Thirteen years later, Avatar still holds the record for being the highest grossing film of all time. It was briefly surpassed by Avengers: Endgame in 2019, but a 2021 re-release of Avatar saw it reclaim its spot at the top of the list.
To date, Avatar has made USD$2.847 billion globally at the box office.
Shortly after the film’s release, Cameron announced there would be a sequel. Then, he announced there would be multiple sequels.
In the 12 years since Avatar 2 was announced, the sequels have been announced and pushed back multiple times, prompting movie fans to wonder if they would ever see the light of day.
At Cinema Con in Las Vegas this week, Cameron proved that yes, Avatar 2 is real, and it’s coming.
Now officially titled Avatar: The Way of Water, the Cinema Con audience viewed the very first teaser trailer for the film, which is scheduled for a December 2022 release.
It’s been a long road to get here. In this article, we’ll break down the timeline of the Avatar sequels, as well as everything we know so far about Avatar: The Way of Water.
Why Have the Avatar Sequels Taken So Long?
It’s been 13 years since Avatar was first released, and Cameron first announced the sequel in January 2010. If you’re wondering how we got to April 2022 without so much as a first look at the film, you’re not alone.
Here’s a timeline breaking down the road to Avatar: The Way of Water.
January 2010: Avatar makes its first billion at the box office, and Cameron announces that a sequel is imminent. The following week, he tells Entertainment Weekly that there will be “two or three” sequels.
February 2010: Cameron says he’s going to write an Avatar prequel novel. This prequel novel never sees the light of day, but Cameron later announces that he’s hired science fiction author Steven Charles Gould to release a series of novels set within the Avatar world. They will supposedly be released alongside the films.
April 2010: Cameron announces that the sequel will be set in the ocean. He tells the Los Angeles Times that “part of [his] focus in the second film is in creating a different environment — a different setting within Pandora”.
August 2010: Cameron announces Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 will be filmed back-to-back.
October 2010: Cameron passes on the opportunity to work on Sony’s Cleopatra in order to focus on the Avatar sequels, which are slated for release in December 2014 and December 2015. (Cleopatra never sees the light of day).
May 2012: Surprise! Cameron announces Avatar 4, and says that the Avatar films are his sole focus. He tells the New York Times that he’s “not interested in developing anything else”.
“I’m in the Avatar business,” he says. “Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them.”
August 2013: Despite announcing it in May of 2012, Avatar 4 is officially confirmed. At this point, the three sequels are slated for release in December 2016, 2017 and 2018.
December 2013: Cameron, 20th Century Fox and the New Zealand government sign a deal worth over 500 million New Zealand dollars to have the Avatar sequels film in New Zealand.
April 2014: Cameron says that the Avatar sequels are “essentially all in preproduction now” during a Reddit AMA.
January 2015: The Avatar sequels are pushed back by a year. Cameron tells the Associated Press that the delay is due to the “very involved” nature of writing three films at once.
“There’s a layer of complexity in getting the story to work as a saga across three films,” he says.
Avatar 2 is now set for a December 2017 release, with the third and fourth films set for 2018 and 2019 releases.
April 2015: Cameron announces Avatar 5.
January 2016: The Wrap reports that Avatar 2 will miss its December 2017 release date, and that the production has been delayed indefinitely.
April 2016: Cameron makes a surprise appearance at Comic Con and reportedly tells the audience: “The next time I see you will be on Pandora.”
Cameron promises Avatar 2 will hit cinemas in December 2018, with Avatar 3 set for December 2020, Avatar 4 set for December 2022, and Avatar 5 set for December 2023.
September 2016: Cameron says that although they “haven’t” pushed the releases back again, they “will if [they] need to”.
He tells Variety: “The important thing for me is not when the first one comes out but the cadence of the release pattern. If it’s an annual appointment to show up at Christmas, I want to make sure that we’re able to fulfil on that promise.”
April 2017: The Avatar sequels go into production! Avatar 2 is now slated for a December 2020 release, with Avatar 3 set for December 2021, Avatar 4 set for December 2024 and Avatar 5 set for December 2025.
September 2017: The Avatar sequels begin filming!
May 2019: Disney acquires Fox, and reschedules the Avatar sequels. Avatar 2 is pushed to December 2021, Avatar 3 is slated for December 2023, Avatar 4 is slated for December 2025 and Avatar 5 is slated for December 2027.
The BBC reports that the sequels are titled Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.
