Everything You Need To Remember About Avatar

James Cameron's "Avatar" was a surprising success, a movie that wowed audiences for months after its initial release, dazzling viewers with incredible visuals that still look better than the biggest blockbusters out there. No matter how much people doubted Cameron, he delivered the biggest movie of all time, just as he did a decade prior with "Titanic." Though we don't know how the sequel will fare out, "The Way of Water" is already proving quite popular despite only a first teaser being out.

But even if we put aside the debate of whether the movie is culturally relevant or not, it's still been 13 freaking years since "Avatar" came out, and you'd be forgiven for not remembering what a Jake Sully is, or whether the film took place in Pandora or Pangea.

But fret not! We're here to be your official Na'vi srungsiyu (helpers), and guide you through everything you need to remember about the franchise before "Avatar: The Way of Water" either breaks every record out there once again, or crashes into oblivion like a beautiful leonopteryx.

What was the movie about again?

Simply put, "Avatar" is the story of how humans will colonize and destroy everything they can find just for the sake of it. In the far future of 2154, a corporation called Resources Development Administration has reached the final frontier and begun colonizing the moon of Pandora in Alpha Centauri A. 

The only problem is that the native population of Pandora, the Na'vi, don't look to kind on strangers with guns coming in and killing everything before mining their home. Reluctantly, the RDA set up the "Avatar program" wherein select individuals could pilot remote bio-mechas with the shape of a Na'vi body in order to study the native population (and, of course, eventually learn their weaknesses so the guys with gun can move in).

The actual movie follows Jake Sully, a former Marine paralyzed in combat who is coerced into entering the Avatar program to gain the trust of the Na'vi and help the evil military dudes wipe them out in exchange for the restoration of his legs. Unsurprisingly, the longer he spends in his avatar among the Na'vi, the more he questions his identity and his goal, eventually siding with the Na'vi and leading them to victory in a battle against the RDA.

Wait, isn't it basically Dance With Wolves?

Pretty much, yes. And also "FernGully: The Last Rainforest," and "Pocahontas," and "Lawrence of Arabia," but in space. And is that such a bad thing? "Dune" is in many ways just "Lawrence of Arabia" in space and that movie (and book, and miniseries) rules. Does this mean Jake Sully is a bluer Paul Atreides? Maybe.

You can't fool me, Jake Sully can't be a real name

It is as real as Duncan Idaho, the best name for a sci-fi character ever written.

Tell me about the characters not named Jake Sully

Well, other than Jake Sully, "The Way of Water" will bring back quite a few characters from the first film. There's Zoe Saldaña's Neytiri, the chieftain's daughter, next in line to become her tribe's shaman, and now, the mother of Jake Sully's children. On the evil side of things, we have Giovanni Ribisi's Parker Selfridge, an executive for RDA and essentially the evil guy in a suit. He's responsible for the corporate greed that drives all the violence, and must not be happy about the loss of his operation at the hands of Sully and his band of merry Na'vi.

Also returning are Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. And before you ask, yes, they both died in the first one. Weaver's Dr. Grace was fatally wounded by Lang's Colonel Quaritch, who gets killed by Neytiri at the end of the movie. Lang is returning as Quaritch for all the sequels, though we do not know why. But who cares, because why get rid of a great villain, especially when he's played by Stephen Lang? And if you need a reminder, Quaritch is ... just your standard racist, xenophobic gun-nut who considers anyone he doesn't understand as a savage and likes to kill Na'vi for fun.

As for Sigourney Weaver, she is reportedly coming back, but mysteriously enough, not as the same character she played in the first film. But just in case it connects to her previous character, in the first film she played a doctor in charge of the Avatar program, a scientist with a big white savior complex who wanted to "educate" the native population and enjoyed taking pictures with kids at her school like your high-school friend who spent hours talking about how formative her trip to Africa was and would not stop showing you pictures of her with local kids, like Daenerys during her "Mhysa" scene.

Teach me about the Na'vi

This is a big question, but sure.

From what we know in the film, the Na'vi are tall (average 10 feet tall) humanoids with blue skin, yellow eyes, and a tail native to Pandora. Their technology is the equivalent of Earth's Stone Age, making them mostly hunter-gatherers.

What they lack in technology, they make up for with a deep spiritual connection to all living creatures on Pandora. They fully believe in environmental balance and worship a deity they call Eywa, a collective psionic consciousness drawn from all life on Pandora (basically the Force). In essence, Eywa is a network that all Na'vi can access by linking to huge trees which store information from all biological life, with the several giant trees around the moon serving as a super computer that stores memories and even the consciousness of all Na'vi ancestors. 

But if you want a more direct connection, you can always plug tails with any living creature. Yes, in case you had forgotten over the past 13 years, the Na'vi can "bond" with any animal by connecting the antennae in their tails with that of any animal's, allowing them to tame them. They also can plug tails with each other to mate.

So they use their tail to plug into both animals and each other?

Yes. It's weird. Don't think about it too much.

Teach me some Na'vi I can use on vacation

I don't think you can just go to Pandora (unless you mean Disney World), but sure.

For "Avatar," James Cameron tapped USC professor Paul Frommer to make up the Na'vi language, and now there are more than 2,600 words for it. Here are some phrases and concepts you can use in everyday life.

  • Kaltxì – "Hello"
  • Oel ngati kameie – "I See You," a phrase said throughout the film as a greeting used by the Na'vi and their core philosophy, signifying their opening up to each other fully, spiritually and physically.
  • Rutxe - "Please"
  • Irayo – "Thanks"
  • Fyape syaw fko ngar? – "What's your name?"
  • Eywa ngahu – "Eywa be with you"

What's Pandora like?

Truly, there is no finest tourist destination outside the solar system than Pandora. If you manage to avoid the anger and the arrows of the Na'vi, or the machine-gun fire of the RDA, it is actually a pretty nice place to see.

Because of the huge amounts of unobtanium on Pandora, the moon has strong magnetic fields. The above pictured Hallelujah Mountains, for instance, have such big quantities of unobtanium that they float above the magnetic fields of the land.

The moon also boasts a lot of diverse plant life, all connected via the moon's neural network. Virtually all flora is bioluminescent, meaning it shines during nightfall.

What else lives on Pandora?

There are many creatures that call Pandora home, but these are the main ones you should remember:

  • Mountain banshees (or ikran)

These are the main flying predators that the Na'vi warriors of the Omaticaya clan ride into battle. You bond with one ikran for life, just like a mate. That is, unless you are Jake Sully.

  • Great Leonopteryx

In the case of Jake Sully, he can abandon his ikran in favor of basically a bigger version of it? The toruk, or large shadow, is the apex aerial predator of the first "Avatar," and a Na'vi that manages to bond with it and ride it earns the title Toruk Makto, a sort of messiah who can lead all Na'vi tribes in times of crisis. Jake Sully becomes Toruk Makto in "Avatar" and unites virtually all the Na'vi clans in order to fight the RDA. Once the fight was over, Sully released the leonopteryx, as Toruk Makto's role had been fulfilled.

  • Direhorse (or pa'liI)

Literally just a horse, but bigger.

  • Thanator (or palulukan)

The thanator is the apex land predator of Pandora, the moon's equivalent of a lion, and a creature you don't want anywhere near you, as it nearly kills Jake Sully.

Are you sure this is not about the bald kid with the arrow tattoo?

Come on, am I still going to make that joke after 13 years? Why, yes. And the answer is, this is not related to the cartoon. And no, M. Night Shyamalan is not involved.