Why It's Taken So Long To Make The Avatar Sequels, According To James Cameron

Whatever year this arrow hits will be the sequel’s release date. (Photo: Fox)

Today, December 18, 2019, is the 10th anniversary of Avatar. You remember Avatar—the second highest-grossing movie in the history of movies, which the majority of filmgoers have long since forgotten about? Right, that one. The one with the blue people. Ten years have passed without a sequel, we’re still two years away from getting one, but in a new interview writer-director James Cameron has a very logical explanation.

“People don’t really understand the scope and complexity of the process,” Cameron told Variety. “It’s like making two and a half big animated films. A typical big animated film takes about four years, so, if you do the maths on that, we’re kind of right on schedule for December 2021.”

Props to Cameron for calling his films “animated”—because they mostly are, thanks to performance capture—but frankly we’re a little confused. There are four Avatar sequels in the works. Four. How does that equal two and a half movies? Is each one two and a half movies? Do all four equal two and a half movies? Maybe this other quote will explain:

From 2013 until now we’ve mostly designed the whole world across four new movies,” Cameron said. “We’ve written, finished scripts for all four of those films. We’ve cast them, and we’ve [performance] captured movie two, movie three, and the first part of movie four. We’re mostly done with the live-action. I’ve got a couple months in New Zealand in spring, so we’re kind of on track with what we set out to do.”

Avatar 2 is set for release in 2021, with each subsequent sequel following every other year through 2027. (So 2021, 2023, 2025, 2027). That’ll be 14 years from when work began, which doesn’t really line up with any of Cameron’s 2.5 movie nonsense. But we get a general idea; that’s the most important thing.

These movies have way more going on behind the scenes than most films do—and because it’s all one large story, he wanted to have all the pieces in place beforehand, instead of just kind of making each instalment as a reaction to the previous movie (like other recent sequels may have done).

I will say, since it’s the 10th anniversary of Avatar today, and that we’re almost exactly two years from Avatar 2, it’s not a bad idea to revisit the original. It’s not the cultural milestone it wants to be, but love it or hate it, you may have forgetten just how ambitious and epic it is.


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