Filming has begun on the four sequels to Avatar, James Cameron’s 2009 3-D CGI adventure about a paraplegic marine who lands on the planet Pandora to mine unobtainium. This time, though, Cameron is really gonna make it happen — he’s not playing around! He’s spent much of the last decade teasing us about the upcoming installments, throwing out piecemeal updates (with occasional breaks for a Titanic rerelease or to shade Alien: Covenant). But this time, he’s serious: This week, Cameron and his crew started filming the installments known as the The Avatar Sequels, which will come with a budget of $1 billion. (That’s three and a half Lord of the Rings trilogies, six Wonder Womans, 66 Hurt Lockers, and 250 Moonlights.) Here’s a timeline of all Cameron’s Avatar promises that once seemed broken, or at least teetering on the edge of breaking, but he’s definitely about to make good on them, you’ll see. You’ll all see.
January 14, 2010: Now he says there won’t just be another — there will be several more. ““I’ve had a story line in mind from the start — there are even scenes in Avatar that I kept in because they lead to the sequel,” he tells EW. “It just makes sense to think of it as a two or three film arc, in terms of the business plan.”
February 16, 2010: We’re not only getting several more trips to Pandora, but a book! “I told myself, if it made money, I’d write a book. There are things you can do in books that you can’t do with films,” Cameron says. Your middle-school librarian nods in agreement.
August 7, 2010: Now Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 will be filmed back-to-back. “We’re talking about that, that makes a lot of sense, given the nature of these productions. We can bank all the capture and then go back and do cameras,” he says. But really, he’s focused on the prequel novel: “I didn’t want to do some cheesy novelization,” he says, “where some hack comes in and makes shit up.”
March 7, 2010, an aside: Cameron loses the Oscar. (Later on, he’ll say that the Oscars don’t award his kinds of movies anymore, meaning “big, visual cinema.”)
April 21, 2010: The Avatar sequel, Cameron says, will dive deep (not into the history — that’s for the novel) into the ocean. “Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment — a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest,” he tells the Los Angeles Times.
October 27, 2010: Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 are definitely happening ASAP — he passed on Sony’s never-realized Cleopatra to work on them. Fox made a big donation to his environmental green fund to make sure the trilogy rises to the tippity top of his to-do list. Cameron is shooting for a December 2014 and December 2015 release.
May 7, 2012: Not just Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. Now James Cameron has an Avatar 4 in store, too. He says he’s Avatar only. Literally, he says this: “I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them,” he tells the New York Times. He confirms it formally in August 2013.
December 2013: Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 will shoot in New Zealand. Not sure when, but probably soon-ish? When you jot it down in your calendar, maybe use pencil or one of those fancy erasable pens they sell at Staples.
April 12, 2014: Cameron says they’re in preproduction! Go ahead and set those iCal alerts.
January 14, 2015: He says Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 are delayed, but only for a couple years, ideally 2017. So it’s a little delay, not a big delay. If we’re using Google calendar by this point, adjust it accordingly.
April 28, 2015: James Cameron isn’t just giving us Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4. Did you think we’d get away without an Avatar 5? He and his writing team have come up with five whole freaking scripts. We’re getting Avatar 5, too.
January 1, 2016: He’s losing steam. How can he get it done? The Wrap reports that Avatar 2 has been “suspended indefinitely.”
April 14, 2016: “The next time I see you will be on Pandora,” Cameron tells a Comic Con audience. He’s back, baby! And this time, he’s promising a new Avatar nearly every other Christmas: Avatar 2 is slated for release on Christmas 2018, with Avatar 3 following on Christmas 2020, Avatar 4 on Christmas 2022, and Avatar 5 on Christmas 2023.
September 8, 2016: Sam Worthington is deep into his Christian movie stardom, Zoe Saldana is with Guardians of the Galaxy now, but Cameron is still hard at work on those Avatar movies. You’ll get them when you get them. Okay?!? “We haven’t moved that target yet, but we will if we need to,” Cameron says. “The important thing for me is not when the first one comes out but the cadence of the release pattern.”
April 22, 2017: Shady’s back, tell a friend: James Cameron has started production, with an adjusted timeline: Expect Avatar 2 on December 18, 2020; Avatar 3 on December 17, 2021; Avatar 4 on December 20, 2024; and Avatar 5 on December 19, 2025.
September 25, 2017: Seven years later, Cameron has started filming! Fox says the first Avatar sequel will be released December 18, 2020. Avatar 3 comes a year later, and the last two are due December 2024 and 2025. The Avatar Sequels aren’t just about the destination (again, Pandora, in case you’ve forgotten in the interim). Avatar is about James Cameron’s journey.