The Way of Water’s Plot Is Similar to the First Movie

Dec 26, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following article contains Avatar: The Way of Water spoilers.With the long-belated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, director James Cameron delivers a follow-up that exceeds almost all expectations, particularly with stunning visuals and a vibrant world with detail that is second to none. It’s a sequel that will absolutely please fans of the original, but for those not a fan of the original’s story, Avatar: The Way of Water might not win you over. That’s because the film’s plot very much follows The Force Awakens model, with a story structure virtually identical to the original movie. There are plenty of new characters and lots of new settings to explore, and many of the story beats are arguably done better here than in the first film, but some could also argue that the ten-year wait could and should have yielded a more original story.

It seems likely that the plot of the Avatar films will continue to be a hotly debated topic until the next film in the series finally comes around, but rather than debate why the story of Avatar: The Way of Water works or doesn’t, there are many parallels and callbacks between the two entries in this epic franchise to be seen.

In ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Jake Sully Reintroduces Us to Pandora

Image via 20th Century Studios

Jake Sully provides some narration to get us up to speed on what’s been going on for the past ten years. When we first met Jake in 2009, he was a disabled veteran living on a futuristic Earth, which is slowly dying due to the aggressive industrialization of humanity. Jake explains in his opening monologue that his twin brother had been killed in a robbery, that brother also happened to be a brilliant scientist studying to travel to the vibrant jungle planet of Pandora. Jake’s brother was also a part of the Avatar program, where humans had created clone bodies that morphed the DNA of their own and the native Na’vi in an attempt to ease relations with them. Due to Jake being a twin, his DNA makeup is nearly identical and is offered by his twin’s employers to come to Pandora and pilot his avatar. Jake accepts, and all of this is explained in expository narration by Jake.

RELATED: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Crosses $441 Million at the Global Box Office

At the start of The Way of Water, Jake explains that he is not only a permanent Na’vi member and leader of the Omatikaya Clan, he’s also become a dedicated husband to his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and a total of five children. Jake briefly introduces his three biological children consisting of the oldest Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), the middle teen Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and the youngest child Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). The two other children require more explanation from Jake as they’re both adopted and extremely significant to Jake’s past. The first is Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), the miraculous Na’vi daughter of Jake’s late friend Dr. Grace Augustine (also Sigourney Weaver) and the second is a human outcast named Spider (Jack Champion), later revealed to be the son of Jake’s old enemy Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). After introducing the family, that’s really all there is to what Jake has been up to. Might seem anticlimactic to some, but it’s a good way to show that life on Pandora has been largely peaceful and pleasant. That’s until the stars begin to fall and the humans have returned to conquer Pandora.

Jake Waking in his Avatar Body Parallels Quaritch’s Experience

Image via 20th Century Studios

Jake’s introduction to his avatar body from the first film sees him waking up in a sterile setting, finally feeling the sensation of moving his legs after so many years. Jake’s clearly excited to take his new body out for a spin, but the doctors doing their rudimentary checks aren’t letting that happen right away. They try to calm him down and sedate him, but Jake is too amped up to listen and eventually runs out the door, seeing the world of Pandora through he eyes of a Na’vi for the very first time.

Early on in Avatar: The Way of Water, another avatar body is born, but this rebirth is not cause for celebration. That’s because this new avatar body is being occupied by a resurrected Miles Quaritch – the genocidal colonel from the original story. Quaritch died in a climactic battle with Jake and Neytiri, but prior to that fight, the RDA had Quaritch and his most trusted mercs submit their DNA and memories in the event they’re killed in action. They were, and now they’re memories have been transmitted into stronger and faster avatar bodies. When Quaritch wakes up, he’s far more scared and confused than Jake was when he was brought back, panicking in the exam room. It doesn’t take long for him to get his bearings, thus setting Quaritch on the path of revenge.

Unobtanium, Amrita, and Where They’re Found

Image via 20th Century Studios

We learn fairly quickly why Jake Sully came to Pandora, but we learn a bit later why the humans are on the planet to begin with. When Dr. Augustine confronts the head of the operation, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), we learn that the human race initially came to the planet to mine for Unobtanium – an immensely valuable mineral found only on Pandora.

When the newly resurrected Quaritch and his team return to Pandora, they meet their superior, General Ardmore (Edie Falco), who brings the formerly deceased marines up to speed. We learn that the humans are no longer just interested in Unobtanium, but now seek to control and colonize the entire planet of Pandora. This is due to a concept that was only hinted at in the first film, in that Earth is dying and the human race now needs a new home, and will take it by force if necessary.

