AVATAR: World of Pandora Timeline

This video is transcribed below:

How’s it going guys and geeks!? Welcome to Geekritique! My name is Dakota. Today we’re diving deep into the world of James Cameron’s Avatar and exploring the vast history of Pandora. For those of you who know me and my channel’s extensive work in mapping out the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, you’re probably wondering right about now how I plan to make a whole timeline video on just two films. Well, over the past few weeks I’ve gotten myself absolutely lost in the history of this fictional world because there’s so much more to the story than what we see on screen. I’ve meticulously sifted through all the comics, games, tie-in websites, plays, and more to determine what is canon, what used to be canon, and what probably never was canon, to bring you the most up to date chronological timeline info on the World of Pandora.

But before we begin, I wanna know how many of you are watching this after seeing Avatar: The Way of Water? Or are you watching this video in preparation for the new movie? Let me know down below! Either way, we’re going to keep spoilers for The Way of Water on the mild side, so as not to spoil those of you who haven’t seen it yet. If you enjoy what you see here today, or just want this video to succeed, please like and subscribe. Our timeline journeys are only just beginning here at Geekritique, and I’d love if you’d join us for the ride. With that being said, welcome to version 1 of the Avatar: World of Pandora Timeline.

Pandora, one of 14 moons orbiting the gas giant Polyphemus, was discovered some time in the mid 21st century, and was colonized by humans sometime in the early 22nd century. Jake Sully lands on Pandora, as part of the RDA’s Avatar Program in the year 2154. This year, 2154, is pivotal to our timeline, as we’ll use the original Avatar film to place other titles before, during and after it.

We begin our Pandora timeline some 3000 years before 2154, during the time of the First Songs, with the first title on our list – Toruk: The First Flight. This is a Cirque du Soleil play that ran from 2015 to 2019 that according to Avatar co-developer Jon Landau “is definitely part of the canon.” While it’s not available to watch live anymore, it was recorded for a dvd release. The story revolves around two young Na’vi boys from the Omatikaya clan named Ralu and Entu as they go on a quest to save the Tree of Souls from burning. They must unite the clans during a time of Great Sorrow to prevent the destruction, and along the way young Entu becomes the very first ever Na’vi to ride the Toruk and become Toruk Makto. At the time of the first Avatar film, Jake Sully becomes only the 6th person ever in Na’vi history to ride one, so this is a particularly special moment. “He brought the clans together in a time of Great Sorrow. All Na’vi people know the story.” Toruk: The First Flight is currently unavailable to stream, but you can find the entirety of it on Dailymotion, which I’ll link in the description. But before you head on over there, I have to warn you, it’s a really hard watch. While it’s plain to see that the show must have been a massive spectacle to behold in person, the wow factor simply doesn’t translate to video, and ultimately it was a huge letdown seeing it in this format. It’s very light on story, and the narration reads more to its mythological quality than anything else. We’ll place it circa 837 BC.

Jumping almost 3000 years into the future we learn that humanity’s first ROVRs to Pandora land in 2084, some 70 years before the first Avatar film occurs. Pandora ROVR was a flash game created in conjunction with McDonalds around the launch of the film, but is no longer playable by conventional means. Which is why I don’t consider this title canonical. I bring it up because despite being unplayable and non-canon in my opinion these early games did help flesh out the lore of the overall world and history through small tidbits of knowledge like when humanity first reached Pandora.

While we’re on the topic of canon, let’s take some time now to consider why the games that came out around the time of the film aren’t included on my timeline. Aside from a few interactive websites, there were 5 unique games that were created in 2009. Three of these very different games were all creatively titled ‘James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game,’ one of them was more simply titled ‘James Cameron’s Avatar,’ and another still was more descriptively titled ‘Avatar: The Mobile Game.’ Both ‘Avatar: The Mobile Game,’ for phones that predate smartphones like Nokia and Motorola, as well as ‘James Cameron’s Avatar,’ a mobile game for iOS and Android phones, are no longer available to play as they’ve been removed from their online stores. These are simple enough to retcon from canon. The other three titles, all of which were called ‘James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game,’ all fall into a sort of tiered-canon, similar to old Star Wars Legends games. Most of them have been retconned in some way, or were simply ignored and forgotten, but they’ve each added to the lore in unique and memorable ways, such as introducing us to clans like the Tawkami and Anurai which have made their way to actual canon titles. While these games likely aren’t canon any longer, and won’t make their way into our visual timeline graphic, I find it hard to believe James Cameron ever thought of them as canon stories in his world to begin with, as he didn’t even like the idea of someone adapting the original movie into a novelization for fear that they would add stuff he didn’t write. But I think in more recent years his opinion on other’s playing in his sandbox has softened quite a bit, as we’ll get into shortly. While we’re still on the topic of games, two more mobile games have been created over the years: ‘Avatar: Warrior’s Journey’ and ‘Avatar: Pandora Rising,’ both of which have been abandoned before being completed and were removed from App Stores. These aren’t canon either.

