“Avatar: The Way of Water” Offers a Much Needed Message


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Jake Sully rides into battle against Colonel Quaritch on his ilu.

Brandon Mudd, Calendar Coordinator

Finally, a step towards cinema with a new meaning. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” offers the same adventurous action movie that we’ve been loving for years, but provides a different meaningful perspective underneath that. 

Following James Cameron’s original “Avatar,” released in 2009, fans patiently awaited the sequel that was finally released earlier this month on Dec. 16. Both the original movie and “The Way of Water” reference a nuanced storyline about the colonization of the planet Pandora and its people the Na’vi. The message that this movie brings is not only refreshing after seeing the same-old basic meaning behind every recent action movie, but it’s also essential to a time where aspects of our society and government resemble many of the horrific atrocities visualized in the movie. 

In the original “Avatar,” an element called unobtainium is found in the planet of Pandora, and once humans discover it, they quickly learn how to use it as an energy source. Due to this, the resource becomes profitable and humans are sent to Pandora to collect it. The forest Na’vi, the Indigenous people of the region, have a deep spiritual connection to the land and the balance of their planet and its ecosystems, so when this resource extraction inevitably leads to environmental damage, they retaliate. 

With the Na’vi becoming a conflicting force to the humans’ resource extraction, two ideologies surrounding a resolution arise. In the movie, scientists seek to bridge cultural and knowledge gaps between the Na’vi and humans by creating genetic replicas of humans in Na’vi form called Avatars. However, when the process of diplomacy becomes too costly and time consuming, the United States military decides to react with direct violence and genocide towards the Na’vi people and establishes a colonial state on Pandora to exploit their unobtainium. This is clearly an allusion to the United States’s military-industrial complex and how the U.S. military functions as a tyrannical force that oppresses indigenous people and minority countries under the guise of restoring democracy, fighting communism, civilizing a people group or whatever other excuse it can conjure up, all for real reason of profit. 

In the first movie, Jake Sully, who was put into the Avatar project as a spy for the military, begins to develop real feelings for Neytiri, the woman who took him under her wing to teach him the ways of the Na’vi, and he quickly falls in love with both her and the practices of the Na’vi and joins them in fighting against the colonial forces. 

In “The Way of Water” it has been many years since the initial invasion seen in “Avatar,” and this relationship is shown to have continued, and the couple now has 5 children. 

Unfortunately, the taste of victory that the Na’vi got wasn’t permanent and the humans returned to Pandora with improved technology led by Colonel Miles Quaritch who was killed in the first movie and reborn as an Avatar who was out for revenge against Jake Sully and Neytiri. 

The two make the tough decision to leave the forest, and seek refuge with the ocean Na’vi, who clearly resemble traditional coastal African communities and indigenous Polynesians and Melanesians. This story-line creates a different dynamic to the movie entirely, where the family is trying to learn and adapt to the life of the ocean Na’vi, and also provides a comforting sense of solidarity between two oppressed minority groups. 

This solidarity is tested when the colonel eventually finds out Jake and his family are with the ocean Na’vi, and begins to terrorize all the ocean Na’vi villages in search of them. However, the ocean Na’vi remain in solidarity with the Sully family and in return, whenever the colonel begins to hunt the tulkun whales who the ocean Na’vi have a deep spiritual connection with, Jake Sully reveals himself and once again leads the battle against the colonel and his oppressive force.

The movie offers an array of complex relationships amongst the characters, and its most controversial has been Spider, who is a human raised by Sully and an adopted member of his family, but is the biological son of the colonel. In the movie, Spider gets kidnapped by his father and develops a weary and distant relationship with him. In the end, Spider remained to do what was right and fought alongside the Na’vi against his father. However, Jake Sully had knocked out colonel Quaritch in their explosive last fight and he was about to drown in the ocean when Spider snuck away and saved his biological father. This move has been incredibly controversial amongst “The Way of Water” viewers and really highlights the challenging moral dilemmas presented in the movie. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is the movie that we needed in a time where we see world conflicts on the rise and imperialistic American interventionism in nearly all of them. It’s important to challenge the ideals and motives behind your country’s governmental policy, especially when it has as much influence as the American government does. People throughout the world are suffering under the policies that keep our so-called free and democratic capitalist society thriving for those in power. “The Way of Water” highlights the error in our ways and points to a need for change.