This weekend finally sees the release of James Cameron's long-awaited Avatar sequel The Way of Water – 13 years after the original film broke box office records around the world.


The first film received a re-release in cinemas earlier in 2022, but for those cinemagoers who have not revisited the film since its 2009 release, a refresher might be in order ahead of watching the follow-up – even if producer Jon Landau previously told "you do not need to have seen the first Avatar to jump into The Way of Water".

Read on for a full summary of the events of Avatar.

Avatar recap

The first film opens in 2154 – where we learn that Earth is very quickly running out of natural resources. We are introduced in the early stages to an organisation known as The Resources Development Administration (RDA), which has been sent to the distant moon of Pandora to mine a valuable mineral known as unobtanium.

Pandora is inhabited by a species of spiritual blue humanoid aliens called Na'vi, who live a peaceful existence and are understandably opposed to the sudden presence of humans on their land.

One of the people who has been sent with the RDA is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-Marine who has paraplegia and is filling in for his deceased twin brother due to their shared DNA. He begins working as a bodyguard for the head of the Avatar Program Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) – even though she initially believes him to be somewhat inadequate.

The Avatar programme allows humans to adopt the body of a Na'vi and explore the Pandoran landscape with far greater ease, but on their first excursion off base, Jake flees into the forest after he's attacked by a mysterious creature and is rescued by a Na'vi called Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). She then takes him to her clan, where her mother – the spiritual leader – orders that he is initiated into their society.

When Jake returns to his human body, the RDA's security force chief Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) hears about his excursion and spots a chance for an espionage mission – promising Jake that he will restore his legs in exchange for information about the Na'vi and their base, Hometree.

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However, things are complicated when Jake starts to fall in love with Neytiri, and he begins working with the Na'vi to sabotage Quaritch and his men, including trying his best to prevent a bulldozer from destroying a sacred site.

Sam Worthington in Avatar
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully in Avatar. Disney

Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), one of the administrative leaders of the mining operation, is determined to press ahead with his plans to have Hometree destroyed – despite warnings from Grace that it will cause huge and lasting damage to Pandora – and gives Jake and Grace just one hour to evacuate the Na'vi in order that they will not be killed amidst the ensuing destruction.

At this point, Jake is forced to reveal to the Na'vi that he was initially living amongst them as a spy, with the result being that he and Grace are both taken captive. Unperturbed, Selfridge and Quaritch press ahead with their plan to destroy Hometree – with Neytiri's father among the many to be killed – before Neytiri's mother frees Jake and Grace.

They are subsequently both returned to their human form and taken prisoner by Quaritch, before being rescued again by Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez) a combat pilot who has turned against Quaritch due to his savage methods. Sadly Grace is shot during the escape and despite Jake's best efforts to keep her alive, she dies sometime later.

Sam Worthington in Avatar (2009)
Sam Worthington in Avatar (2009). SEAC

Jake returns to the Na'vi and unites them, along with their new chief Tsu'tey, with a major battle between various Na'vi clans and Quaritch's forces following that leads to heavy losses on both sides – including Tsu'tey and Trudy.

Eventually, the humans are overwhelmed when Pandoran wildlife help out the Na'vi – but Quaritch is not finished there and attempts to find Jake's human body so he can expose it to the poisonous atmosphere and kill him, in addition to slitting the throat of his Avatar such that he can't return in that form. However, Quaritch's plans are scuppered when Neytiti arrives on the scene and kills him, subsequently saving Jake from suffocation.

At the end of the film, nearly all humans are expelled from Pandora, with the exception of Jake, his friend Norm and a small group of others who are given permission to stay. Determined to stay on the moon indefinitely, Jake permanently transfers into his Na'vi body and starts a new life with Neytiri.

The new film will pick up several years later, with Jake and Neytiri now living peacefully as the parents of several children – only for things to take a turn for the worse when the RDA makes an unwelcome return.

Read more: Avatar: The Way of Water review – An enchanting but meandering sequel

Avatar: The Way of Water is showing in UK cinemas from Friday 16th December 2022 and the original Avatar is available to view on Disney Plus – you can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year now.

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