(L-R) US film producer Jon Landau, British actor Jamie Flatters, US actress Bailey Bass, British-Australian actor Sam Worthington, US actress Zoe Saldana, US actress Sigourney Weaver, Canadian filmmaker James Cameron, British actress Kate Winslet, US actor Stephen Lang, US actress Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and US actor Jack Champion pose during a photocall for Avatar: The Way of Water in London on 4 December 2022. (Photo: AFP)
The 13-year wait for a follow-up to "Avatar", the biggest-grossing film of all time, cannot come too soon for struggling cinemas around the world.
The public will get to see James Cameron's three-hour opus next week, with the director hoping it will justify his dream of establishing a franchise on a par with "Star Wars" and the "Marvel" juggernaut.
Having been re-released around the world in recent months, the first "Avatar" is now just shy of $3 billion in worldwide revenue.
But Cameron's initial hopes of having a sequel out by 2014 saw repeated delays as his technical ambitions grew.
"Avatar 2" continues the mix of sci-fi and eco-politics -- returning to the planet Pandora where the Navi struggle to fend off rapacious humans -- as well as the groundbreaking use of 3D and cutting edge cinematic wizardry that made the original such a box office hit.
Stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver return, alongside new additions including Kate Winslet, a quarter-century after her world-beating collaboration with Cameron for "Titanic".
It remains a huge bet for Cameron and for Disney, who have ploughed hundreds of millions of dollars not only into this film, but a third instalment that has already been shot.
That is not the end: Cameron has planned the series through to a fifth entry, with new films due every two years until 2028.