Logo used for the promotion of the Avatar sequels.
|Directed by||James Cameron|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Avatar 2 is an upcoming American epic science fiction film directed, produced, and co-written by James Cameron, and is the first of four planned sequels to his film Avatar (2009). Cameron is producing the film with Jon Landau, with Josh Friedman originally announced as his co-writer; it was later announced that Cameron, Friedman, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Shane Salerno took a part in the writing process of all sequels before being attributed separate scripts, making the eventual writing credits unclear. Cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, C. C. H. Pounder, and Matt Gerald are all reprising their roles from the original film.
Cameron, who had stated in 2006 that he would like to make sequels to Avatar if it were successful, announced the first two in 2010 following the widespread success of the first film, with Avatar 2 aiming for a 2014 release. However, the subsequent addition of two more sequels, and the necessity to develop new technology in order to film performance capture scenes underwater, a feat never accomplished before in motion capture history, led to significant delays to allow the crew more time to work on the writing, pre-production, and visual effects; it is currently planned for a release on December 18, 2020, exactly eleven years after the American release of the first film, with the following sequels to be released between 2021 and 2025.
Preliminary shooting for the film started in Manhattan Beach, California on August 15, 2017, followed by principal photography simultaneously with Avatar 3 in New Zealand on September 25, 2017. The other sequels are expected to start shooting as soon as Avatar 2 and 3's filming wraps.
- Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, a former human who fell in love with Neytiri and befriended the Na'vi after becoming a part of the Avatar Program, eventually taking their side in their conflict with humans and leading them to victory; at the end of the first film, he becomes the new leader of the Omaticaya (the Na'vi clan central to the story) and transfers his mind into his avatar permanently.
- Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Jake's consort, daughter to the previous clan chief.
- CCH Pounder as Mo'at, the Omaticaya's spiritual leader and Neytiri's mother.
- Cliff Curtis as Tonowari, the leader of the reef people clan of Metkayina.
- Jamie Flatters as Neteyam, Jake and Neytiri's first son and oldest child.
- Britain Dalton as Lo’ak, Jake and Neytiri’s second son.
- Trinity Bliss as Tuktirey or "Tuk", Jake and Neytiri's youngest child and only daughter.
- Bailey Bass as Tsireya or "Reya", a graceful and strong free-diver of the Metkayina.
- Filip Geljo as Aonung, a young male hunter and free-diver of the Metkayina.
- Duane Evans Jr. as Rotxo, a young male hunter and free-diver of the Metkayina.
- Kate Winslet as Ronal, a free-diver of the Metkayina. Winslet called Ronal "a pivotal character in the ongoing story", but also "relatively small comparative to the lengthy shoot", as shooting all her scenes would only take a month. It marks her first time working with performance capture, or motion capture altogether; she, like most of the child cast, also had to learn free-diving for the film, ultimately being able to hold her breath for seven minutes.
- Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch, who led the forces of the RDA, the human organization colonizing Pandora, in their conflict with the Na'vi in the first film. Although the character died at the end of Avatar, Cameron confirmed in 2010 that Lang would return in the first three sequels, stating, "I'm not going to say exactly how we're bringing him back, but it's a science fiction story, after all. His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga". He later stated that Quaritch would act as main antagonist once again, in all four sequels.
- Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge, the corporate administrator for the RDA mining operation in the first film.
- Joel David Moore as Dr. Norm Spellman, a former part of the Avatar Program who chose to side with the Na'vi in the first film.
- Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel, a scientist who worked in the Avatar Program and came to support Jake's rebellion against the RDA in the first film.
- Matt Gerald as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, a mercenary who fought for the RDA against the Na'vi in the first film. Despite the death of his character in the previous installment, Gerald was announced to reprise his role in August 2017.
- Jack Champion as Javier "Spider" Socorro, a teenager born on Hell's Gate (the human base on Pandora in the first film) but who "prefers his time in the Pandoran rainforest".
