Despite what many naysayers predicted, Avatar: The Way of Water has proven to be a box office hit, which means that future films will be produced.
At this point, the third Avatar film is already done and will be released in two years. There are reports that the fourth film has been partially filmed, but that could just be effects shots that would be unfinished if the film never comes to be.
Given that director James Cameron envisioned five films to tell his Avatar story, where would the story go? There will be spoilers below for both Avatar films released to date.
One of the best features of Avatar: The Way of Water is that unlike the previous film, it actually opened up the worldbuilding in the franchise and dropped tantalizing hints of where the story will go.
The Kiri Connection
The film introduced many new characters and gave new and interesting developments for established characters. The most interesting new character was Kiri, the adopted daughter of Jake Sully and Neytiri. It was revealed that she is the daughter of Grace Augustine, who was killed in the first Avatar, but there are questions as to who is her father. More importantly, Kiri was shown to have a deep, spiritual connection to Eywa, a life force that is connected to all living creatures on Pandora, the alien moon in Avatar where the characters live. Her connection to Eywa was quite evident as she used it to defend herself against humans hunting her and her siblings, and when she was able to get bioluminescent fish creatures to help find her adopted mother and sister, who were in danger of drowning.
It has been theorized that Kiri does not have a father and is a product of an immaculate conception, which has many echoes of not only the Star Wars prequels but Christian religion. Another theory has it that Kiri is actually the personification of Eywa, who has taken physical form to better understand Pandora and the Na’vi. In either case, Kiri is being set up to be a conduit or a savior of the moon against the human invaders, and this will be the needed advantage the Na’vi people will need against the humans.
In our history, whenever a technologically advanced culture first encountered a native culture that was not as technologically advanced, the results were grim for the native culture, as it was overwhelmed. The Na’vi face a similar fate in the overall story of Avatar, and the Eywa connection will probably be the only way they could fight back against the humans. We’ve seen this already in Avatar, when out of nowhere armies of native animals viciously attacked human forces trying to destroy a Na’vi stronghold, and we saw it again to a lesser extent in the sequel when Kiri used her connection to Eywa to protect her.
Not only is Kiri the key to saving Pandora, but possibly Earth itself. It was mentioned in Avatar: The Way of Water that Earth was dying, which was why humans showed up in greater numbers to begin colonizing the moon. The title of the third film is for now, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, this could be referring to Kiri. If she turns out to be a manifestation of Eywa, she could provide the means to somehow saving Earth from ecological devastation.
James Cameron has said that at some point in either the fourth or fifth planned film, part of the story will take place on Earth. This is where Kiri and Earth’s salvation could come into play.
Other Points of Views
The director elaborated that Neytiri will visit Earth and be exposed to other aspects of humanity. She will learn that not all humans are evil. This is a bit odd given her romantic relationship with Jake Sully, who was once human, and that he has close ties with sympathetic humans on Pandora, who have aided the Na’vi. Then again the fact that her son was killed by humans could have hardened her against humans. A clue for this development was when she grabbed Quaritch’s human son Spider and threatened to kill him. For a moment in that scene, it really looked like she meant to do it, given her earlier rampage against human soldiers who killed her son.
On Earth, Neytiri will probably find human allies who are ready to join the struggle against human invaders on Pandora. It is possible the franchise could conclude with epic battles taking place on Pandora and even on Earth as Na’vi and human allies fight the invading humans who are bent on world conquest. One of those possible allies could be Quaritch himself.
When Quaritch was first introduced in Avatar, he was a one-note villain who only saw the Na’vi as savages or pests to be eliminated. He was killed at the end of the film. In the sequel he was resurrected in a way when an avatar body (a clone grown out human and Na’vi DNA) was created in his image and implanted with his memories. Throughout Avatar: The Way of Water Quaritch is out hunting Jake Sully, but in a Na’vi body. This allowed him to better blend in and survive the deadly environment of Pandora. In the film, Quaritch makes great efforts to adopt the Na’vi way of life to better understand his prey. This could eventually make him sympathetic to the Na’vi even though Cameron said he would be the villain in the next two films. We saw him soften from his tough-as-nails militaristic demeanor in Avatar: The Way of Water. He forms a fragile bond with the son of the original Quaritch to the point that he gives in to Neytiri when she threatens his son.
It is possible that in the next two films, Quaritch will find himself being more open to the Na’vi viewpoint to the point of connecting with Eywa. This is inevitable being that he is no longer human and would be rejected by the human invaders as a freak. At a pivotal moment, Quaritch will have to make a hard decision and either ally with the Na’vi or perform some rebellious action against the humans that winds up saving the Na’vi.
Then there is Spider, Quartich’s son, who was introduced in Avatar: The Way of Water. He has rejected humanity and tries to live as a Na’vi, but he is not fully accepted because he is human. This was best seen in the way that Neytiri seemed too willing to murder him in front of Quaritch. Add to that is the fact that later in the film Spider saves his father from drowning, but has not told his adopted Na’vi family of this. The revelation could alienate him from the Na’vi and we could see Spider become a villain as his father becomes an anti-hero.
New Elements, New Cultures
Humans will not be the only ones seen from different viewpoints. In Avatar: The Seed Bearer, James Cameron said in an interview that he will introduce a new tribe of Na’vi called the Ash People who won’t be as kind and noble as the Na’vi we’ve seen to date. This would be an interesting take on the Na’vi, who have always been shown as sci-fi versions of the “noble savage” trope.
These Ash People would roughly represent another of the four basic elements, fire. In Avatar: The Way of Water the marine Metkayina tribe clearly represents the water element, while Jake’s adopted tribe in the first film, the Omatikaya tribe, represented the Earth element. Given that the fourth film may take partially on Earth and humans are called the Sky People, it is safe to assume that either humans represent the air element or we’ll be introduced to another Na’vi tribe that will represent air. Perhaps super banshee riders, though that would not fit in well with the supposed title of the fourth film, Avatar: The Tulkin Rider, since tulkins are the Pandora equivalent of whales, as shown in the second film.
There is also the possibility that Cameron will introduce other worlds in the future films. In Polyphemus, the gas giant planet that Pandora orbits, there are several other moons, and Cameron has stated in the past that those other moons were worth exploring. Doing this could tie in with a look at the Na’vi origins. After all, given that Pandora is dominated by hexapede (six-limbed) animals, it is odd that the Na’vi only have four limbs like most Earth animals. Maybe we’ll learn that the Na’vi originated from another moon or planet that somehow got transplanted on Na’vi.
Thanks to Avatar: The Way of Water, the world of Avatar has truly opened up and there are so many possibilities of where the overall story will conclude. One clue can be seen in the theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the themed land, Pandora: The World of Avatar. It takes place many years after humans and Na’vi have learned to live peacefully. So it can be theorized that in the end, humans will become a permanent part of Pandora, but will have learned to respectfully co-habitat with their Na’vi neighbors.
Great review. I personally loved this movie. I still like the first movie a bit more, but The Way of Water is still a solid sequel follow-up. Of course, the movie is way too long and the ending keeps going on and on much longer than intended, but the narrative is still engaging, the new world building is fantastic, and the visual effects look amazing. Can’t wait for the next one!
Totally agree about the solid world building which raised my anticipation for the next films. I cannot decide which film was better, which is why the second one must be viewed again to help me decide!😁