People love to tell you how much they don’t care about "Avatar," about how much they thought the movie was bad, about how no one cares about a sequel, about how the movie has no cultural impact. Well, it’s been 13 years since it became the highest-grossing film of all time, and clearly it made some kind of impression if all these dissenters keep feeling the need to bring up how no one is talking about it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just let it slip away to the recesses of your memory? If no one is talking about it, it would just fade away. But no, "Avatar" is not going anywhere, especially now that the sequel is finally (hopefully) on the horizon.
If you were one of the six people who did not go out to see "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness" this past weekend, you would have missed seeing the first footage from "Avatar: The Way of Water." I specifically went to a 3D showing of "Multiverse of Madness" just so I could see this trailer the way James Cameron intended. For whatever reason, the trailer was not in 3D, so I will still have to wait for that. You, however, do not have to wait any longer to catch up on what I did see over the weekend, as the first trailer for "Avatar: The Way of Water" has been released online for all to see.
Well, as someone who has been to Pandora – The World of Avatar a couple of times at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, I am here to break down the tidbits of what "The Way of Water" could be based on this trailer. Let’s dive in, shall we? Sivako!
A family on the Hallelujah Mountains
While not much is known about the story of "Avatar: The Way of Water" and the trailer does very little to help in that regard, what we do know is that it will continue the adventures of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). More specifically, it will concern their family. In the intervening years between "Avatar" films, they have had three Na’vi children of their own, while also having adopted a human as well. If you will recall from the end of the first film, Sully had his consciousness permanently transferred into the body of his Na’vi avatar, hence why he and Neytiri could actually have children. This being a big action epic, you can imagine that their life is not going to be the most peaceful existence. Although, this introduction to, presumably, the four Sully/Neytiri children running about atop the Hallelujah Mountains (Ayram alusing, in Na’vi) is a nice way to ease you back into the world of Pandora.
In order to have a way of water, you need water
We all know James Cameron loves water. From drowning his cast in "The Abyss," to making two undersea documentaries to … well … "Titanic," he just can’t help getting everybody soaking wet. And "Avatar: The Way of Water" is no exception. Based on the title alone, you could probably guess that a lot of this film will take place in and around water. Here, we have our first look at the film’s underwater visual effects. We see what I presume is the youngest child Tuktirey (Trinity Bliss) seeing something truly magical. What else would warrant that kind of wide-eyed wonder in her face? It might just be the neat-looking coral we see, but it might be something even more impressive off-screen. Whatever she is looking at, all I know is the effects on these films are still miles ahead of the rest of the game. Perhaps all those years of working on the project to get it right were well worth it.
The human world has not entirely left Pandora
After the humans lost the battle at the end of "Avatar," nearly all the people were sent back to Earth except for a few of our friends. As we can see in this trailer, though, the human work in Pandora is not entirely over, as the machinery of the Resources Development Administration is still in use in some capacity. Maybe they are still trying to mine for unobtainium, or there could be a new resource or valuable the greedy earthlings want to extract. Or they just want all-out war because of how embarrassed they were in the previous film. The humans are here, and it seems we will still be wearing orange vests and hardhats in over a century. That technology could not get any better.
A human Na’vi
As i mentioned before, Jake Sully and Neytiri have adopted a human as their own named Spider (Jack Champion), and he lives among the Na’vi without the aid of an avatar. All he does is wear a mask to be able to breathe. Otherwise, he seemingly behaves as if he were a natural-born member of the Na’vi. If Jake Sully caused issues in the first film by injecting himself within the Na’vi people through the body of an avatar, I am sure Spider’s acceptance amongst the people will be even more precarious.
This world is still stunning to look at
We have been inundated with computer-generated effects for so long in gigantic Hollywood blockbusters that the look of digital sludge has become second nature by this point. We take it as a given that these movies will just look muddy, with the excuse being that it looks "real." It’s seen as acceptable, and James Cameron will not settle for acceptable. The original "Avatar" still looks ahead of its time and was made 13 years ago, and "The Way of Water" pushes that even further. The skin detail of the Na’vi is even richer, and the landscapes are even more breathtaking. Just look at this shot right here. Come on … Marvel movies wish they looked like this. Maybe if they moved off their Atlanta parking lot they might.
At some point in "Avatar: The Way of Water," the main characters come into contact with the water-diving Metkayina tribe, which will feature folks like Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis as Na’vi. I don’t know if this beautiful place is where those people reside, but it looks to be a place of new discovery and connection.
A connection with whale creatures?
We all know that every Na’vi has a special connection with an ikran, the flying banshee creature from the first film. They use their ponytails to link up with an ikran, and that person will be the only one who can ride it. Does this connection exist with other animals as well? In the trailer, we see one of the Na’vi (unclear which one it is) have this graceful touch of hand to fin with what looks to be Pandora’ equivalent to a whale. In "Avatar: The Way of Water," will the Na’vi be able to do their best Keisha Castle-Hughes impressions and become whale riders? I would be all in favor of that.
Showcasing the ability to fly has been one of the strongest elements of "Avatar." Every scene where someone is flying an ikran in the original film is truly invigorating cinema. There is a reason that the premiere attraction at Animal Kingdom’s Pandora is called "Flight of Passage," where you get to participate in a flight simulation. It looks like James Cameron has found a way to combine the thrilling flying with his underwater love, as the trailer’s money shot is Jake Sully, armed and ready, riding atop a creature that emerges from underneath the water and starts flying into the air. He is charging into some battle scene as a trail of Na’vi follows behind him. It remains to be seen who they are fighting or why, but as long as we have these creatures that are essentially the bio seaplanes of Pandora (I’m assuming), it is sure to be dazzling to watch.
No more Papyrus
After being mercilessly mocked for their choice of the Papyrus font for the first movie, they have wisely swerved away from it for the sequel. The subtitle font still isn’t great, but it is certainly a step up. The word "Avatar" looks great, though.
"Avatar: The Way of Water" opens December 16, 2022.