Now that we’ve gotten all those non-canon titles out of the way, let’s actually talk about some meaningful additions to the Avatar Timeline. As work began to pick up on the Avatar sequels around 2015, James Cameron realized the story he wanted to tell and the world he wanted to share was bigger than what he could flesh out in the films. “Even with three sequels in the works we still have more stories that we want to tell, so Lightstorm will be working in partnership with Dark Horse Comics to reveal new storylines from the past, present, and the future world of Avatar.” So with that partnership it’s safe to say that the subsequent comics that have arrived since 2017 are all solidly in the canon camp.

Based on a quick line from General Ardmore in The Way of Water we can surmise humans first landed on Pandora circa 2124.

The earliest chronological comic run on our timeline is the recent 2022 series called ‘Avatar: Adapt Or Die.’ Grace Augustine first introduces the idea to Mo’at and the Omatikaya people to start a school to teach the young Na’vi the ways of the Sky People, aka the humans. Talks of starting a school are delayed as the children begin getting very sick to a mysterious new illness. Grace and the humans are blamed for the sickness and she’s told to stay away, but soon the avatars themselves begin showing signs of the very same illness. Mo’at and Grace separately realize they need each other’s help to find a medicinal cure, and it’s through this partnership that Grace’s school for the Na’vi is eventually realized. This story gives new meaning to the line that Selfridge says about their past dealings with the Na’vi. “We’ve tried to give them medicines, education, uhh roads.” Adapt Or Die takes place around 2142, some 12 years before the first film. We know this because the school had been shut down for two years prior to the film and Grace claims she taught the kids for ten years prior to that. “But I put ten years of my life into that school.” I highly recommend Adapt Or Die as an entry to the Avatar comics, and the 6 issues will be collected in trade paperback form on February 28th. I’ll leave a link in the description so you can preorder it now, as well as links to buy any other graphic novels I highlight in this video.

From here we jump back to earth. Tom Sully, Jake’s twin brother, begins training in earnest for the Avatar Program in 2145. “I know who you are, and I don’t need you. I need your brother. Y’know the PHD who trained for 3 years to be on this mission?” Well, after training for three years, Tom Sully is killed in the Summer of 2148, a week before being shipped off to Pandora. But luckily for the RDA, their investment didn’t go to waste, as Tom had a twin brother whose DNA is close enough that it’ll match up and link with Tom’s avatar. You get to see a bit more of Earth in 2148 in the Extended Collector’s Edition of the film, if you’re interested. Jake Sully leaves for Pandora a week after his brother’s death. Some time in 2152, several Na’vi children stopped attending Grace Augustine’s school and burn down an RDA bulldozer. “The troopers pursued them to the school. They killed Sylwanin in the doorway, right in front of Neytiri, and then shot the others. I got most of the kids out, but they never came back.” Sylwanin was the older sister of Neytiri, and the first love and original betrothed to Tsu’tey. After Sylwanin’s death, Grace and all other Dreamwalkers were banished from the Omatikaya clan. After leaving earth in 2148, it takes Jake nearly 6 years to arrive on Pandora. “We’ve been in cryo for 5 years, 9 months, and 22 days.”

