After 13 years, the world's biggest film will finally see its sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water," released at end of 2022.
A still from a scene of "Avatar: The Way of Water." [Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios]
The first teaser trailer and poster were released on Monday in China, offering a sneak peek at the magnificent imagery of the fictional planet of Pandora, including several deep sea scenes.
According to 20th Century Studios, the story of "Avatar: The Way of Water" is set a decade after the original, reuniting with Jake at a time when he must work with Neytiri and her blue-skinned Na'vi race's army to protect their planet. "[The film] begins to tell the story of returning heroes Jake and Neytiri and their children, the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure," states a synopsis released by the studio. In the trailer, Jake, played by Sam Worthington, says, "This family is our fortress" to Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana.
This first teaser for the movie debuted at the 2022 CinemaCon before being packaged as a trailer for the release of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," which hit many markets around the world over the weekend. After it was later released online on May 9, the teaser also generated a huge wave of interest worldwide: the teaser finished its first 24-hour online window with 148.6 million views, including 23 million from China alone, according to Disney and 20th Century Studios.
The new promotional content has reignited the Chinese audience's enthusiasm and nostalgia for the franchise, with a trending tag #Avatar2FirstTrailer on China's Weibo microblogging platform generating 73.86 million views by Wednesday morning.
James Cameron's new film, which also stars returning performers Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang as well as newcomers Kate Winslet, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, and Chinese-Malaysian movie star Michelle Yeoh, will open Dec. 16 in North America and many other territories. The film comes eight years after the original December 2014 release plan, since the crew had taken more time to flesh out the writing, pre-production, and visual effects.
The China release date has not been set, but it is highly likely that the film will be imported. The original "Avatar," released in December 2009, was one of the films that changed the Chinese film industry forever. At that time, "Avatar" grossed $2.79 billion worldwide and became the highest-grossing film of all time. That total includes $202.6 million taken after its release in China the following January, an astonishing figure for the local market at the time. Since then, the Chinese market has continued to install more and more 3D and IMAX screens, has grown significantly, and now hosts numerous blockbusters a year.
"We are very happy to see the great fan reaction to the 'Avatar 2' teaser and, given our historic performance on the first film, we're looking forward to this great franchise returning to theaters to cap off a strong year at the movies," said Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corp. and chairman of IMAX China.
The first poster for "Avatar: The Way of Water." [Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios]
The re-release of the original film in China in 2021 helped it take back the crown as the world's highest-grossing film of all time from Marvel's "Avengers: Endgame," which temporarily dethroned the Na'vi epic in 2019. "Avatar's" China total is now 1.71 billion yuan ($255 million), while the worldwide total stands at $2.84 billion, not adjusted for inflation. As a warm-up for "Avatar: The Way of Water," the original film will have another re-release in North America on Sept. 23 this year with restored picture and sound.
"Avatar: The Way of Water" is just the next step in what will be a long and lucrative journey for the juggernaut franchise. The third installation recently finished shooting and is set to hit cinemas in December 2024, while the fourth and fifth are scheduled for 2026 and 2028, respectively. Currently, it is unclear how much COVID-19 and related restrictions will affect its box office performance. However, for the new sequels, Cameron continues to push for new cinematic technological breakthroughs as he did with the first film, which ushered in the 3D era.
"We're pushing the technology much farther than we did before," Cameron told China.org.cn in an interview in 2021, adding that he believed that the subjects touched on by "Avatar," including climate change, deforestation, and humanity's relationship with nature, are just as relevant now as they were when the original came out.