James Cameron’s history-making franchise is back. “Avatar: The Way of Water” is set more than a decade after the events of the first film, which was the highest-grossing film of all time after debuting in 2009.
The sequel tells the story of the Sully family — Jake, Neytiri, and their children — as their land becomes torn apart. Per an official synopsis, the Sully family endures danger, battles to the death, and tragedy throughout the film. Cameron directs the feature and produces alongside Jon Landau.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, and Kate Winslet. The original film will also be re-released in theaters on September 23, before the sequel premieres December 16.
“Avatar 2” returns to the fictional planet of Pandora, with much of the movie taking place in the planet’s oceans. Cameron developed new technology in order to film motion capture scenes underwater, something never previously achieved. But the underwater sequences are not all movie magic, as 70-year-old Weaver held her breath underwater for six minutes at a time while filming. The cast also includes franchise newcomers Michelle Yeoh and Winslet, teaming up again with Cameron after “Titanic.”
A third film was filmed simultaneously and is slated to soar into theaters in December 2023. And as soon as those films are done with post-production, Cameron and company will start shooting “Avatar 4” and “Avatar 5” back to back.
Producer Landau explained at CinemaCon that “each story will come to its own conclusion, and each movie will deliver to audiences fulfilling emotional resolutions,” despite the multiple sequels in the works.
Cameron previously told Entertainment Weekly that “The Way of Water” combines his “two greatest loves,” filmmaking and ocean exploration. He pioneered new technology to dismiss often-used techniques to simulate filming underwater, or as Cameron called it, “dry for wet.”
“I said, ‘It’s not going to work. It’s not going to look real,'” Cameron recalled. “I even let them run a test, where we captured dry for wet, and then we captured in water, a crude level of our in-water capture. And it wasn’t even close.”
Check out the sweeping, water-centric trailer below.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” premieres December 16 in theaters.