After more than a decade, Avatar: The Way of Water is almost here, with the highly anticipated sequel set to arrive in theaters worldwide on December 16,
The follow-up to James Cameron’s box office smash hit is set to be one of the biggest movies of the year (even if we’re in the final few weeks of 2022). So there’s never been a better time to catch up on everything we know so far about one of the final few new movies of 2022.
Below, we’ve compiled everything worth knowing about Avatar 2 before it swims into cinemas. That includes its release date, trailers, full cast, plot details, the franchise’s history and future, and much more. Major spoilers for 2009’s Avatar follow, as well as some mild spoilers for Avatar 2.
Here, then, is everything you need to know about Avatar: The Way of Water.
Avatar: The Way of Water release date
Avatar: The Way of Water launches worldwide on Friday, December 16.
Originally, it was supposed to land in cinemas all the way back in December 2014. However, thanks to multiple pre-production issues – including a lengthy wait for the correct technology to become available – the film has been delayed eight (!) times. Thankfully, it won’t be held back from us much longer. And, funnily enough, Avatar 2 will make landfall almost 13 years to the day that the original 2009 sci-fi movie was released.
With a reported runtime of three hours and 12 minutes, it seems that iconic director James Cameron, the cast, and the whole crew want to make up for the arduous wait between films.
Avatar: The Way of Water trailer
Two new trailers have been released for Avatar: The Way of Water in the lead up to its release. The first is the movie’s official trailer, which arrived in early November and you can view above.
Meanwhile, a second teaser – title Monolith – was released on November 22:
Until recently, we’d only seen shorter teaser trailers that captured the spectacle of the wondrous CGI and special effects, but didn’t give us details about the film’s story. The latest trailers really deliver, though – giving us a broad look at Pandora, some major plot points, plenty of action, and snippets of dialogue.
Additionally, 18 minutes of unseen footage were also revealed at the Brazilian Comic-Con Experience (CCXP). According to Collider (opens in new tab), this footage expands on many of the details we’ve previously seen in November’s two trailers. We learn more about Pandora’s sea and the peoples that live there, storylines about Jake and Neytiri’s kids, and – spoilers! – we find out Doctor Grace Augustine’s (Sigourney Weaver) was pregnant when she died in the original movie.
Avatar: The Way of Water plot
Full spoilers follow for 2009’s Avatar.
Here’s the official plot synopsis, courtesy of Disney: “Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water tells the story of the Sully family, 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.”
That doesn’t give away too much, so what have the cast and crew said that might tease more about what the plot entails? In an interview with Variety (opens in new tab), James Cameron described the movie as a “family saga”. Additionally, it’s set 14 years after the original and focuses on Jake (whose human consciousness was permanently downloaded into his Na’vi body) and Neytiri and their kids.
In an interview with RNZ (opens in new tab), executive producer Jon Landau elaborated further, saying: “This is the story of the Sully family and what one does to keep their family together. Jake and Neytiri have a family in this movie, they are forced to leave their home, they go out and explore the different regions of Pandora, including spending quite a bit of time on the water, around the water, in the water.”
This explains the movie’s title. From the trailers, it’s clear that much of the movie will take place around Pandora’s oceans, with the newly introduced sea-faring Metkayina clan playing a key role.
In an interview with Slashfilm (opens in new tab), Landau spoke more about the decision to set much of the movie in and around the sea. “We made the decision for the sequels not to do necessarily what other science fiction movies do,” he explained. “Which is if they want water they go to the ocean planet; and if they want snow, they go to the ice planet […] 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.”
As you might expect, it’s not all plain sailing on Pandora’s seas. There’ll be run-ins with the humans of the Resources Development Association (RDA) – the military organization that waged war with the Na’vi of Pandora in the original film.
Although Avatar: The Way of Water follows on from the story of the original, it’s been stressed in several interviews that the latest film – and all subsequent ones – will function as stories in their own right.
