Back in 2009, James Cameron revolutionized cinema with Avatar, a sci-fi epic largely considered one of the most technologically advanced and visually impressive films of all time. It was fast cemented as a mega hit, and eight years later it still remains the highest-grossing movie in history with a staggering $2.8 billion worldwide take. It also earned widespread critical acclaim, going on to win three Oscars at the 2010 Academy Awards.
Its unparalleled success across the board made it a ripe start for a franchise, and Cameron has since revealed he has plans for not one, but four follow-ups. Still, production has been slow. The original Avatar was over a decade in the making, and Cameron’s plans to push the technological limits of filmmaking with glasses-free 3D has undoubtedly curbed development. Thus far, the sequels have been mapped out to hit theaters between 2018 and 2023. There’s been some uncertainty about Avatar 2 meeting its release date, but now it looks like the film is officially headed into production.
The report states that shooting will begin in Manhattan Beach, California, with no word on if it will make its way back to New Zealand — where a lot of the first movie’s filming took place. It was previously speculated that the film would begin motion work in the summer, so this suggests everything is on track.
As of yet, not much has been confirmed in the way of plot details, though Entertainment World notes it will pick up after the closing moments of the original project, when Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) permanently transfers his consciousness to his Na’vi avatar and begins a new life with Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) after defeating the human colonizers. Sam Worthington previously said that Avatar 2 will unfold eight years after the original in a bigger world, and will focus on Sully’s new family.
That’s not a lot to go off of, but it seems like a promising start. Avatar‘s ending didn’t leave many loose ends — the humans were expelled from Pandora, and Jake was left to start his new life with Neytiri in peace — so placing them in the new role of parents will help to add new challenges to their story line. Still, there will have to be some sort of overarching plot that sets up the next few movies’ arc, which will likely delve back into Pandora’s lingering conflict with humanity. How that will come about remains unclear, but at least fans know Avatar is finally taking a tangible step toward returning to screens.