March 2020: COVID-19 halts production on the Avatar sequels.
May 2020: Producer Jon Landau announces that the Avatar sequels will resume production in June.
July 2020: Avatar 2 is pushed to December 2022, pushing the following sequels to 2024, 2026 and 2028.
September 2020: Cameron says that filming on Avatar 2 is “100% complete” and that Avatar 3 is “95% complete”.
April 2022: Avatar 2 is officially announced as Avatar: The Way of Water, and the Cinema Con audience screens the very first look at the film.
Here’s everything we know so far about Avatar: The Way of Water.
What Is Avatar: The Way of Water About?
Since Avatar came out in 2009, it’s not going to pick up where the first film left off.
Rather, Avatar: The Way of Water is set more than a decade after the events of the first film, and will begin to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.
#Avatar2 has been officially titled, 'Avatar: The Way of Water'
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) April 27, 2022
The teaser trailer that was screened to the Cinema Con audience apparently contained “almost no dialogue”, according to Variety. Rather than being heavy on plot details, the teaser was a visually spectacular supercut of “the dazzling world of Pandora” and featured “sweeping visuals of the planet’s crystal blue oceans and lakes”.
“I know one thing,” Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) tells Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) in the clip. “Wherever we go, this family is our fortress.”
Producer Jon Landau told the Cinema Con audience that all four sequels are about “family”, and that each sequel will work as a standalone film.
Variety also said that “the footage also shows the local tribe of Na’vi interacting with various species resembling whales and pelicans, some of which flew through the screen and into audience member’s faces thanks to the three-dimensional technology.
What Are People Saying About Avatar: The Way of Water?
According to Variety, there were “audible gasps in the room” when the Cinema Con audience got the very first glimpse of Avatar: The Way of Water.
Twitter user Erik Davis, of Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, called the first footage “STUNNING”.
JUST IN: Avatar 2 is called Avatar: The Way of Water. The first footage was STUNNING. The footage we just watched will play only in theaters with #DoctorStrange next week. A week later it will be online.#CinemaCon pic.twitter.com/ytDy6tnvrz
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) April 27, 2022
How Many Versions of Avatar: The Way of Water Will Be Released?
According to John Fithian, the president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners in the USA, there will be more versions of Avatar: The Way of Water released than any other film “in the history of movies”.
“We are talking about high resolution, high frame rates, 3D, IMAX, PLF, different sound systems and in 160 different languages,” Fithian told the Cinema Con audience.
“He is working very closely with our members around the world to show his movie in the best possible way,” he said, adding: “Jim is uniquely driven. He’s brilliant.”
Before the teaser trailer was aired for the Cinema Con audience, Cameron appeared a brief pre-recorded video, in which he said that he had “set out to test the limits of what cinema can do”. Cameron also said that the film was “designed for the biggest screen and the most immersive 3D available”.
Where Can I Watch the Trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water?
When Will Avatar: The Way of Water Be Released in Australia?
Avatar: The Way of Water will be released in Australian cinemas on December 15, 2022.
Who’s in Avatar: The Way of Water?
Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington are both back for Avatar: The Way of Water.
In an interview with Variety, Worthington joked about the long delay between Avatar and its long-awaited sequel, saying:
“When I did the first one, I was 30, and when the second one comes out, I’m gonna be pushing 50.”
He continued: “In the first one I was in a wheelchair, you know. And by the time we get to the fourth and fifth, I might actually be in a wheelchair by the time we get to do it.”
Worthington kept quiet about what audiences should expect from Avatar: The Way of Water, though, saying, “It’s a Jim Cameron movie, man, what do you think?”
Still, the Australian actor said that “it’s great to be a part of such an amazing family and have that longevity”, and called Cameron “a very loyal man”.
Avatar: The Way of Water will also see the return of Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver, CCH Pounder and Stephen Lang.
Joining the franchise for the sequel are Kate Winslet, Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Edie Falco, Cliff Curtis and Jemaine Clement.
Will Avatar Be Re-Released Before Avatar: The Way of Water Comes Out?
If you’ve forgotten what the first Avatar film was all about and need to reacquaint yourself, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, Disney will be re-releasing a remastered version of Avatar in Australian cinemas on September 22, 2022 this year.
Can’t wait that long? It’s streaming right now on Disney+.
When Will Avatar 3, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 Be Released?
Currently, the release schedule is as follows:
December 2024: Avatar 3
December 2026: Avatar 4
December 2028: Avatar 5