According to Landau (per the Slashfilm interview linked above), this is one of the reasons the sequel has taken so long to make. “We’re making standalone movies that will stand alone […] knowing that we wanted to tell multiple stories, we didn’t just want to solve one script,” he said. “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: The Way of Water cast
Here’s the full cast list for Avatar: The Way of Water:
- Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
- Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri
- Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
- Sigourney Weaver as Kiri
- Kate Winslet as Ronal
- Jack Champion as Miles “Spider” Socorro
- Cliff Curtis as Tonowari
- Jamie Flatters as Neteyam
- Britain Dalton as Lo’ak
- Trinity Jo-Li Bliss as Tuktirey
- Bailey Bass as Tsireya
- Filip Geljo as Aonung
- Duane Evans Jr. as Rotxo
- CCH Pounder as Mo’at
- Joel Davide Moore as Doctor Norm Spellman
- Dileep Rao as Doctor Max Patel
- Matt Gerald as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet
- Alicia Vela-Bailey as Zdinarsk
- Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge
- Edie Falco as General Frances Ardmore
- Brendan Cowell as Captain Mick Scoresby
- Jemaine Clement as Doctor Ian Garvin
- CJ Jones at TBA
Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña are stepping back into their motion capture (mo-cap) suits to play leads Jake and Neytiri, while Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, and CCH Pounder are all returning, too.
There are also surprise returns for Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, whose characters Grace Augustine and General Quaritch died in the first movie. How is that possible? Well, strap in because the explanations are wild.
According to Empire (opens in new tab), Weaver isn’t back as Grace Augustine in Avatar: The Way of Water, but as an entirely new Na’vi character called Kiri, who is Jake and Neytiri’s adoptive teenage daughter. Collider (opens in new tab) reports that the footage shown at CCXP expands on how this works, and it’s all to do with the fact Augustine was pregnant when she died, meaning the Na’vi could (somehow) let her generate a daughter.
What about Quaritch? It looks like he’ll be a key antagonist in Avatar: The Way of Water and possibly the following movies, too. In an interview with Empire (opens in new tab), Lang explained how that’s possible: “He’s a genetically-engineered autonomous avatar. He has been downloaded with the mind, the emotions, and even more interestingly, possibly the spirit of Quaritch. Now, that’s all pretty esoteric stuff. He comes with a full memory bank up until the time he actually undergoes the DNA transfer. So there are certain things that he doesn’t have any memory of at all. He has no memory of his death.”
There are plenty of newbies joining the cast, too – including Cameron’s reunion with Titanic star Kate Winslet, who’s playing Ronal. There are also roles for Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement among many others. Baby Drivers’ C.J. Jones is also in the movie but his role remains undisclosed at the time of writing.
Finally, seven young actors have joined the cast. Jake and Neytiri’s children are played by Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Britain Dalton (Lo’ak), and Trinity Bliss (Tuktirey). Meanwhile, there are three free-diving Metkayina kids confirmed: Bailey Bass (Tsireya), Filip Geljo (Aonung), and Duane Evans Jr (Rotxo). Lastly, Jack Champion plays a human teenager born on Pandora called Javier “Spider” Socorro.
Avatar: The Way of Water cost
Check out the exclusive @IMAX artwork for #AvatarTheWayOfWater, only in theaters December 16. Get tickets now: https://t.co/9NiFEIpZTE pic.twitter.com/2E2rK97TxSNovember 21, 2022
The original Avatar film came out in 2009, was a major hit, and is still the highest grossing movie of all-time. Even before its success, James Cameron had been planning on following it up with more Avatar instalments. For years he worked on scripts and concepts for sequels, but there were many obstacles along the way, including the Disney/Fox merger, technological difficulties, and Covid-19 delays.
So, how much could it make globally? According to Box Office Pro (opens in new tab), Avatar 2 might rake in between $135 and $175 million during its opening weekend. With the holiday season right around the corner (and little in the way of competition), too, you can expect it to dominate the box office through the New Year.
