By now, we were supposed to have already seen the Avatar sequels. If James Cameron had stuck to his original plan, Avatar 2 would’ve been released in 2014, and Avatar 3 would’ve capped the trilogy in 2015. And yet, as Cameron continued to design the sets and worlds of the sequels, he expanded the story, assembling a writers room in 2013 that consisted of Josh Friedman, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and Shane Salerno. These teams were each tasked with writing an Avatar movie, and as the 2014 release date came and went, Cameron was now aiming for a December 2016 release for Avatar 2. That also came and went, and just like Lucy and the football, we most recently were poised for Avatar 2 to hit theaters in December 2018.
Which brings us to today’s news—that December 2018 release for Avatar 2 ain’t happening. Speaking with the Toronto Star (via EW), Cameron reveals that once again the release date for Avatar 2 has been pushed back:
“Well, 2018 is not happening. We haven’t announced a firm release date. What people have to understand is that this is a cadence of releases. So we’re not making Avatar 2, we’re making Avatar 2, 3, 4, and 5. It’s an epic undertaking. It’s not unlike building the Three Gorges dam.”
So what’s the holdup? Didn’t Cameron say the scripts were done back in January? Well two sequels expanded into four sequels, and Cameron has also been busy overseeing the design and construction of Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, which is just about to open. While he doesn’t give a firm explanation for why Avatar 2 won’t be making the 2018 release date, he did say he’s very much hard at work on the films:
“So I know where I’m going to be for the next eight years of my life. It’s not an unreasonable time frame if you think about it. It took us four-and-a-half years to make one movie and now we’re making four. We’re full tilt boogie right now. This is my day job and pretty soon we’ll be 24-7. We’re pretty well designed on all our creatures and sets. It’s pretty exciting stuff. I wish I could share with the world. But we have to preserve a certain amount of showmanship and we’re going to draw that curtain when the time is right.”
This is basically the same update we get from Cameron ever year or so, so I don’t really know how seriously we’re supposed to take this. What I do know is you never bet against James Cameron, so while I’m dubious that there’s an audience for one Avatar sequel let alone four, it would be unwise to write this franchise off entirely.
But Avatar 2 moving out of the December 2018 corridor does pose some interesting questions. While Lucasfilm has staked out December as its release strategy for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and this year’s The Last Jedi, the next Star Wars movie—the untitled Han Solo film—is slated for release in May 2018, likely to avoid going head to head with the unbeatable James Cameron in December. With Avatar 2 now out, however, one has to wonder if Lucasfilm will shift Han Solo to December 2018 given how successful they’ve been with this new Star Wars holiday tradition.
When 20th Century Fox announced the 2018 release date for Avatar 2 they also set Avatar 3 for 2020, Avatar 4 for 2022, and Avatar 5 for 2023, but if Avatar 2 is delayed one imagines there might be a domino effect. Or, if Cameron finally starts production this year (he said in January that filming starts in August), it’s possible Avatar 2 just moves back to 2019 and with all the motion-capture footage shot, Cameron could roll out the following sequels in a shorter amount of time.
Or maybe these never actually do happen. Again, never bet against Cameron, but this is starting to get a little ridiculous.