The official trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water is (finally) here, and with it comes the most deep look at James Cameron's magnum opus that we have seen yet. While it didn't quite go the route of previous Cameron trailers and spoil the entire film, several major plot threads have finally surfaced- giving hints at what's in store for Cameron's long-awaited return to blockbuster filmmaking. Come along as we dive into the latest trailer and fish for details about The Way of Water.
The very first thing we're greeted with is a shot of several Metkayina clan members diving into the oceans of Pandora, with Bailey Bass' Tsireya front and center. Viewers who saw the Avatar remaster in theaters last month may recognize this scene as one of three that was teased in the credits of the remaster. This clip highlights the differences between the Metkayina Na'vi and the Omatikaya Na'vi that we are familiar with from Avatar- namely their adapted physiology for ocean life.
Almost more captivating than the opening shot is composer Simon Franglen's score- a haunting take on the "I See you" theme from the first film hummed by a solo singer and accompanied by an ambient synth. Franglen has large shoes to fill taking over from composer James Horner, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2015. However, his immediate use of a familiar motif from Horner's score perfectly treads the line between respecting Horner's work and building on it.
The scene continues, showcasing the spectacular oceanic life on Pandora, before climaxing on a shot of Sigourney Weaver's young character, Kiri. This trailer is heavily focused around Weaver's mysterious character, who is described as the "adoptive daughter of Jake and Neytiri". It seems that Kiri will be central to The Way of Water's family-centric story.
After the studio cards roll, we're again greeted by a familiar shot- this time from the first teaser. The scene continues, however, and we're treated to a near-humorous depiction of Neytiri finding the balance between her roles as hunter and mother. The Avatar sequels are poised to follow the story of Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri's family as they find strength in each other and protect their home. Cameron's decision to depict pregnant mothers as strong, fierce and capable is a theme in The Way of Water, with Kate Winslet's Ronal also carrying a child during the events of the film- even into battle.
Kiri returns in the next shot, startling several fan lizards from a leaf as she spins through the forests of Pandora. This scene showcases her "carefree" life at the beginning of the film- in which Weaver has described Kiri as "[a] free urchin at the beginning, [with] a kind of golden life there, even though they’re at war and in hiding." Her voice accompanies the end of the shot, marking the beginning of the trailer's spoken lines with a single word: "dad".
"Dad", as it turns out, is Jake Sully- the protagonist from the first film. The trailer moves to establish the context of the conversation being used for the voice over- a one-on-one exchange between Jake and Kiri. Below them, the neon-bioluminescence of Pandora's oceans is in full glow. Brightly colored fish swim and circle, some seemingly drawn to Kiri's dangling feet. Kiri continues "I know you think I'm crazy", before the trailer pivots to the past again.
Interlaced with Kiri's voice over is a shot of younger Jake and his eldest son, Neteyam, played by Jamie Flanders, learning to hunt fish with a bow. Other than serving to give us another glimpse at early family life for the Sullys, we can also see that Neteyam takes after his native mother, 4 fingers, no eyebrows and all. It's a touching glimpse into a period of peace, without the human threat.
The next scene is one of the most perplexing ones in the trailer. Kiri's line continues, "but I feel her", and with the Tree of Souls as the visual it's clear she's referring to Eywa- the Na'vi goddess of Pandora. However, what ceremony is this? Mo'at is present, and it appears that Eytukan may be there as well- which would indicate a flashback as Eytukan died during the bombing of Hometree in Avatar. There's not a lot to go on at this time.
Now the pacing of the trailer really starts to pick up. The music shifts away from the familiar and into the new, and we get a shot of Spider (Jack Champion), Tuktirey (Trinity Bliss) and Kiri (Weaver) and one other person running along a forest trail. Tuk, the youngest Sully kid, stops to play with a gnarly looking plant that responds to her presence, much like the flora from the first film.
