2009 feels like a long time ago now, but cast your mind back and you might remember that little phenomenon called Avatar, James Cameron's CG smash hit which still holds the record for highest box-office gross ever with a comfortable margin of $600 million over the director's other smash-hit, Titanic.
Since then, Cameron has teased us with a promised two sequels, later bumping that up to three, and the again to four, which are set to film back-to-back. It's a tale of delays and woe, but it still looks like Avatar 2 is coming, eventually...
Here's everything you need to know as you wait to return to the alien landscape of Pandora:
Avatar 2 shoot date: When's it going to finally start?
This just in! Only EIGHT WHOLE YEARS after the last movie, and Avatar 2 is apparently due to start filming on Monday 25 September. This was announced on twitter by The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit. We can hardly believe it ourselves.
Also...James Cameron finally begins shooting AVATAR 2 Monday.- Borys Kit (@Borys_Kit) September 20, 2017
The story of the development of Avatar 2 (which probably won't be its final name) is one of delays. Filming was expected to finally begin in April of 2016 but that just didn't happen. Then it was announced in January 2017 that work on the motion capture would be starting in August 2017.
It could be the case that now the wheels are finally in motion we'll be getting Avatar's flying at us as fast as we can bat them away.
"The thing is, my focus isn't on Avatar 2. My focus is on Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 equally. That's exactly how I'm approaching it. They've all been developed equally," Cameron told The Daily Beast.
"I've just finished the script to Avatar 5. I'm now starting the process of active prep. I'll be working with the actors in the capture volume in August, so I'm booked in production every day between now and then."
Avatar 2 release date: Someday, somehow
The movie was originally scheduled for release in December 2014, with the third film arriving in December 2015, which of course also didn't happen. After the fourth film was added to the plans, they were pushed back to December 2016, 2017 and 2018 releases.
Then, in January 2015, it was announced that Avatar 2 would now be coming in December 2017, with Cameron saying that the "very involved" writing process was to blame for the wait.
The current official release dates are 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. Production will allegedly begin on September 25, 2017.
Cameron has generally been distinctly non-committal about the delays.
"The important thing for me is not when the first one comes out but the cadence of the release pattern," He told Variety.
"I want them to be released as close together as possible. 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."
He's also completely chilled out about any delays.
"It was a seven-year gap between The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, seven-year gap between Alien and Aliens," he told CNN.
"It's gonna be obviously more like a 10-year gap between Avatar and Avatar 2. But Avatar 2 you are going to with not the promise, but the certainty, of three more films beyond that, and that's a very different concept with the audience."
Work is finally underway on the movies.
Avatar 2 cast: Those contracts don't expire, you know
The core cast of the original Avatar film are all on contract, so Cameron's stars will be back in blue for the sequel when it finally hits.
Zoe Saldana, who will reprise the role of the Na'vi princess Neytiri, had only just appeared in the Star Trek reboot when she starred in the 2009 original film, and thanks to projects like Guardians of the Galaxy, she has become the biggest new star to come out of Avatar – as well as cornering the market for playing aliens of various hues.
Sam Worthington will also return as the human-turned-Na'vi Jake Sully, and it's fair to say that his success hasn't mirrored Saldana's, poor chap. After the box-office success but critical panning of his Clash of the Titans remake and its sequel, Wrath of the Titans, he's slipped from Hollywood leading man down into into indie projects from his native Australia and supporting roles in action movies like Everest and Sabotage.
Sci-fi goddess Sigourney Weaver and bad guy Stephen Lang will be back too, despite the fact that both their characters died in the first film. Weaver says that she will be a wholly new character, which, if true, would be a choice as strange as giving the Na'vi those weird tail things that let them plug into other animals. So we guess there's a sort of precedent, at least.
CCH Pounder will also reprise her role Neytiri's mum Mo'at, and Matt Gerald is back as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet.
And a big announcement was to come in October 2017: Kate Winslet is teaming with James Cameron for a Titanic reunion, playing the role of Ronal in the Avatar universe. This marks their first collaboration since the 1997 blockbuster, with Cameron admitting they were "looking for something to do together for 20 years".
Avatar 2 plot: back to Pandora
Cameron has teased some details of the plot of Avatar 2 in the years since the first film, which will deal with 'familial and imprisonment' themes, whatever that means. The filmmaker has also been keen to point out that the films can all stand on their own, just in case you're one of the three people who didn't see the original.
Set several years after the events of Avatar, Sully is now chieftain and Neytiri high priestess of their clan – although events will apparently focus on their children. We hear they'll also be journeying beyond the forests of Pandora into underwater and volcanic
video game levels environments that Cameron promises will make "you s**t yourself with your mouth wide open". That's supposed to be a good thing, we think...
Here's how producer Jon Landau described the four sequels:
"At the heart of any movie are the characters. One of the strengths of great scripts are always the universal and relatable themes... There's no more relatable theme than family.
"At the centre of each of our four movies will be the Sully family. Each sequel will play as a standalone movie. Each movie's story will come to its own conclusion... However, when looked at as a whole, the journey across all four movies will create an even larger connected epic saga for audiences around the world."
Not only is Lang somehow back as the dead Colonel Miles Quaritch, but he's going to be the main villain of the four movies.
As to the films' appearance like, Cameron promises that they will be so advanced you "just won't be able to imagine" what they're going to look like.
Avatar 2 trailer: you're kidding, right?
But there are a load of fan-made trailers if you need something to tide you over until Avatar 2 hits. Any year now...
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