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Avatar: The Way Of Water - What We Know So Far

For the first time in over a decade, moviegoers are being beckoned to experience a brand new adventure on the distant planet Pandora. The world of "Avatar" is about to return in the first-ever sequel to James Cameron's 2009 feature. The production, titled "Avatar: The Way of Water," promises to explore new watery depths of Pandora while introducing audiences to a slew of new characters. Anticipation is riding high for this follow-up, which is far from surprising. The original "Avatar" was a mammoth success that, with an enormous $2.9 billion lifetime haul, still stands as the biggest box office in history. No wonder moviegoers across the planet are excited to see what ambitious spectacle "The Way of Water" is preparing to deliver. 

As audiences wait for the big-screen arrival of "The Way of Water," though, there's plenty of information about the film to parse through. While many facets of this blockbuster are being kept secret, there are still many details about "The Way of Water" that have been publicly released that offer some taste of what audiences can expect from this feature. This includes which cast members are returning from the first "Avatar" as well as actors who are joining the franchise, along with additional facts that can help make the ongoing wait for "Avatar: The Way of Water" a bit more bearable. Grab any gear you need for a deep-sea dive and explore everything you need to know about "Avatar: The Way of Water."

When will Avatar: The Way of Water be released?

The last two feature directorial efforts from James Cameron, "Titanic" and "Avatar," both excelled at the box office largely thanks to opening just before Christmas weekend. It was a perfect date for countless reasons, including how it allowed these movies to flourish over multiple holidays and to play into January, a month often devoid of other big blockbusters. It's no wonder, then, that "Avatar: The Way of Water" is taking a cue from Cameron's previous films in its release date. This massive blockbuster will begin playing in movie theaters everywhere on December 16, 2022.

It's taken a long time for "The Way of Water" to settle on a proper release date. Way back in 2010, when the "Avatar" sequels were just being laid out, James Cameron announced ambitions to get the first of these follow-ups into theaters by December 2014. The process of writing these movies proved arduous enough to necessitate a move to December 2017, before Disney settled on a December 2021 release date. The movie wasn't finished shifting around the calendar, though. The COVID-19 pandemic would cause one more delay until its final December 2022 release date. Though it took so long to stick to an opening date, "The Way of Water" appears fully on track for a December 2022 premiere, meaning Pandora devotees can properly anticipate this long-delayed follow-up.

Are Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana returning?

Fans of the first movie's protagonists need not fret over the prospect of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) not returning for "Avatar: The Way of Water," as both characters will also be the protagonists of the sequel. The secrecy surrounding "Avatar: The Way of Water," not to mention the lack of pre-existing source material to shine a light on potential plotlines, means there isn't an abundance of information regarding what direction these characters will go in during this sequel. However, one big change for the pair that's been confirmed is that the duo will now have multiple children to take care of.

Talking to We Got This Covered in 2017, Worthington noted that this aspect of Jake and Neytiri would be critical to "The Way of Water," to the point that the crux of the feature would be the concept of family. Worthington also expressed excitement over the expanded scope of "The Way of Water" and noted that this blockbuster would be delivering unprecedented spectacle to moviegoers. For her part, Saldana conveyed her excitement for this follow-up by revealing to People Magazine that she was moved to tears after watching footage from "The Way of Water." Even if concrete details about Jake and Neytiri's respective journeys in "The Way of Water" are still shrouded in mystery, their performers sure sound enthusiastic about everything this movie has to offer.

Is Sigourney Weaver playing a new character?

In the original "Avatar," Sigourney Weaver played the human being Dr. Grace Augustine, a character who perishes despite a last-ditch effort from her friends to transport her soul into her avatar body. Though such a definitive death would seem to have cut off any opportunity for Weaver to show up in "Avatar: The Way of Water," it was confirmed as early as September 2011 that she would indeed be coming back for the sequel. Things became even more intriguing in 2015 when, on "The Jonathan Ross Show," Weaver revealed that she would be playing someone brand new in an "Avatar" sequel.

