More than a decade since the original premiere of Avatar, fans will finally return to the world of Pandora. Avatar: The Way of Water tells the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive and the tragedies they endure.

To celebrate the upcoming release of the sequel, director James Cameron and the film’s cast sat down for a press conference. Cameron kicked things off by discussing what he wanted to do with the much-anticipated sequel – and promised surprises for fans.

“I think it’s important for a sequel to honor what the audience loved about the experience the first time. But also to get them off-balance, do things that they don’t expect,” said Cameron. “There are a lot of surprises in terms of where the story goes in this film, that we’re not putting into the trailers and the TV spots and all that. You kind of have to experience it.”

The return to Pandora will see us catch up with Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who have become parents in the time since we last saw them.

“I was inspired by the fact that both Zoe and Sam are parents. And I’m a parent of five. So we wanted to get into the family dynamics, the responsibilities of having kids, and also what that’s all like from the kid’s perspective,” said Cameron.

Saldana added that she felt strongly connected to her character from the first Avatar film, but that her experience as a parent helped inform her performance in the upcoming film.

“Neytiri and I, in a way, we’ve lived parallel lives. There’s a level of fearlessness and rebellion that I have as a person, that Neytiri has… [but] in my personal life, when I became a parent, fear entered my realm. The fear of losing something that you love so much, you know?” Saldana said.

Worthington further discussed striking the right balance between parenting and embodying a warrior character.

“Jake’s journey has always been taking these parallels of where does he fit into this world, and finding something worth fighting for… Jake’s a warrior, but I think sometimes you have to become a bit of a pacifist and calm down, in order to listen to your kids. I think that’s how he can connect with someone like Kiri.”

You can dive into the family dynamics yourself when Avatar: The Way of Water premieres in theaters December 16.

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