- Sigourney Weaver; Weaver originally appeared in the first film as Dr. Grace Augustine, a human who takes the side of the Na'vi and dies during the conflict. Although both Weaver and Cameron confirmed that she would return in the sequels, she stated in 2014 that she would not play the same character. In December 2017, Weaver mentioned that she had to learn both free-diving and scuba diving for the film.
- Oona Chaplin as Varang, a "strong and vibrant central character who spans the entire saga of the sequels".
- David Thewlis in a currently undisclosed role. Although he stayed secretive about the nature of his character, Thewlis mentioned that he has "a lot to do in [the films]", that his role requires motion capture, and that he appears "in three of [the sequels], I think".
Development and pre-production
In 2006, Cameron stated that if Avatar was successful, he hoped to make two sequels to the film. In 2010, he said the film's widespread success confirmed that he would do so. The sequels were originally scheduled for release in December 2014 and 2015. He included certain scenes in the first film for future story follow-ups. Cameron planned to shoot the sequels back-to-back and to begin work "once the novel is nailed down". He stated that the sequels would widen the universe while exploring other moons of Polyphemus. The first sequel would focus on the ocean of Pandora and also feature more of the rainforest. He intended to capture footage for this sequel at the bottom of the Mariana Trench using a deepwater submersible. In 2011, Cameron stated that he was just starting to design the ocean ecosystem of Pandora and the other worlds to be included in the story. The storyline, although continuing the environmental theme of the first film, would not be "strident" since the film will concentrate on entertainment.
The sequels were confirmed to continue follow the characters of Jake and Neytiri in December 2009. Cameron implied that the humans would return as the antagonists of the story. In 2011, Cameron stated his intention to film the sequels at a higher frame rate than the industry standard 24 frames per second, in order to add a heightened sense of reality. In 2013, Cameron announced that the sequels would be filmed in New Zealand, with performance capture to take place in 2014. An agreement with the New Zealand government required at least one world premiere to be held in Wellington and at least NZ$500 million (approximately US$410 million at December 2013 exchange rates) to be spent on production activity in New Zealand, including live-action filming and visual effects. The New Zealand government announced it would raise its baseline tax rebate for filmmaking from 15% to 20%, with 25% available to international productions in some cases and 40% for New Zealand productions (as defined by section 18 of the New Zealand Film Commission Act 1978).
In 2012, Cameron mentioned a possible third sequel for the first time; it was officially confirmed the following year. Cameron was then looking to release Avatar 2 in 2015, but later that year production was rescheduled for 2014 with the film to be released in December 2016, followed by the sequels 2017 and 2018. By 2015, the scheduled release dates for the sequels were each delayed by another year, with the first sequel expected to be released in December 2017; this was due to the writing process, which Cameron called "a complex job". The following month, Fox announced a further release delay. In June 2015, James Horner, who was reported to be engaged to write music for the franchise, was killed in a plane crash. As of February 2016, production of the sequels was scheduled to begin in April 2016 in New Zealand.
In April 2016, Cameron announced at CinemaCon that there will be four Avatar sequels, all of which will be filmed simultaneously, with release dates in December 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023, respectively. In late October 2016, it was reported that Cameron was going to push for "glasses-free 3D" with the sequels, but he later disagreed with these rumors and did not think the technology would be there yet. In March 2017, Cameron revealed that Avatar 2 would not be released in 2018, as originally believed. On April 27, 2017, the release dates for all four sequels were ultimately announced: December 18, 2020 for Avatar 2, December 17, 2021 for Avatar 3, December 20, 2024 for Avatar 4, and December 19, 2025 for Avatar 5. The films will be released in Dolby Vision.
New crew members include cinematographer Russell Carpenter, who worked with Cameron on True Lies and Titanic, and Aashrita Kamath, who will act as art director on all four sequels. Kirk Krack, founder of Performance Freediving International, worked as a free-diving trainer for the cast and crew for the underwater scenes.
