Actress Zoe Saldana has finished filming her scenes as the Na'vi Neytiri for James Cameron's Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. A decade after Avatar became the highest-grossing film in history worldwide, Cameron is hard at work creating the first two of four planned sequels that will revisit the planet Pandora and its mystical, eco-friendly forest-dwelling race the Na'vi.
The sequels will bring back many of the first film's cast members, including Sam Worthington as earthling Jake Sully, Stephen Lang as villain Miles Queritch, and Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine (the latter two will come back even though their characters died in the original film). Kate Winslet is the biggest new cast addition, playing the character Ronal, described by Cameron as a member of the Sea People. And of course, Zoe Saldana returns as Neytiri, the Na'vi woman who fell in love with Worthington's Sully in the first film as he walked among her people in his Na'vi avatar.
Appearing via video at Tuesday's Fox presentation at CineEurope, director James Cameron provided an update on the status of the first two Avatar sequels, right now being shot concurrently (via Deadline). Among the tidbits offered up by Cameron was the news that Zoe Saldana has already finished shooting her scenes for the films. Cameron revealed that he and his crew are currently on day 130 of performance capture work on the movies. It will still be over two more years before the first of the sequels hits movie screens.
Like the original Avatar, Cameron's sequels will make use of extensive performance capture and CGI in order to create the Na'vi and now the Sea People. And this time, Cameron will take his high-tech cameras underwater to create an even more alien environment. As Cameron revealed at CineEurope, Kate Winslet has been practicing holding her breath for the underwater sequences and is now able to go seven minutes at a stretch.
Cameron has described the ongoing Avatar story as a "generational family saga" much like The Godfather. The children of Jake and Neytiri are set to take on featured roles in the new movies, and with bad guys like the militaristic Miles Queritch still around, it's evident that they will all have to carry on fighting to protect Pandora from the forces that want to exploit its natural riches (namely unobtanium). In a recent interview, Stephen Lang also said the new movies will have parallels to real life politics.
As for Saldana, the actress has little else on her slate beyond Avatar 2, Avatar 3, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5. Her status for Avengers 4 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is obviously very much up in the air, for reasons that don't have to be explained to anyone who saw Avengers: Infinity War. The future of her Uhura character in Star Trek is also unknown, though Star Trek 4 reportedly is still in development, now with director S.J. Clarkson coming aboard. Saldana does now have a very large window to take on other work before James Cameron calls her back to finish off his five-movie outer space opus (assuming audiences let Cameron know they wish to see the second two sequels).
- Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
- Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
- Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027