Why did Avatar 2 take so long to make?

Cameron Frew
A still from Avatar 220th Century Studios

How long did Avatar 2 take to make? Avatar: The Way of Water is about to drop on Disney+, but why did it take so long for the sequel to come out?

2022 was an incredible year for movies, whether it’s blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, or The Batman, or horror bangers like X, Pearl, Barbarian, and Nope.

And yet, we finished on the biggest of them all: Avatar 2, the long-awaited, highly-anticipated sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time. James Cameron came back, and we should never doubt the return of the king.

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Unlike the MCU, DCEU, and Star Wars, there’s only been one Avatar movie, with Cameron refusing to pump out sequels until they’re ready – so why did Avatar 2 take so long?

How long did Avatar 2 take to make?

Avatar: The Way of Water took 12 years to make, with the sequel not beginning production until August 2017.

In 2006, three years before the release of the first movie, Cameron said there’d be sequels if Avatar was a hit. In 2010, with the film still dominating multiplexes, he confirmed there’d be a sequel.

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At first, the Avatar franchise was touted to be a trilogy, with the director planning to shoot them back to back. A year later, he confirmed he was planning a total of four sequels. Cameron has since said the fourth and fifth movies may not go ahead if Avatar 2 doesn’t make enough money.

Why did Avatar 2 take so long?

Given the titanic success (sorry) of Avatar, most moviegoers would have expected a follow-up by now. Well, in true Cameron fashion, the movie was originally planned for a 2014 release date, but the technological advancements required to make The Way of Water a reality have made the project endure several delays; eight, to be exact.

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As the title suggests, Avatar 2 will be largely set in and around water. This has proven to be a huge factor in the film’s lengthy production, as Cameron had to develop technology to nail motion-capture underwater. “It sounds kind of nuts, the process. I mean, if Avatar hadn’t made so much damn money, we’d never do this – because it’s kind of crazy,” he said.

There’s also the 3D element, a major selling point of the first film. Up until 2016, Cameron was talking about theoretically filming using a non-glasses form of 3D, but later admitted the technology wasn’t quite there yet.

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After showing off the teaser trailer at CinemaCon, Cameron said: “[We’re] pushing limits even farther with high frame rate, higher resolution 3D and greater reality in our visual effects.

“I wanted our return to Pandora to be something really special. Every shot is designed for the biggest screen, highest resolution and most immersive 3D available. I think we pulled it off.”

In addition to the complications of global restrictions in recent years, Cameron hasn’t just been working on Avatar: The Way of Water – he’s been working on them all at the same time.

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He told Vanity Fair in 2017: “It was highly optimistic that we could start quickly until scripts are written. If there’s no scripts, there’s nothing, right?

“The scripts took four years. You can call that a delay, but it’s not really a delay because from the time we pushed the button to really go make the movies [until now], we’re clicking along perfectly.”

Also speaking to Empire in 2014, Cameron made a big claim for Avatar 2: “You will s**t yourself with your mouth wide open.”

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Avatar: The Way of Water is available to stream via VOD now. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.