The wait for James Cameron’s first “Avatar” sequel is set to end in December 2021, well over a decade after the original’s 2009 release, but not even that release date is set in stone. Production on the “Avatar” sequels was shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but Cameron is remaining optimistic that he’ll still be able to meet the first sequel’s December 17, 2021 release date despite the production setback. The director tells Empire magazine he was about to travel to New Zealand to continue working on the sequels when filming went on hiatus.
“It’s putting a major crimp in our stride here,” Cameron said about the shutdown. “I want to get back to work on ‘Avatar,’ which right now we’re not allowed to do under state emergency laws or rules. So it’s all on hold right now. We were about to shoot down in New Zealand, so that got pushed. We’re trying to get back to it as quick as we can.”
Fortunately for Cameron, the New Zealand Film Commission announced just a few days ago that productions in the country would be allowed to start filming again this month given the reduced spread of the pandemic in New Zealand. It seems likely Cameron will be back at work on the “Avatar” sequels sooner than other major Hollywood tentpoles, which is why he’s feeling confident that the “Avatar 2” release date can still be met.
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“On the bright side, New Zealand seems to have been very effective in controlling the virus and their goal is not mitigation, but eradication, which they believe that they can do with aggressive contact tracing and testing,” Cameron said. “So there’s a very good chance that our shoot might be delayed a couple of months, but we can still [release it on schedule]. So that’s good news. We’ve got everybody — everybody at Weta Digital and Lightstorm — working from home to the extent that that is possible. But my work is on the stage doing the virtual cameras and so on, so I can do a bit of editing, but it’s not great for me.”
Cameron said last December that motion capture on “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3” had been completed in its entirety and that all that was left to film on the first follow-up was live-action pick-ups. The director added at the time, “I’ve got a couple months in New Zealand in the spring, so we’re kind of on track with what we set out to do.” Even with the production shutdown, Cameron is hustling to ensure “Avatar 2” gets released on time.