Asked about the delays of the releases of the film and its sequels, Cameron stated "I wouldn’t call them delays. It was highly optimistic that we could start quickly until scripts are written. If there's no scripts, there’s nothing, right? The scripts took four years. You can call that a delay, but it's not really a delay because from the time we pushed the button to really go make the movies [until now,] we're clicking along perfectly. We're doing very well because of all the time that we had to develop the system and the pipeline and all that. We weren't wasting time, we were putting it into tech development and design. So when all the scripts were approved, everything was designed. Every character, every creature, every setting. In a funny way it was to the benefit of the film because the design team had more time to work. . . . Most of the actors, the key principals, have all read all four scripts, so they know exactly what their character arcs are, they know where they’re going, they know how to modulate their arc now across the first two films". He was optimistic that the delays would not harm the films' success, comparing it to his films Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Aliens, which were both commercially successful sequels released seven years after the original films. Several creatures introduced in Avatar Flight of Passage will be featured in the film.
In 2012, Cameron stated that the sequels were being written as "separate stories that have an overall arc inclusive of the first film", with the second having a clear conclusion instead of a cliffhanger to the next film. Screenwriters were also announced: Josh Friedman for the first, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver for the second, and Shane Salerno for the third. In April 2014, Cameron expected to finish the (then) three scripts within six weeks, stating that all three sequels would be in production simultaneously and were still slated for December 2016 to 2018 releases. He stated that although Friedman, Jaffa and Silver, and Salerno are each co-writing one sequel with him, they at first all worked together on all three scripts: "I didn't assign each writer which film they were going to work on until the last day. I knew if I assigned them their scripts ahead of time, they'd tune out every time we were talking about the other movie." Cameron added that they had "worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three-film saga", a creative process that was inspired by his experiences in the writing room of his television series Dark Angel.
The writing took longer than expected, leading to Cameron being forced to delay the release of the films further in 2015. In December, he stated that he was "in the process of doing another pass through all three scripts ... Just refining. That's in parallel with the design process. The design process is very mature at this point. We've been designing for about a year and a half. All the characters, settings and creatures are all pretty much [set]."
On February 11, 2017, Cameron announced that the writing of all four sequels was now complete. On a November 26 interview the same year, he estimated that the scripts had taken four years to write overall.
Comparing the themes of the sequels to the originals, Cameron stated that "It will be a natural extension of all the themes, and the characters, and the spiritual undercurrents. Basically, if you loved the first movie, you’re gonna love these movies, and if you hated it, you’re probably gonna hate these. If you loved it at the time, and you said later you hated it, you’re probably gonna love these". He later compared the sequels to The Godfather franchise, calling it "a generational family saga [...] It’s a continuation of the same characters, but what happens when warriors, willing to go on suicide charges and leap off cliffs on to the backs of big orange Toruks, grow up and have their own kids. Now the kids are the change makers. It’s interesting."
Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana were confirmed on January 2010 to have signed on to reprise their roles in the sequels. Later that year, Cameron confirmed that both Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang would return despite the demise of their characters. Cameron also stated that Weaver would be featured in all three sequels (the fourth one was not planned at the time) and that her character Grace Augustine would be alive. In March 2015, however, Weaver said that she will play a new character in the next film. In September 2015, Michelle Rodriguez stated that unlike Weaver and Lang, whose characters had also died in the first film, she would not return in Avatar 2.
Several new cast announcements were made in 2017, with Joel David Moore, C. C. H. Pounder and Matt Gerald all confirmed to return from the first film. Announced newcomers included Oona Chaplin, whose character, Varang, was described as "a strong and vibrant central character who spans the entire saga of the sequels", and Cliff Curtis as Tonowari, the leader of the Na'vi reef people clan of Metkayina.
