Everything You Need to Remember From Avatar Before the The Way of Water

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THERE IS A disconnect. While James Cameron’s original Avatar, released in 2009, remains the highest-grossing movie of all time, it’s not a movie that people generally seem to reference, rewatch, or talk about particularly often. That movie’s sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, is now hitting theaters, 13 years later, to rave reviews and monster box office tracking. We can vouch—the movie is fantastic and a technical/visual marvel. But an important question remains: how much of the original Avatar do I need to remember to enjoy The Way of Water?

The answer? Not much. James Cameron has roots in horror—the first movie he ever directed was Pirahna II—and like an old Friday the 13th sequel, The Way of Water opens up with a few scenes of recap and place-setting. It’s been more than a decade since the last film, after all. Not only does the beginning of the film reference the events of the last film, but it also lets viewers know exactly where things stand for the 3 hour, 10 minute epic they’re about to watch.

And while viewers would probably be OK to go into The Way of Water completely cold, you may want a little bit of context as to who some of these returning characters are, and what it all really means.

There are two sides at battle in the Avatar franchise: the Na’vi, and the “sky people,” also known as humans. Below, we’ll let you know the few important things to remember from Avatar that will have you up to full speed.

Watch Avatar Here

Jake Sully, Neytiri, and the Na’vi

avatar way of water


What you need to mainly remember about the good guys in Avatar is that our protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), wasn’t even supposed to be making the visit to Pandora in the first place. His brother, Tom, was trained in the Avatar program, and was killed off-screen before the events of the first Avatar film. Because Jake, an untrained and disabled (he uses a wheelchair) former Marine, has the same DNA as his late brother, he’s signed up to take his brother’s place as the only one who could fill his shoes in the Avatar program.

He gets involved in the program, which puts his consciousness into a large, blue body called, you guessed it, an avatar. In training, he meets Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Dr. Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) who at first are skeptical but eventually warm up to him. While on an Avatar expedition in the Pandora forest, Jake gets lost, and meets up with the Na’vi, including Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) who almost kills him but eventually brings him back where he’s slowly embedded in the tribe.

There’s a bunch of back and forth, with Jake kind of going back and forth on allegiance between the “sky people” and the Na’vi. Eventually Jake and Neytiri grow close, and mate, and fall in love. By the end of the movie, after several huge battles, Jake’s consciousness is permanently embedded in his big blue avatar, and he and Neytiri are ready to embark on a future together.

Colonel Miles Quaritch and the “Sky People”

avatar way of water

20th Century Studios

James Cameron had long wanted to work with actor Stephen Lang—he almost cast him in Bill Paxton’s role in Aliens—and he finally made it happen in Avatar, casting him as the movie’s main villain: the straight-laced, ruthless, Colonel Miles Quaritch. Quaritch starts as something of a mentor for Jake, but he’s basically a sociopath; throughout the film, he’s usually leading a strike or burning down a forest while drinking a cup of coffee and saying things like how he hopes he can finish his genocide of the Na’vi in time to be home for dinner.

He has a major qualm with Jake once he realizes that the former marine isn’t snooping on the Na’vi like he’s asked, and has instead sided with them. The two have a major battle at the end of the movie, (with Jake in his avatar and Quaritch in his robot suit), and Neytiri saves the day by shooting Quaritch in the heart with arrows several times.

You would think this is the end of our villain—Quaritch is dead, and the rest of the “sky people” (with the exception of Dr. Norm and only a few others) are sent home—but James Cameron has other ideas. Stay tuned for The Way of Water.

Oh, and Sigourney Weaver’s character(s)…

avatar way of water

20th Century Studios

One of James Cameron’s old favorites is Sigourney Weaver—the two made beautiful music together in Aliens—and she plays Dr. Grace Augustine, the lead researcher and scientist on the avatar project. Grace and Jake grow close over the course of the movie, and she’s seen often in her own avatar body. Eventually, though, she’s hurt during one of the movie’s many battles, and while the Na’vi attempt to help her—a friend—permanently move into her avatar, it doesn’t take, and she dies.

However, Weaver is back in Way of Water as a new character—an avatar/na’vi hybrid somehow birthed from her remaining avatar corpse. Yes, wild sentence. Watch the movie, it will make more sense—we promise.

preview for Stephen Lang | Gym & Fridge

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