Avatar is one of the most financially successful movies of all time, but in the 12-plus years since James Cameron’s sci-fi epic came out, it’s become something of a pop cultural punchline due to the endless delays around the ever-increasing sequels promised by its visionary/madman director. In the meantime, the $2 billion grossing story of Jake Sully and the Na’vi began to feel like something of a 3D IMAX fever dream. That is, until now.
Concrete details about the second film were finally revealed at Las Vegas’ movie theater owner expo CinemaCon. The official name of the sequel, which will hit theaters December 16, is Avatar: The Way of Water. And now the trailer screened there is finally available to watch online (it’s also playing ahead of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in theaters, which is probably where James Cameron would prefer you watch it.) The trailer features minimal dialogue and primarily focuses on shots of the cerulean Pandora and its residents, as well as indigenous flora and fauna.
The sequel follows Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), as well as their children, and reportedly takes place 10 years after the first film. It will introduce a new group of Na’vi called the Metkayina, who are closely connected to the water. Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver are both set to return, and big name newcomers to the franchise include Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, and Kate Winslet. Much of the movie will take place underwater , and Cameron has reportedly gone to great lengths to bring cutting edge technology to these scenes beneath the sea.
In a December 2021 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cameron spoke about the production and how he had to convince those around him to shoot it his way. “My colleagues within the production really lobbied heavily for us to do it ‘dry for wet,’ hanging people on wires. I said, ‘It’s not going to work. It’s not going to look real.’ I even let them run a test, where we captured dry for wet, and then we captured in water, a crude level of our in-water capture. And it wasn’t even close,” he said.
The first Avatar thrived as the kind of must-see-in-theaters movie that feels increasingly rare nowadays. Producer Jon Landau spoke at CinemaCon about the goal of getting fans back to the movies with the promise of Avatar 2. “We need to make sure [audiences] have an experience they can’t get anywhere else, and that needs to be exclusively in theaters,” he said.
Disney will also re-release the first film on September 23. Three (3!) additional sequels are slated for December 2024, 2026, and 2028. By the time we get the final installment in the Avatar franchise, humanity might just be looking for a Pandora of its own.