If you’re seeing this, chances are good that you’re either sitting in a theater or headed for one. You just want to know whether you can finally run to the bathroom, grab a snack, or register your opinion on social media immediately after spending more than 180 minutes in James Cameron’s world of Pandora, watching big blue alien cat-people go ham on greedy-ass humans. Here’s your answer: No, Avatar: The Way of Water does not have a post-credits scene. That final line about family, teased in the very first Avatar 2 trailer, is all you’re going to get. Fly! Be free! Unless you want to spend the next seven minutes watching the names of every motion-capture expert, marine biologist, and CGI designer who worked on the film scroll by.
But it might be polite to watch. Some of these people have been working on this movie since it was first announced in 2011, after all. Surely you don’t want to miss their big moment?
Avatar: The Way of Water is missing a few more things as well. Sure, it has space whales, coming-of-age stories, a creepy resurrection, and a ton of visual references to past James Cameron movies. But just for a moment, let’s focus on a few things it’s missing.
Avatar 2 doesn’t have a post-credits scene
Cameron’s sequel ends, instead, much like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with a key character mentally coming up for air after trauma and loss, finding their emotional footing again, and informing the audience, via voice-over, that it’s time to take the fight to the enemy — and then looking directly into the camera to signal just how determined they are. This is a good formula for what’s effectively more a chapter ending than a movie ending — it signals that there’s more to come, and it leaves a character making meaningful eye contact with the audience, letting them feel like even if they weren’t included in the fight they just watched, they’re still invited to the fight to come.
That’s assuming you’re OK with loose ends, but those are pretty much guaranteed from the middle installment of a trilogy. “Wait,” you say, “a trilogy? Ha ha, no, you are misinformed, there are going to be five Avatar movies. James Cameron said so.”
Well, yes and no…
Avatar 2 isn’t guaranteed to have three more sequels
Cameron has been saying for years now that he has a road map for five Avatar movies in total, and he’s laid out release dates for those movies through 2028. Movie No. 3, currently rumored to be titled Avatar: The Seed Bearer, is set for release in December 2024, and was shot back-to-back with The Way of Water. Cameron says the first act of movie No. 4, possibly titled Avatar: The Tulkun Rider, has been shot as well. (The tulkun are the space whales that have such a prominent role in The Way of Water.)
But that doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed five Avatar movies. Speaking to Total Film in November, Cameron signaled that the fourth and fifth movies might never be completed if The Way of Water and its sequel don’t make the immense piles of money they need to be profitable. “[W]e might be semi-done, meaning: ‘Okay, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable,” Cameron said.
That doesn’t seem likely, though. The 2022 theatrical release of Avatar alone brought in $75 million. Even in a notoriously difficult era for blockbusters, with more $100 million flops than record-breaking hits, audiences flocked to theaters to revisit the world of Pandora. So it feels improbable that they’ll utterly reject The Way of Water, even if it does fall short of Avatar’s record financial success. But early box-office tracking suggests the sequel could open to more than $500 million in its first weekend.
“Look, I believe people are gonna love the movie, right?” Avatar producer Jon Landau recently told Polygon, when asked whether he believes the series could reach a natural conclusion with the third film. “I don’t think we can predict world events. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the pandemic. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to be happening tomorrow.”
That said, the producer thinks Avatar 3 will bring the story to a satisfying close, if it comes to that: “I think that none of these movies create a cliffhanger on your emotional conclusion,” he said.
Avatar 2 doesn’t have a longer Disney Plus streaming cut
Cameron said something else interesting during the lead-up to The Way of Water’s release: He’d like to make movies with different cuts for their streaming releases, possibly stretching up to six hours on streaming. “I want to do a movie that’s six hours long and two and a half hours long at the same time. Same movie,” he told Dune director Denis Villeneuve in one of Variety’s “Directors on Directors” interviews.
“You can stream it for six hours, or you can go and have a more condensed, roller coaster, immersive version of that experience in a movie theater,” Cameron said. “Same movie. Just, one’s the novel, and one’s the movie. Why not? Let’s just use these platforms in ways that haven’t been done before.”
If there’s any franchise that seems like it’d justify that treatment, it’s the Avatar movies, given the decade-plus planning and preproduction phase they went through. There’s so much joyous Pandora tourism in The Way of Water, and so many new characters with their own small arcs, that it’s easy to imagine a more TV-oriented version of the film with extra episodic footage, drawing out some of these stories at length.
But Landau confirms that for now, at least, Cameron is just blue-skying about technology and the future, and there are no plans for a longer streaming cut of Avatar: The Way of Water.
“I think Jim is seizing on opportunities for other stories with two different cuts — the idea would be that you build a larger, epic narrative that can last six hours, and you pull a two-and-a-half-hour movie out of it.” But definitely not with either Avatar 2 or the already-shot Avatar 3, he says: “We don’t have the amount of content to do that.”
Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now.