After years of speculation, Weaver's concrete role in this movie was revealed. Weaver will be playing Kiri, Jake and Neytiri's adopted teenage Na'vi daughter. The concept of Weaver playing such a young character may sound baffling, but this performer was well up to the challenge. "I think we all pretty much remember what we were feeling as adolescents," she explained to Empire. "I certainly do. I was 5' 10" or 5' 11" when I was 11. I felt strongly that Kiri would feel awkward a lot of the time. She's searching for who she is. I was thrilled to be given that challenge by Jim." The universe of "Avatar" is so full of surprises and few are as shocking as how Sigourney Weaver is coming back for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

How is Stephen Lang's villainous Quaritch still alive?

Stephen Lang left an enormous impression on moviegoers in his performance as the nefarious human villain Miles Quaritch. He despised the Na'vi natives of Pandora and went to many extreme lengths, including endangering children, to pull off his mission. At the end of "Avatar," it seemed like his story had drawn to a close thanks to Neytiri plunging two massive arrows into his chest. However, as early as 2013, James Cameron made it clear that he had major plans for Quaritch in the assorted "Avatar" sequels. Death was not the end for this adversary, but rather the beginning of a whole new plotline.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" will see Quaritch returning in a Na'vi body as part of a program called Recombinants, aka avatars that carry the consciousnesses of dead soldiers. Though he retains his memories from his human form, this incarnation of Quaritch has some new abilities to make him an extra formidable presence for the film's heroes. "[He] was always a character who moved in straight lines and at right angles," Lang said to Empire. "But now he is as lithe as they come. He can move with the same kind of cunning and feral quality that any of the Na'vi can." Not even those massive arrows could keep Quartich away from being a significant player in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Who is Kate Winslet playing in the sequel?

After collaborating on "Titanic," Kate Winslet and James Cameron are working together again in "Avatar: The Way of Water." Winslet donned a motion-capture suit for this sequel to play Ronal, one of the leaders of the Meykayina tribe, a collection of Na'vi who live in the oceans of Pandora. "She is strong. A warrior," Winslet said about Ronal to Empire. "Even in the face of grave danger, and with an unborn baby on board, she still joins her people and fights for what she holds most dear. Her family and their home."

Portraying this character called for Winslet to must up plenty of strength herself. To portray this particular alien, Winslet wasn't just going to act against a blue backdrop and mimic being in the ocean — she had to film her scenes underwater. Doing this required her to learn how to hold her breath for prolonged periods of time. Winslet eventually got so good at it that she was able to breathe underwater for seven minutes and 14 seconds. This feat dethroned Tom Cruise's work in "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" for the record of the longest breath hold while shooting a movie underwater. That's an absolutely incredible feat, but it's the kind of accomplishment that's to be expected when Cameron and Winslet are working in tandem.

Is Michelle Rodriguez returning?

"Avatar: The Way of Water" is chock-full of actors who played characters that died in the first film. Most are either coming back in new bodies or are playing brand new characters altogether, but there's an extended shelf life for nearly all the performers of the original "Avatar." A key exception to this, though, is Michelle Rodriguez, who played the helpful human pilot Trudy in the original film. Her character perished in the climactic battle of "Avatar," getting wiped out by General Quaritch's warship. While the fantastical world of "Avatar" would seem to deliver plenty of avenues for resurrecting Trudy, Rodriguez has long confirmed she wouldn't be involved in "The Way of Water."

"They're bringing back a lot of other characters. I know [Sigourney Weaver's] coming back and the guy who played the bad guy, [Stephen Lang], is coming back," Rodriguez said in 2015, per The New York Post. "But yeah, I'm not gonna be in it." The loss of Trudy may be discouraging for fans of the first "Avatar," but at least "Avatar: The Way of Water" won't be short on brand-new human characters to help the otherworldly protagonists. Plus, James Cameron has continued to heap praise on Rodriguez in recent years, including saying that her "Resident Evil" performance is a key reason why he considers that video game adaptation a guilty pleasure favorite.

Who else is returning from the original Avatar?

Fans of the original "Avatar" will be pleased as punch to see so many familiar faces from that first movie back for "Avatar: The Way of Water." This includes Joel David Moore, who played Pandora expert Norm Spellman in the original "Avatar" and will reprise that role in "Avatar: The Way of Water." Meanwhile, CCH Pounder is also confirmed to be coming back as Moat, the mother of Neytiri, while Dileep Roy is returning as helpful human scientist Dr. Max Patel. The presence of these faces ensures that Jake Sully and Neytiri will have plenty of trustworthy allies in their midst as they contend with dark forces descending on Pandora.

On the flip side of the coin, there will also be villains from the original feature coming back for this follow-up. One of the most noticeable returning antagonists is Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge, who previously served as a major advocate for RDA's interests in mining Pandora's resources. Meanwhile, audiences may have seen him get trampled to death in the first "Avatar," but Matt Gerald is still returning as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, though it is currently unknown if Gerald's Wainfleet will once again utter his catchphrase of "get some." While there will be tons of new characters to meet in "Avatar: The Way of Water," the heavy presence of familiar faces from the first "Avatar" will no doubt bring joy to die-hard devotees of this fictional universe.

Who are the other new characters in Avatar: The Way of Water?

The cast for "Avatar: The Way of Water" is heavy on brand new characters, with many of them being children or teenagers. As part of this movie's indication of how long it's been since the first "Avatar" took place, there's a whole new generation of human and Na'vi characters for audiences to discover. There are seven primary adolescent characters introduced in the sequel, including a trio of youngsters (Neteyam, Loak, and Tuktirey) who serve as the offspring of Jake Sully and Neytiri. This group also includes figures like human teenager Javier (Jack Champion), who is in love with the biological world of Pandora.

As for the new grown-ups in the story, Cliff Curtis is on hand to portray Tonowari, one of the leaders of the Metkayina people, while Edie Falco is portraying General Ardmore, a human who handles RDA's ambitions for the planet Pandora. Jemaine Clement is also on board to portray marine biologist Dr. Ian Garvin, while another medical professional, Dr. Karina Mogue, will be played by Michelle Yeoh. Then there's Oona Chaplin, who is portraying Varang, a figure who plays an important role in "Avatar: The Way of Water" and all of its successors. This character is shrouded in such secrecy that it's still unknown if she's a human or a member of the Na'vi people. The many new characters in "Avatar: The Way of Water" suggests audiences won't experience a rehash of the first movie.

Who is directing Avatar: The Way of Water?

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that James Cameron is back in the director's chair for "Avatar: The Way of Water." After all, he's been talking about "Avatar" sequels for nearly two decades now. Back in July 2006, Cameron first spoke about how "Avatar," then known to the public as "Project 880," would inspire multiple sequels if it succeeded at the box office. At the time, he noted that the expansive scope and ambitions of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels were inspiring his creative vision for potential "Avatar" sequels.

The passion Cameron expressed back in 2006 for creating multiple films set in the world of Pandora has burned brightly ever since. Speaking to MTV back in 2009, when the original "Avatar" was first hitting theaters, Cameron confirmed his plans for multiple "Avatar" sequels as well as his desire to continue focusing the movies on Jake Sully and Neytiri. Part of what's kept Cameron so committed to working on these sequels for over a decade is that he's managed to merge several of his passions. A lover of the sea, Cameron noted to Entertainment Weekly in 2021 that part of the appeal of the "Avatar" sequels was getting to combine his affinities for both the underwater world and filmmaking. 

Will Avatar's theme park rides influence The Way of Water?

While there haven't been further "Avatar" movies in between the original film in 2009 and "Avatar: The Way of Water," that doesn't mean this franchise has been in hibernation for over a decade. "Avatar" has continued to leave a footprint on pop culture thanks to "Pandora – The World of Avatar," a land in Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort that opened in May 2017. This location allowed the general public to get closer to the finer details of Pandora than ever before. Given its popularity, it shouldn't be a surprise that "The Way of Water" will find ways to acknowledge all that this park has contributed to the mythos of "Avatar."