That brings us to the year 2154, and the primary events of the first Avatar film. Jake Sully quickly acclimates himself to life on Pandora, and goes into his Na’vi avatar once a day. While his brother Tom may have been the scientist in the family, Jake Sully’s background as a Marine quickly became a blessing in disguise. The Na’vi accept Jake into their clan so they can study the ways of human warriors, and offer to train him in their way of life. Jake begins his work on the Avatar Program on May 19th, 2154, as seen in the timestamp on his first video log entry. Because Jake is so quickly accepted by the natives, Colonel Quaritch tasks him to retrieve intel and take an active hand in getting the Na’vi to relocate, before they bulldoze the Omatikaya’s great Hometree for the unobtanium that lies beneath its roots. “You’ve got three months. That’s when the dozers get there.” And the film actually elapses some three months from here, in a surprising level of timeline synergy and logic. We even know the date the film ends, thanks to his 98th log entry being dated to August 24th, 2154, which is exactly 98 days after his first log on May 19th. What’s even more impressive is the implication here that Jake somehow kept these video logs going while he was imprisoned, riding out to unite the clans, and leading the war front. I don’t know how he did it, but he did it. While the on-screen dates correlate very well with the overall story being told, there are some inaccuracies, like this footage displayed as March 19th when it should read August 19th, or these slides on Quaritch’s screen which are dated about a week and a half too early for them to line up properly.

But alas, the film’s climax occurs in August 2154, which is where we’ll place it on our timeline, and a lot happens during those 3 months. Jake is accepted as one of the Na’vi, he and Neytiri fall in love and mate before Eywa, the Tree of Voices is bulldozed, the Hometree is destroyed, Eytukan dies, Grace Augustine dies, Tsu’tey dies, Jake becomes the 6th Toruk rider, he unites 15 clans, the War for Pandora is fought and most of the humans and the RDA are pushed out of Pandora and sent packing back to earth. Oh, and Jake Sully passes through the Eye of Eywa and fully links with his Avatar’s body.

There are a number of new stories that have been introduced through the Dark Horse Comics partnership that occur concurrently to the first Avatar film, but it’s important in my opinion to keep the film before those concurrent stories on our visual timeline as it sets the stage for those other tales. The next title you’ll want to experience in this time period is Tsu’tey’s Path. This is essentially the events of Avatar experienced through the eyes of Tsu’tey. By only watching the film, Tsu’tey is little more than a cocky, jealous, and generally unlikeable character. But Tsu’tey’s Path does an incredible job of flipping that script and showing what’s going through his head as Jake Sully becomes more closely entwined with Neytiri and the Na’vi. His clan is on the verge of war with the Sky People, he’s being positioned to become the next olo’eyktan (or chief) of the Omatikaya, and he’s being pushed to train his hunter initiates to become warriors. He has a lot on his plate, and this 6 issue series from 2019 highlights his insecurities as a leader and recontextualizes him as a much more misunderstood, more likable figure. We learn that he’s able to commune with his first true love, Neytiri’s older sister Sylwanin, who was killed in the old schoolhouse, by spending time at the Tree of Voices, which brings new meaning to this look of pain we see on his face when the Tree of Voices is cut down in the film. It ends with Jake Sully becoming the olo’eyktan after Tsu’tey’s death. It’s a great read if you want to spend more time in Pandora, and you’ll find all 6 issues collected in the Tsu’tey’s Path trade paperback. It is however a bit confusing from a timeline analysis, as events that we know are spread out over three months in the film often feel like they’re happening within a much shorter timeframe. If you’re just reading this alone, it seems as though the film occurs over the course of a week, though we know that’s impossible. Still, inconsistencies aside, this is considered a canonical title, and we place it right after Avatar.

The next title, Avatar: Brothers, is a short one-shot story that Dark Horse released for Free Comic Book Day 2017, which also parallels the events of Avatar. The film itself never shows us how Jake Sully managed to subdue and bond with the Toruk through tsaheylu, and that’s the purpose of this short comic, to bridge that gap. We also learn a bit more about Jake and his brother Tom’s differing personalities through the narration as he hunts down the Great Leonopteryx. This short story is collected within the Tsu’tey’s Path trade paperback.

After Brothers, we exit the confines of the 3-month time period outlined in Avatar and see what happens shortly after the war against the Sky People is won, in Avatar: The Next Shadow. This 4-part comic run follows two weeks after the events in the film, and showcases Jake Sully’s insecurities in being the olo’eyktan or leader of the Omatikaya people. It’s not a burden he’s necessarily prepared for, and after the war is over he finds the balancing act as clan chief a difficult one to bear. Now that the Omatikaya’s home has fallen, and most of the humans have left Pandora, Jake Sully relocates the omatikaya near the human settlement at Hell’s Gate. Meanwhile, the parents of Tsu’tey wrongly push their younger son Arvok to fight for the position of olo’eyktan, a position they claim Jake stole from them, despite Tsu’tey very publicly naming Jake his successor. During the duel, the parents secretly poison the blade, and when Jake is cut he goes into a comatose state, wherein he must face his own demons in his mind. The Na’vi and the humans must work together to save him. This title occurs in early September 2154, and the four issues are collected in the Avatar: The Next Shadow trade paperback, linked below.

