Avatar: the story so far

Avatar: The Way of Water is winging its way toward Cineworld this December. We understand that it's been a long time since James Cameron's original Avatar movie was released (13 years, in fact), so you're no doubt in need of a story catch-up.

This is where we come in. If you're struggling to identify your Neytiris from your ikrans, Eywa from unobtanium, you've come to the right place. Scroll down to get the essential potted highlights from the first Avatar and get prepared for this year's spectacular-looking sequel.



  • In the distant future, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic marine on his way to the distant planet of Pandora

  • He's replacing his late brother who had initially been recruited for the top-secret Avatar program

  • Avatars are genetically engineered bodies of the Pandoran indigenous population, known as the Na'vi

  • Jake shares his brother's genetic code so he can take his place relatively easily

  • However, lead scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) isn't too happy with the swap

  • Jake enlists in Grace's place to teach the natives English and warn them about the encroaching colonial forces

  • With the assistance of the military, the Resources Development Administration (RDA) is mining Pandora for the priceless element known as 'unobtanium'

  • The richest deposit of unobtanium is located beneath the Na'vi's most sacred tree

  • Jake pulls double duty as an insurgent operative for Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who demands he report back with intel on the Na'vi's movements

  • If Jake completes his work for Quaritch, he promises to send Jake home and get his legs fixed


  • Jake 'portals' into his Avatar body and sets foot in the lush (and dangerous) jungles of Pandora for the first time

  • Stranded in the dense undergrowth, Jake barely escapes with his life when he meets Na'vi warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldana)

  • Neytiri realises that the seeds of the sacred tree are intrinsically attracted to Jake, indicating the purity of his soul

  • She takes him back to Hometree where he is regarded with suspicion by her father, mother, brother and the rest of the tribe

  • Jake is schooled in the art of becoming a Na'vi warrior, including basic principles of strength and learning to co-exist with the landscape

  • He's also taught to bond with his own ikran, a fierce flying creature that is an emblem of Na'vi strength

  • In the process, Jake falls deeply in love with Neytiri and she becomes his partner for life


  • Suspecting that Jake is experiencing divided loyalties, Quaritch threatens all-out destruction on the Na'vi

  • In desperation, Jake tries one more time to compel the tribe to move of their own volition

  • However he fails in his aim and Quaritch's forces level Hometree to facilitate the mining of the unobtanium

  • Back at base and in his human body, Jake escapes with the assistance of Grace and Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez)

  • Grace is fatally wounded by Quaritch as the group flees back into the rainforest

  • During a sacred ceremony to Pandoran deity Eywa, the Na'vi attempt to transfer Grace's soul into an avatar body


  • Enraged at Grace's death and railing against his former military cohorts, Jake re-enters his avatar body and rallies the remaining Na'vi members to fight back

  • He inspires the tribe by taking control of the most fearsome ikran of all, the legendary Toruk

  • Following the death of Neytiri's father Eytukan (Wes Studi), new tribal leader Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso), Neytiri's brother, endorses Jake to spearhead the assault

  • The Na'vi assemble on their own ikran and lure Quaritch's forces into the gravity-free floating mountains where their radar capabilities will be disrupted

  • The Na'vi succeed in wiping out most of Quaritch's forces, with the assistance of the ferocious Pandoran wildlife who answer Eywa's call and join the battle

  • Jake and Quaritch fight it out in a fierce one-on-one battle before the latter is killed by Neytiri with a deadly poison-tipped arrow

  • As Jake's avatar pod fails and his human body is exposed to the lethal Pandoran atmosphere, Neytiri bears witness to his natural form for the first time


  • RDA and the remaining military forces are sent back to Earth

  • Jake permanently transfers his soul into an avatar body via the power of Eywa


Up to speed? Then re-watch the trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water, releasing on December 16, and check out our Avatar: The Way of Water trailer breakdown.