It’s been a long time coming, but Avatar: The Way of Water is finally about to swim into cinemas this December. The cinematic landscape has changed so much since the first Avatar released back in 2009, with the then-nascent MCU having grown exponentially to dominate the movie world by this point. Back when Avengers: Endgame dropped in 2019, for instance, it sparked a bitter battle between Marvel and Avatar for the title of the world’s highest-grossing movie.
Now, in a surprise move, it looks like director James Cameron has tipped his hat to his biggest competition in his incoming sequel. The latest trailer for The Way of Water emerged from the depths this week to give us another gorgeous taste of the film. Any MCU fans watching it, though, would no doubt have instantly clocked a notable visual moment which plays at the 0:45 mark (see below):
After flailing about when riding a sea creature, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) — the oldest son of Jake and Neytiri — is clearly determined to do better, which is represented by the action of tightening the saddle handle around his wrist. Everything about this moment, from the framing of the shot to the character intention behind it, makes it feel like a direct reference to a similar action performed by Chris Evans’ Captain America, when he strengthens the strap of his shield around his hand during his fight with Thanos.
Like this Way of Water shot, that clip was likewise used in Endgame‘s trailer to denote a dramatic needle-shift and has become a very recognizable image for Marvel fans. James Cameron has certainly seen Endgame himself, so it’s entirely possible this is a deliberate and good-natured nod to his greatest rival. Even if he’s secretly — or maybe not all that secretly — hoping that his new movie will totally trounce Marvel’s efforts at the box office. But, hey, whichever out of Marvel or Avatar loses this battle, Disney wins the war.