While the first movie was (and still is) incredibly popular, though, some people are worried that the sequel might not measure up. That’s particularly true when you consider it’s one of the most expensive movies ever made, with an estimated budget of between $350 and $400 million.
Are audiences still as wow-ed by CGI as they were more than a decade ago? Hopefully, fans will feel safe in Cameron’s hands. He’s the driving force behind some of the most popular movies of all-time, including Aliens, The Terminator, and Titanic. Many will also be lured back by the promise of learning more about Pandora and seeing how the story they fell in love with in 2009 has moved on. Time will tell, though, if The Way of Water can come close to matching the original’s extortionate haul of $2.93 billion.
Avatar: The Way of Water: underwater technology
From The Abyss to Terminator 2 and Titanic to Avatar, a new James Cameron movie usually pushes the envelope when it comes to cinematic ambition. Expect Avatar: The Way of Water to be no different, with Cameron undoubtedly creating visuals unlike anything we’ve seen on screen before.
Thanks to producer Jon Landau, we can see (in the image above) a man in underwater CGI gear riding what looks like some sort of sea-dwelling creature.
One of the key developments is the world’s 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 (opens in new tab). “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.”
We can see more in the image below with Kate Winslet, whose underwater mo-cap suit appears to show something that could be a huge tail trailing behind her, along with weights to keep her underwater. The latter she clearly did with aplomb: the Hollywood icon broke Tom Cruise’s record by holding her breath for a, err, breathtaking, seven minutes and 12 seconds. “I have to learn how to free-dive to play that role,” Winslet told The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab).
Cameron also wants to revolutionize the 3D experience in cinemas again, and it’ll be particularly interesting to see how he fares. Avatar’s 3D visuals 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 (opens in new tab)), he said the Avatar sequels “will be, to the best of my ability, the best 3D that [it’s] possible to make.”
The last set for 2020 filming —The Matador (a 50’ forward command boat) on a 16-ton, 360 degree motion-control base. Three Technocranes and a Russian Arm mounted on top of a Mercedes-Benz. Just another day on the set of the Avatar sequels. (credit @jonlandau) pic.twitter.com/MB6dzUzeErDecember 15, 2020
When it comes to filming on (sort of) terra firma, filming Avatar is just as ostentatious and expensive. In the tweet Cameron shared above, the director showed the monstrous kit that would be used to see out production for the year: The Matador. “It’s a “50′ forward command boat on a 16-ton, 360 degree motion-control base”, he said. Pretty impressive, eh?
Avatar: The Way of Water: series’ future
#Neytiri herself, Zoe Saldaña, and producer Jon Landau arrive on-stage at Brazil Comic Con to talk #AvatarTheWayOfWater #CCXP2022 pic.twitter.com/IuN2ZXybQRDecember 1, 2022
There’s a lot of pressure on Avatar: The Way of Water to perform well. According to Deadline (opens in new tab), Cameron hinted that if Avatar 2 doesn’t achieve commercial success, it might influence whether the other movies are even made. As it stands, they’re due to land on our theater screens on December 20, 2024, December 16, 2026, and December 22, 2028.
The names of these next three movies haven’t been officially revealed. However, BBC News (opens in new tab) has “seen documentation” with details of the titles: Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider, and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa. For now, these names are unverified, so we advise you to maintain an air of scepticism about them.
Even if Avatar: The Way of Water is the second and final entry in the series, Cameron’s place in cinematic history is assured. We’re sure he’d like his latest franchise to continue after Avatar 2 is released, regardless of who helms subsequent entries (Cameron has said he’d pass the directorial baton over after a potential third installment), but he knows full well that its future depends on its box office success. We’ll be crossing our fingers and Na’vi braids that The Way of Water is big enough, then, to warrant some sequels.