Let’s dig into Pandora’s timeline.
Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water
As expected, Avatar: The Way of Water starts with a big time jump, showing what happened on the lush moon of Pandora since the humans left at the end of 2009’s Avatar. However, while the movie underlines how many years have gone by, it doesn’t tell the audience exactly when the events of The Way of Water take place. And since it’s been thirteen years since the first movie release, it’s reasonable to feel lost in the middle of James Cameron’s massive and ambitious storyline. So, now that Avatar: The Way of Water is available, let’s analyze when the movie’s main events take place.
When Does ‘Avatar’ Takes Place?
The first Avatar happened in 2154, as humanity has expanded towards the stars hoping to find resources to save Earth from imminent environmental collapse. That’s what led human colonizers to set camp on Pandora, an inhabitable moon that’s also the source of miraculous minerals. When protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) arrives on the planet, humans have been exploring Pandora for a couple of decades. That’s why there’s an unstable balance between colonizers and Pandora’s native people, the Na’vi.
In 2154, Jake becomes part of the Avatar Program, learning to pilot a hybrid body made from human and Na’vi DNA. His goal is to find the Na’vi weaknesses and exploit them to give humans access to the moon’s mineral deposits. However, Jake falls in love with Na’vi culture and the warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). So, instead of using the Na’vi, Jake leads a revolution that ends with Pandora’s natives’ victory. By the end of Avatar, the Na’vi kick the humans out of Pandora, returning to their peaceful lives. However, there is the fear humans might one day return and bring war back to Pandora. That’s exactly what happens in Avatar: The Way of Water.
When Does ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Happen?
The first minutes of Avatar: The Way of Water show the audience that many years have passed since the first movie. In just a couple of minutes, we see Neytiri get pregnant multiple times, birthing three children who grow to become teenagers. While we don’t know much about Na’vi physiology and how they get older, it’s easy to understand by the growth of the human child Spider (Jake Champion) that more than a decade has passed between the human exodus from Pandora and their return.
While Avatar: The Way of Water never addresses the time jump directly, we can also count on Cameron himself to help us understand his universe’s timeline. During an interview for IGN, Cameron said that in The Way of Water “we follow [Jake and Neytiri] forward in time, 15 years to where they have a family of pre-teens and teenagers.” That seems to track. Spider was just a baby in 2154 when the Na’vi won the war against humans. And since he’s a teenager in Avatar: The Way of Water, it would be fair to assume he’s around 15 years old. That places the main events of the sequel in 2169.
We still don’t know what Cameron has in store for us with Avatar 3, but the next movie in the franchise should pick things up exactly where we left them. That’s because, contrary to Avatar, The Way of Water doesn’t get rid of humans for good. Instead, the sequel promises the conflict between natives and colonizers will only escalate in the near future, but we’ll have to wait until 2024 to see when the events of Avatar 3 take place.
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