'Avatar 2,' 'Avatar 3' Mo-Cap Already Shot, James Cameron Pessimistic About Earth's Future

The release date for Avatar 2, Avatar: The Way of Water, isn't until December 2021, but writer and director James Cameron already has Avatar 3 filmed—at least the motion capture performances that will populate the alien world of Pandora. The Avatar sequels are so far along Cameron has even begun filming the series fourth movie, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider.

"From 2013 until now we've mostly designed the whole world across four new movies," Cameron told Variety, speaking on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Avatar's release. "We've written finished scripts for all four of those films. We've cast them, and we've [performance] captured movie two, movie three and the first part of movie four. We're mostly done with the live action. I've got a couple months in New Zealand in spring, so we're kind of on track with what we set out to do."

Avatar-Sigourney-Weaver avatar sequels
Sigourney Weaver as Grace Augustine in 2009's "Avatar." 20th Century Fox

If Cameron's timeline continues apace, the live-action component for Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 will be wrapped before the first sequel premieres. That sequel, The Way of Water, will journey to Pandora's oceans, exploring a side of the alien ecosystem unseen in the first movie.

"We created a 900,000 gallon water tank where we could capture in, on and above the water," series producer Jon Landau told Variety. "We trained our cast in breath holding and we're excited to let people experience that."

Cameron described the production process on the Avatar pentalogy—after 2009's Avatar: The Way of Water, The Seed Bearer, The Tulkun Rider and The Quest for Eywa—as a procedure more akin to animation, with a complex and prolonged post-production process.

In the original Avatar, a ruthless mining operation, the Resources Development Administration, wields mercenary space marines against the native Na'vi in pursuit of the unobtainum deposits beneath their holy tree. The movie reflected Cameron's own environmental concerns explored through an extraterrestrial version of Earth colonialism.

Cameron described his inspiration as "the entire history of European civilization migrating into the new world," with Avatar doubling as an "encapsulation of the colonial period."

"It's a long, bloody history and I think everybody can see where the reference points are," Cameron said. "But it's also an environmental film and it makes the connection that our remaining indigenous people on this planet—especially in the rainforests—are kind of watchdogs and our guardians of nature. They're our wisdom keepers. They know the correct way in which human beings should live in balance with their natural world."

But while these themes will undoubtedly continue to permeate the Avatar sequels, Cameron is pessimistic about cinema's ability to create real change.

"I suppose if it really did a lot of good, we wouldn't be in the jam we're in right now. I mean, we're not doing shit about the climate, not at a rate that needs to happen," Cameron told Variety. "I look around now, 10 yars later, and I just see the battle being lost at every single front in terms of biodiversity, deforestation, indigenous rights, loss of culture, loss of language, ocean pollution, rising ocean temperatures, all of these things. We're just losing the battle at every front you look at. So we're going to have to get a whole lot smarter in a whole lot shorter amount of time."