2009 was a strange time.
Do you remember it? I don’t. Not very well, anyway. But I do recall one strange hungover day when, underneath a crisp December sky, I was duped somehow into joining the gigantic horde streaming en masse into cinemas worldwide to see James Cameron’s derivative riff on FernGully.
Rings an unfortunate bell, doesn’t it? Avatar. Even now it makes me a little bit angry, hearing the name. You’ve probably tried to suppress the memory just like I have, but we have to face facts: we all marched willingly into those overpriced showings, we all strapped on a pair of those dim and clunky glasses, and we all stared slack-jawed at the pretty, shiny imagery for three hours. We could tell deep down that something was wrong even as we gaped, but it was only afterwards, when the high-res textures of never before seen alien plants had faded from memory and when all that remained were images of tentacle eco-orgies and the sound of the nonsensical ramblings of paper-thin characters that we realised: ‘Damn, I could’ve bought a few beers for the money I spent on that ticket.’ We ended up collectively blowing $2.8 billion of potential beer money on making Avatar the highest grossing movie of all time.
Almost immediately after we all went through that James Cameron announced that we’d be getting more of it; namely three sequels. Three sequels to a movie that barely had thirty minutes worth of substance in its two hours and forty two minutes running time. That seemed like madness.
Well, following the logic of ‘if you push far enough through madness you’ll come out the other end of it’, we will now be getting not three, but four Avatar sequels.
Bearing in mind that originally we were meant to get the first sequel in 2016, the updated release schedule (with totally official, not-made-up-by-me names) now looks like this:
Avatar 2: Electric Bluegaloo - Christmas 2018
Avatar 3: Avatar With A Vengeance - Christmas 2020
4vatar - Christmas 2022
Avatar 5: Pandora’s Box - Christmas 2023.
And, James Cameron plans to shoot them in a rather interesting manner, as he said, speaking to Famous Monsters of Filmland:
It’s not back-to-back. It’s really all one big production. It’s more the way you would shoot a miniseries. So we’ll be shooting across all [Avatar scripts] simultaneously. So Monday I might be doing a scene from Movie Four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from Movie One. … We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story. It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, this person hasn’t died yet, so you’re still in this phase of your life.’ It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three Godfather films at the same time.
You might’ve noticed, too, that the announced release dates would be putting Mr Cameron and his furry blue friends up against a certain other Christmas-centred franchise.
Yeah, that hasn’t gone unremarked. From the same interview as above:
My original plan was to release them a year apart, but we’re opening that up. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to land on the same date as one of the STAR WARS sequels. That wouldn’t be fair to them. [Laughs] No, that’s just good business. I don’t want to go head-to-head with STAR WARS. That would be stupid. And hopefully they won’t want to go head-to-head with us.
So, basically, expect those ‘official’ dates to be as slippery and hard to pin down as a greased-up hog in heat. Personally I’d be more than happy if they scarpered off into the undergrowth, never to be seen again. But maybe that’s just me. I might still be bitter about that wasted beer money.
Oh, and because this is important, here’s the newly released poster for the first sequel: