Avatar: The Way Of Water Trailer Breakdown: A Family Affair

JC himself is back, baby! It's been over a decade, but your Pandora depression is about to be over, because the new trailer for "Avatar: The Way of Water" not only reaffirms Pandora may be the most gorgeous fictional place to be put on film, but teases a complex and epic family drama with plenty of magic, emotion — and is that a "Titanic" reference?

It is easy to understate how big of an event the first "Avatar" really was. Even outside of its monumental box office triumph, James Cameron's sci-fi epic was also responsible for the biggest boom in 3D films since the '80s had every third movie be titled "3D," not to mention causing people depression when they realized Pandora was not a real place they could visit.

Now, it is time to return to Pandora, and the latest trailer really makes it clear this is now a family affair. The focus is squarely on Jake Sully and Neytiri's children, and they are having issues, both common teenage ones, but also the supernatural I-can-communicate-with-the-moon's-god kind. In the middle of all this, there is still the matter of the human invasion of Pandora. 

Though the trailer shows rather little of the plot, there is still enough to have us salivating at the thought of sitting down in the theater on December 16, 2022 to watch "Avatar: The Way of Water." In the meantime, let's obsessively break down the details of this trailer.

New mothers

After a gorgeous shot of some Na'vi swimming in a sea full of fantastical creatures, we're reunited with Neytiri te Tskaha Mo'at'ite, princess of the Omaticaya clan and wife of Jake Sully. In case you hadn't noticed that some years have passed since the first movie, she is now very visible pregnant. Later in the trailer we also see Jake with crow's feet around his eyes. Still, motherhood hasn't stopped Neytiri from continuing to be a badass hunter — who probably still treats Jake like an ignorant child.

We don't hear much from Neytiri in the trailer, but she seems to be having a sort of crisis of faith towards the end, as we see her crying while Jake tries to comfort her and ask for her help, seemingly in the middle of a fiery attack. But hey, at least there is a shot of her and Jake happily flying around Pandora on their new banshees.

Sigourney Weaver is back, kind of

In a way, the new trailer is posing Jake and Neytiri's adoptive daughter Kiri as possibly the real protagonist of "The Way of Water." Kiri is of course played by returning actor Sigourney Weaver, who previously played Grace Augustine, the doctor with a white savior complex who met her demise in the first film. Though Jake and the rest of the Omaticaya tried to ask the goddess Eywa to intervene and transfer Grace's consciousness to her avatar, the procedure failed and she passed away ... or did she?

The trailer seems to imply Kiri has a strong connection to Eywa, as we see her acting fascinated towards animals and plants, connecting her queue to a tree of life, and having Eywa's essence seeds land on her the same way they did on Jake in the first film — a sign of his importance to the Na'vi. And yet, she also talks to her adoptive father, Jake, about "feeling her" and her heartbeat. She could be talking about a physical manifestation of Eywa, but what if she's talking about Grace? As soon as it was announced that Weaver would return to the franchise, endless theories popped up about how exactly that would work, from her character being reincarnated, to her playing a random new character. 

What if the truth is somewhere in the middle? Kiri is clearly not like other Na'vi, because she has five fingers instead of four, and she generally looks like Grace. But if she is saying that she hears Grace somewhere within Eywa, it could mean she could somehow communicate with her and learn about humans, which could be useful for the fight to come. Perhaps more impressive is a later shot of Kiri doing what looks like waterbending, so perhaps she does have special powers?

The way of incredible CGI

There's nothing important here, just an incredibly impressive shot. Sure, the big landscape shots with tons of creatures underwater are impressive and will get most of the attention, but it is actually the smaller shots that are more remarkable. Just look at the reflection of the light, or the attention to the texture of the skin and the small water droplets.

We're at a time where computer generated VFX is as crucial to blockbuster filmmaking as a good cast, and unfortunately most VFX artists are severely underpaid and overworked, especially by big studios like Marvel. This causes big movies to feel rushed and unfinished, because the people in charge of the CGI simply don't get enough time or resources to properly deliver the best product possible. Well, "Avatar: The Way of Water," at least the trailer, doesn't have that problem. A film like this depends extremely heavily on its effects, since most of the film is shot using motion-capture in CG-filled environments, and if this shot is any indication, we're in for a visual feast.

A new clan and a new family

The trailer formally introduces us to a new clan, the Metkayina, and their olo'eyktan (leader), Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). Already there is a clear visual distinction between the Metkayina and the Omaticaya, with the former having a close connection to water and a seemingly more diverse habitat. Tonowari is distrustful of Jake Sully, and warns him not to bring his war to the Metkayina.

Why exactly the plot is moving seaside is still unclear, but it is obvious the new warfront will be on water. In a later shot in the trailer we see what looks sort of like a battleship the humans use, and submarine vehicles they use to chase the Na'vi. The question is, why would Tonowari turn Jake away? It's not like they can be oblivious as to the humans' impact on Pandora or their destructive powers — they can easily just travel a bit and see what they did to Home Tree. And it's not like he can be ignorant of the idea that the humans can be pushed back, as we saw how the Na'vi won in the last movie. Whatever the case, it is clear Tonowari and Jake Sully will have a bit of a rivalry for at least part of the film, and it surely won't help that their children are involved in a Shakespearean romance.

An outcast and a Romeo

The "Avatar: The Way of Water" also introduces us to Lo'ak, the second child of Neyriti and Jake. He is notable for having both five fingers and eyebrows despite being the biological son of Neytiri, implying that Jake's Avatar traits can be passed down genetically. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the Na'vi kids can be little racist jerks, as we see Lo'ak talk about being discriminated against and feeling like an outcast. 

But there is at least one person who doesn't treat him like an outcast — Tsireya (Bailey Bass), daughter of Tonowari. That's right, we're having a bit of a "Romeo and Juliet" situation in "The Way of Water," which is sure to end well and not at all tragically. Also curious is the shot of young Lo'ak seemingly forming a strong bond with a whale-like tulkun named Payakan. Is this the start of the water version of Toruk Makto?

Though we don't see much of Jake's other children, we know they are five children in total, with two adoptive ones (including human child Javier Socorro).

They're going to need a bigger boat

It seems the humans are getting some new toys for the fight this time around, as we see Avatars being used by the military. We don't know yet how this connects with the return of Stephen Lang's Colonel Quaritch, but having humans with weapons also be the size of Na'vi and with that kind of strength poses a serious threat.

Also in the shot is a giant freaking whale creature, which implies that we could get another climactic fight like that of the first film where Eywa herself helps out by sending a bunch of animals, but this time with giant sea creatures. Now that would be very cool.

Here, far, wherever you are

There's not much plot information to get out of this shot, but it rules that James Cameron made a giant blockbuster film set on water and decided to just to "Titanic" again, with people escaping a sinking ship. Even 25 years later, it seems like the man has not lost his touch.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" opens in theaters on December 16, 2022.