After this we jump forward 7 years to 2161, when Jake Sully began training a Na’vi war party to be ready for when the humans returned from earth, even training them in zero-g, in orbit around Pandora, so the RDA would never get the opportunity to land.

Jumping forward another 7 years to 2168 takes us to the graphic novel trilogy, Avatar: The High Ground. This three part graphic novel series is originally based on Cameron’s own script for the second film, but has since been adapted as a prequel to The Way of Water by Sherri L. Smith, and honestly? It’s required reading. It sets the stage for the second film so well I’m surprised more people don’t know it exists! 14 years after the first film, it’s finally happened. The RDA have returned to Pandora, and all the training that Jake and the Na’vi have done to prepare to take out their single ship before it lands is all seemingly for naught, because they’ve brought ten ships this time. The RDA and General Ardmore offer the remaining humans on the base a deal where they’ll receive back pay and become full RDA employees again if they comply, but Jake Sully isn’t having any of it, and goes ahead with his plan of attack anyway. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but rest assured it’s an incredible read, the stakes are high, and my heart rate went up like crazy reading this. I highly recommend the three graphic novels to any fan who wants to spend a bit more time on Pandora. The books introduce us to the new cast of characters, Neteyam and Lo’ak, Sully’s two sons, and Tuktirey, his daughter, as well as Kiri, a war orphaned Na’vi child with strange gifts, and Miles ‘Spider’ Socorro, a human orphan. We learn a fair bit about Spider’s mother too. These three books occur within the first week or so of the Sky People returning to Pandora, and fall within that 1 year time jump we see in The Way of Water.

In Avatar: The Way of Water, we’re quickly introduced to a highlight reel of the events that occur within the first fourteen years after the Battle of the Hallelujah Mountains. After the humans return, the film jumps a year ahead. Jake Sully and his Na’vi war party have seemingly been caught up in war with the RDA for the past year. The Sky People have been fast at work, essentially 3D printing Bridgehead City up in just a year’s time, accomplishing more groundwork in that year than the previous 30 years the RDA was present combined. General Ardmore welcomes a new Avatar/Marine hybrid recom group, led by the Avatar of Miles Quaritch, whose sole job currently is to hunt down and kill Jake Sully. Jake must put his family first and leave the war and the Omatikaya people behind to live a secluded life with the Metkayina people, whose ways are foreign to the family. And that’s really all I’ll say about The Way of Water for fear of spoiling any of the fun. Go see it, it’s a great film. I previously assumed the main events of this movie occurred in 2169, exactly 15 years after the events of the first film, but that isn’t the case. The Visual Dictionary claims that the youngest daughter, Tuk, was born in 2163, and is now 7 years old. That means the earliest this film can take place is in early 2170, and so long as that falls before August 2170, that still falls within the 15 year proximity to when the Sky People were originally sent packing back to earth. Early 2170 makes sense as the day/night cycles are a bit different this time of year, as opposed to the later cycles seen in August. Instead of Polyphemus eclipsing the sun during their night cycle, it eclipses it during the day in this film. We can also gauge the amount of time that elapses in the film using Ronal’s pregnancy, to about 2 or 3 months.

Now, I’d love to add more items to this timeline, like the Pandora: World of Avatar themed land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which some have theorized occurs about a century in the future, but I don’t currently see it as canon. I’ll revisit the park soon and I’ll try and determine whether it is or isn’t canon. As for the upcoming games, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and Avatar: Reckoning, we’ll have to wait and see where they land on the timeline.

But for now, that’s it for our Avatar: World of Pandora Timeline version 1! If this video does well I’ll consider updating it in the future with new Avatar titles. This gigantic timeline visual will be exclusively available to our Patreon members, of which I’m so grateful for. I can’t believe there’s so many of you out there that are willing to help fund timeline work like this, and I hope to continue meeting your expectations with more content just like this in the future.

If you liked this video, please don’t forget to throw a thumbs up my way, be sure to check out some of my other work, and subscribe! And because this’ll be my last video of 2022, I wanted to share the love and keep you guys lost in Pandora, so be sure to check out these other amazing Avatar videos from some other creators right now! Thanks guys. Oel ngati kameie.

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