak), Star Trek: Discovery's Michelle Yeoh (Dr Karina Mogue), The Sopranos' Edie Falco (General Ardmore), Game of Thrones' Oona Chaplin (Varang) and Fear the Walking Dead's Cliff Curtis (Metkayina chief Tonowari).

There are also seven kids joining the cast. Jake and Neytiri's children are played by Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Britain Dalton (Lo'ak) and Trinity Bliss (Tuktirey), while there are three free-diving Metkayina kids confirmed: Bailey Bass (Tsireya), Filip Geljo (Aonung) and Duane Evans Jr (Rotxo). Finally, Jack Champion plays a human teenager born on Pandora, called Javier "Spider" Socorro. 

Avatar 2 is made with underwater mo-cap technology

From The Abyss to Terminator 2, Titanic to Avatar, a new James Cameron movie usually pushes the envelope when it comes to cinematic ambition. Expect Avatar 2 to be no different, as Cameron will undoubtedly be creating visuals unlike anything we've seen on screen before. Thanks to producer Jon Plandau, we can see in the Instagram shot above a man in underwater CGI gear riding what looks like some sort of sea-dwelling creature.

One of the key developments will be world-first underwater performance capture technology. "The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror," Cameron told Collider. "That moving mirror reflects all the dots and markers, and it creates a bunch of false markers. It's a little bit like a fighter plane dumping a bunch of chaff to confuse the radar system of a missile. It creates thousands of false targets, so we've had to figure out how to get around that problem, which we did."

Cameron also wants to revolutionize the 3D experience in cinemas again, and it'll be particularly interesting to see how he fares here. Avatar's 3D visuals (arguably still yet to be bettered) kickstarted new levels of interest in stereoscopic projection, and for several years in the wake of its release, multiplexes were dominated by 3D screenings of blockbusters. 

Cinemagoers' interest has subsequently waned – a change Cameron has blamed on Hollywood's preference for converting 2D-shot movies into 3D in post-production, rather than using actual stereoscopic cameras – but in an appearance at the Vivid light festival in Sydney (reported by Movieweb), he said the Avatar sequels "will be, to the best of my ability, the best 3D that [it's] possible to make." 

Will the world still care about Avatar?

2009 was a long time ago. Over a decade has passed since Avatar first hit cinema screens, and 3D has largely drifted into memory as a fad. But people's fascination with Pandora shouldn't be counted out – they still want to be shown something they've never seen in a movie theater before, and Cameron is determined to provide that experience for his audience. We can't wait to see what he comes up with.