On September 23, 2017, child actor Filip Geljo was revealed to have been signed in an undisclosed role. On September 27, seven child actors were confirmed as a part of the main cast including Geljo, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton and Trinity Bliss as the children of Jake and Neytiri, Geljo, Bailey Bass, and Duane Evans Jr. as members of the Metkayina (together with Curtis), and Jack Champion, the only one to perform in live action, as a human born on Pandora. Cameron later stated that the child cast had been trained for six months to prepare for the underwater scenes filmed in performance capture, and that they now could all hold their breath "in the two-to-four minute range", even Trinity Bliss who was seven years old, and were now "all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calmly while holding their breath".
On October 3, 2017, it was reported that Kate Winslet, who starred in Cameron's Titanic (1997), had joined the cast of Avatar 2, and possibly its sequels. Cameron commented "Kate and I had been looking for something to do together for 20 years, since our collaboration on Titanic, which was one of the most rewarding of my career", and added that her character was named Ronal. Although the nature of her character was originally unknown, Cameron stated the following month that Ronal was "part of the Sea People, the reef people", in reference to the Na'vi clan of Metkayina, making Avatar 2 Winslet's first role via performance capture, or motion capture altogether, which she was looking forward to; as she insisted on performing all her character's movements herself, she, like the child cast, had to learn free-diving for the film. Winslet, who had been notoriously reluctant about working with Cameron again because of the complicated situations he puts his actors in for their scenes, stated that Cameron proposed the role to her in July 2017 when he came to help her and their fellow Titanic collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio at a fundraiser in France, sending her the scripts shortly after. She commented that her role was "relatively small comparative to the lengthy shoot", as she would only have one month of shootings, but also "a pivotal character in the ongoing story".
In October 13, 2017, it was announced that Giovanni Ribisi would reprise his role of Parker Selfridge from the first film, in all four upcoming Avatar films. On January 25, 2018, Dileep Rao was confirmed to return as Dr. Max Patel.
Principal photography started on September 25, 2017, simultaneously with Avatar 3. As Sigourney Weaver later revealed in November, filming had to be moved around to allow her to film a cameo appearance in the series eight finale of Doc Martin.
On November 23, Cameron stated that the crew had been undergoing tests with the cast for the last month to film underwater scenes in performance capture, and that they succeeded in filming the first of those on November 14, featuring six of their seven main child actors, including Trinity Bliss. He stated "we’re getting really good data, beautiful character motion and great facial performance capture. We’ve basically cracked the code". He said that tests will last until January 2018, as "we’re still working in our small test tank. We graduate to our big tank in January". It was "a dialogue scene", as according to Cameron, the characters communicate via "a kind of a sign language". In April 30, 2018, Winslet had "just a couple days" of shooting left to do.
In May 2018, Saldana stated that filming was "kind of only halfway done" and that the crew is "about [to finish] motion capture production on the [second and third] movies, and then after that, they go straight into pre-production for the live-action part that will shoot for six months in New Zealand." Saldana finished shooting her scenes on June 8, for both Avatar 2 and its sequel, while Cameron stated around the same time that 130 days of performance capture had been shot.
The film will heavily feature underwater scenes, actually filmed underwater with the cast in performance capture. Blending underwater filming and performance capture being a feature never accomplished before, it took the team a year and a half to develop a new motion capture system, with Cameron stating "It’s never been done before and it’s very tricky because our motion capture system, like most motion capture systems, is what they call optical base, meaning that it uses markers that are photographed with hundreds of cameras. The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror. 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. Basically, whenever you add water to any problem, it just gets ten times harder. So, we’ve thrown a lot of horsepower, innovation, imagination and new technology at the problem, and it’s taken us about a year and a half now to work out how we’re going to do it."
Avatar 2 is the first of four planned sequels to Avatar; Avatar 3 started filming simultaneously with Avatar 2 in New Zealand on September 25, 2017. Avatar 2 cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, CCH Pounder, Cliff Curtis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald, and Oona Chaplin, have all been announced for Avatar 3.
Although the last two sequels have been greenlit, Cameron stated in a November 26, 2017 interview: "Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5". David Thewlis later confirmed this in February 2018, stating "they're making 2 and 3, they're gonna see if people go and see them, and then they'll make 4 and 5."
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