Drums pounding, Kiri continues "I hear her heartbeat" as we glimpse her lying unconscious in a clearing- atokirina' hovering around her. She appears to have made tsaheylu, the bond, with Pandora itself. The grass ripples out from her in waves. This is the first of several indications in this trailer that there's more to Kiri than meets the eye, and that she has a deeper connection to Pandora than the other characters around her.
More visual flare, this time a nighttime fly-date between Jake and Neytiri while Kiri continues "she's so close", again referring to Eywa. There isn't a lot in the way of gauging the timeline on this shot, however it very likely could be Jake and Neytiri celebrating their first pregnancy. It certainly doesn't look like two tired parents getting some alone time!
Another shot from the teaser, this time of Lo'ak, played by Britain Dalton, and Payakan- a Tulkun. The Tulkun are revered by the Metkayina Na'vi as brothers, and inspire their pacifistic way. A connection between Lo'ak and Payakan is being hinted at here, though to what extent remains to be seen.
A brief lull in the score as Jake asks Kiri "so what does her heartbeat sound like"? We are transported underwater to a brightly-lit ocean forest. The plants here bear a strong resemblance to the Trees of Voices or Tree of Souls, which the Na'vi use to commune with Eywa and their ancestors. As if to confirm this theory, Kiri makes tsaheylu with a frond, and a heartbeat sounds. It is likely this is the "Cove of the Ancestors", which we've seen referenced in other media. The Metkayina equivalent of the Tree of Souls.
Now we hear the triumph in Franglen's score, as Kiri responds to Jake's question with an emphatic "mighty". We are immediately thrust into a high energy scene featuring Cliff Curtis' Tonowari, the Metkayina chieftain, soaring on the back of his Skimwing mount. Two mighty Tulkun leap from the ocean alongside Tonowari as a part of a possible ritual or rite of passage. We see Tonowari soar over a group of bystanders on the shore in a second shot.
Several quick shots intercut with text stingers, one of the Cove of the Ancestors and another of the Sully kids riding Ilu alongside several of the Metkayina. Learning to ride an Ilu is similar to learning to ride a Direhorse, and it is likely we will see that experience as a way of becoming familiar with the Metkayina culture.
Finally, we start to get our first glimpses of the conflict- and this is where the most meat is in the trailer. Immediately following the Ilu scene is a quick clip of an RDA "Recom" and AMP Lite running up the deck of a flaming ship. Moments later, a cut of Jake surfacing from below the waves, flaming wreckage visible behind him. There's blood seeping down his temple, meaning this is well into whatever battle is underway.
Tragedy strikes as the trailer pivots to give us a good glimpse of the RDA's retaliation against the Omatikaya for the events of Avatar. A forest ablaze, Ikran fleeing the flames and smoke. Jake and Neytiri look on in helplessness. This is likely very early on in the film, and will establish the consequences for Jake's heroism in the first film while also setting the stakes for the coming conflict.
If there's any shot in this trailer that's the money shot, plot wise, it's this one. Colonel Miles Quaritch, reprised by Stephen Lang, holds a human skull in the palm of his now-blue hand. The overzealous antagonist from Avatar is back, resurrected into an avatar body as a Recombiant. That skull he's holding is very likely his own, and with a grimace he crushes it with a quick squeeze of his fist.
Lang sells this shot. You can see a mixture of pain and confusion that gives way to rage. Quaritch has become the very thing he hates, and is permanently stuck that way. We can only imagine what that may drive him to do.
Following, a quick glimpse of several Recoms evacuating. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot like this, it would be easy to miss Spider, the human teen living among the Na'vi. Spider is riding on the back of one of the Recoms into the human ship. While earlier speculation had us believe that Spider was going to be captured by the RDA, this new footage makes us believe he may actually defect to the RDA.
Spider is a complex character. A human raised among the Na'vi, but unable to truly be a part of their culture. Is he being lured or tempted to join the humans, or does he want to go of his own accord, to try his hand with his actual people? Only time will tell.
Next up is the conflict between Jake and the Metkayina. We get a glimpse of their arrival to the ocean clan's territory, met with Tonowari explaining "we cannot let you bring your war here".