Talking to Inside the Magic, producer Jon Landau noted that the "Avatar" ride "Flight of Passage" featured the first real hints of the oceans of Pandora, a landscape that would be explored in greater detail in "The Way of Water." He also hinted that some of the critters introduced in the "Flight of Passage" ride could make their way into "The Way of Water" and other "Avatar" sequels. Additionally, he mentioned that new mech-suits that walked around the "Avatar" land at Animal Kingdom were inspired by designs for these outfits that will be used in "Avatar: The Way of Water." These shared details between the "Avatar" theme park attractions and movies provide some exciting hints of what moviegoers can expect from "The Way of Water."

Will Avatar: The Way of Water be presented in 3D?

In 2009, "Avatar" changed the game for digital 3D. It wasn't the first movie to be presented in the modern incarnation of this format, but it was the movie that got everybody to see the potential for digital 3D cinema. In the years since "Avatar" dominated the box office, though, moviegoers and studios alike have fallen out of love with digital 3D, particularly in North America. The shrinking presence of the format might lead one to wonder if "Avatar: The Way of Water" will take a cue from domestic IMAX locations and leave 3D behind. However, James Cameron has opted to remain incredibly loyal to this method of projection by guaranteeing that "Avatar: The Way of Water" will be released in this format.

Not only that, but Cameron is using technological advances to further improve digital 3D projection. While talking at the Busan International Film Festival, Cameron noted that "The Way of Water" would be sporadically employing a higher than usual frame rate during certain spectacle-heavy sequences that would, in theory, help improve the quality of the digital 3D images. In the years after "Avatar," many movies released in digital 3D attracted scorn from moviegoers by being rush jobs with little thought to how they used this format. Comments like these from Cameron indicate audiences can expect an extremely thoughtful return to the world of digital 3D cinema with "Avatar: The Way of Water."

What is the plot of Avatar: The Way of Water?

The finer plot details of "Avatar: The Way of Water" have been kept close to the chest in the run-up to the movie's release. Per a plot synopsis on the film's official website, the feature will take place over a decade after the original "Avatar" and broadly talks about how this sequel will chronicle all kinds of turmoil Jake, Neytiri, and their family will face as well as how they try to protect one another. Beyond the details outlined here, "The Way of Water" is confirmed to largely take place across Pandora's expansive oceans, a backdrop that will help to introduce many of the story's new characters.

As for the villains of "The Way of Water," they should be familiar to anyone who loves the original "Avatar." The evil organization Resources Development Administration (or RDA) will also make a return to serve as the villains of "The Way of Water." The twist this go-around is that the plot of "The Way of Water" will see the RDA implant the spirits of dead soldiers into Na'vi bodies to create creatures called Recombinants. Other new pieces of technology, like a massive 3D printing plant, will further allow RDA to terrorize the heroes of "The Way of Water." While further story details about this sequel are shrouded in mystery, what has been revealed suggests an epic scope and lots of actions are in store for fans.

Is Avatar: The Way of Water the only planned Avatar sequel?

James Cameron has long spoken about his desire to get a sequel to "Avatar" off the ground, though he's never limited his vision to just a solitary follow-up. "Avatar: The Way of Water" is meant to be just one of four "Avatar" sequels. While "The Way of Water" was never intended to be the only "Avatar" sequel, the number of continuations has always been in flux. Cameron's initial vision of two sequels was first updated in 2013 with the announcement of a third sequel; three years later he would reveal that he had expanded the canvas of this franchise to include the fourth follow-up.

Release dates have been set for these follow-ups, while two of the three sequels to "The Way of Water" have engaged in varying degrees of principal photography. "Avatar 3" finished shooting at the end of 2020, and production is currently underway for "Avatar 4." Even with these ambitious plans, folks involved in these titles, like producer Jon Landau, have offered reassurances that movies like "Avatar: The Way of Water" will still function as standalone titles and won't be just set up for future blockbusters. Still, as has been clear for years now, the saga of Pandora is not meant to end with just the story of "The Way of Water."