We know that Jake and Neytiri are seeking uturu, sanctuary, and that by invoking that request the Metkayina are reluctantly forced to harbor them. This is explained by Lo'ak, who says "outcasts! that's all they see" over a clip of him getting laid out by one of the Metkayina youth in either a sparring match or full-out fight.
Tsireya, Bailey Bass' character, reassures Lo'ak with an "I See you", a familiar line from the first film. From scenes in the other teaser, it seems that like his father before him, there may be some level of forbidden connection brewing between Lo'ak and Tsireya, the princess of the Metkayina clan.
Several more flavor shots. One from the teaser, the Sully family flying over the Metkayina reef as the "I See you" theme returns in force. Then, another glimpse of a Tulkun and one of the Metkayina sacred sites. Lastly, a scene of the kids riding Ilu at night while one says "the way of water connects all things" (roll credits!).
Jake and Tonowari arrive at a level of mutual respect. Jake is scraped and cut, so it's likely this shot occurs sometime after the final battle.
Next is a glimpse of one of the RDA's new seafaring vessels, unfolding neatly to show us their new toys. Our first glimpse of the new CET-OPS crab mech is also in this shot. The trailer quickly counters by giving us a glimpse of Ronal, played by Kate Winslet, riding into battle on the back of her own Skimwing. Similar to Neytiri early in the trailer, Ronal is also carrying an unborn child.
The Metkayina voice over continues. As an unknown speaker says "before your birth", we get a glimpse of a Na'vi baby floating in the sea, a Tulkun looking on closely.
"And after your death," continues the speaker, against this distressing shot of the Metkayina being rounded up by Recoms- a dead Ilu floating in the water and shelters ablaze. Spider is visible walking with the Recoms towards a set of Ikran, ones that they possibly have tamed themselves in a bastardized version of the Omatikaya Iknimaya trials.
A tense underwater chase follows. Kiri and Tuktirey flee a CET-OPS crab mech, and Tuk is ripped off of Kiri's Ilu by a wayward kelp frond. The shot turns to Lo'ak, who looks back helplessly before being confronted by another crab mech. We're getting strong "they're about to get captured" vibes here.
Neytiri and Jake have a bit of an argument, with Neytiri exclaiming "this is our home!" The trailer jumps immediately to a connected series of shots of Neytiri and Tuk escaping a sinking vessel. This is likely a rescue attempt after the previously mentioned capture, and nobody does water horror like James Cameron.
"I need you with me, and I need you to be strong," Jake tells Neytiri. She's wearing the same outfit visible in the previous clips of her and Tuk escaping, which puts this scene in close proximity to the rescue.
This sets off the climax of the trailer, and there are a lot of details in these final few sequences. Firstly, Kiri appears to be able to channel her connection with Pandora to some effect. Rotxo and Aunong look on in shock.
Next, a Tulkun smashes the hell out of an RDA ship, possibly the one pictured earlier in the trailer. Several Recoms are visible on board, as are Lo'ak, Tuk and one other kid- apparently being held hostage. Quaritch is also front and center on deck.
Then, we get a very quick glimpse of a battle between the Metkayina and the RDA as Jake and the other warriors attempt to take down several gunboats.
And finally, another money shot of Neytiri swooping in on the back of her Ikran, leaping the fight and loosing an arrow at a target offscreen. This flaming wreckage appears to be an RDA ship, and several Recoms are visible on board. (This may also be Hell's Gate, early in the film)
We get a brief moment of black, and then a powerful resolution to Jake and Neytiri's conversation from before. "Strong heart", Jake says, which is a tear-inducingcall back to their first encounter a decade ago. Emboldened, Neytiri takes up her bow, and that's a wrap!
With this much to go on, we're bound to have missed some things. See anything we did? Let us know on Discord, where most of this theorycrafting took place! See how Avatar: The Way of Water unfolds in December, and be sure to check back to see how we did!
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