The various resources on Pandora also are a nice incentive to conquer it, as we learn later in Avatar: The Way of Water that there’s another miraculous material to be found on the planet. This time it’s located in Pandora’s oceans, located in the brain matter of the peaceful and highly intelligent Tulkun whales. Called Amrita, the golden liquid apparently stops human aging in it’s tracks, leading whalers to hunt the whales and harvest their Amrita before dumping their carcasses back into the depths.

In ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Jake Seeks Refuge With a New Clan

Image via 20th Century Studios

The only reason Jake survived his first encounter with the native Na’vi was a sign from Eywa, which stopped his future wife Neytiri from shooting him in the back. When the sign appeared to her in the form of a seed from their sacred tree, Neytiri brought Jake to her tribe, particularly her parents and tribe leaders Eytukan (Wes Studi) and Mo’at (CCH Pounder). Chief Eytukan immediately dismisses Jake as just another “skyperson”, believing that he is another “demon” who will bring war and death to their home. When Neytiri tells the story of the sign from Eywa, Mo’at, being the tribe’s spiritual leader, convinces her husband to train Jake in their ways to see if he is worthy. Thus, Jake’s journey to become a full-fledged Na’vi begins.

Years later, Jake and his family seek shelter from the vengeful Quaritch, and they seek refuge in the shore tribes of the Metkayina. Here Jake once again encounters two leaders, one of which is open to his stay while the other is apprehensive. Chief Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) initially expresses concern that the Sully family will not fit in here since their skills in the forest have no place here in the oceans, but still respects Jake’s legacy enough to welcome him and his family. His wife Ronal (Kate Winslet) is a different story, immediately condemning Jake and his children as “half-breeds” and expressing a similar sentiment to Neytiri’s father in that they will bring the human invasion to their people.

Both Jake Sully and Lo’ak Unite With Powerful Creatures

Image via 20th Century Studios

Part of Jake’s path to earn his place among the Na’vi was becoming Turuk Makto – the title given to the warrior able to bone with the fearsome Turuk. The Turuk is a massive flying beast, the largest flying creature on Pandora that we know of. When Jake rode the legendary beast into battle against the humans, he made himself a legendary figure to unite the tribes against the invasive skypeople.

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Lo’ak also meets a powerful creature, albeit one that’s a lot friendlier then Turuk. This would be the Tulkun outcast Payakan – the whale-like creature who saves Lo’ak from a fearsome predator and begins a hopefully long friendship. Payakan is unique amongst his species as he is no longer allowed to speak to other Tulkun or Na’vi following him breaking the Tulkun way of peace by leading an attack against the humans, resulting in the loss of many lives. Payakan ultimately does earn his redemption by assisting our heroes in Avatar: The Way of Water’s final battle.

Nature Is Yet Again Destroyed in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

Image via 20th Century Studios

Jake and Neytiri found themselves in for a literal rude awakening when the humans bulldozed a sacred forest to the Omaticaya clan. The jungle they destroyed had special trees that allowed the Na’vi to communicate with Eywa, but the humans looked at this as just another obstacle to be removed. This outrageous event leads to the Omaticaya Clan to prepare for war, but Jake tries to tell them that this will only lead to massive casualties and a fight they can’t win. He was right, as the Na’vi fought and many, including Chief Eytukan, died as a result.

The catalyst for the Metkayina’s preparation for war came when a Tulkun that Ronal was close to became the victim of a brutal whaling attack. While the typical intent for the humans doing this is to mine Amrita, Quaritch told them to keep the carcass afloat to send a message. Enraged by this cruelty, Ronowari and Ronal quickly muster their troops, and Jake again tells them that the skypeople are not an enemy to be taken lightly. Ronal threatens to exile Jake and his family, but ultimately persuades them to let him help. Still, the consequences are still prevalent, as several of Jake’s children are soon captured by Quaritch.

Jake Sully’s Eyes Continue to Say It All in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

Image via 20th Century Studios

After a massive climactic battle, Jake decides that he wants nothing to do with the humans he swore allegiance to. On Pandora, Jake is able to be a warrior hero and has found true love in Neytiri, and the life he had back on Earth simply doesn’t interest him anymore. Thus, through a special ritual, Jake is able to permanently enter his avatar body, with the final shot of the film being a close-up of Jake’s eyes after he wakes up.

In the climactic final battle of Avatar: The Way of Water, Jake and Neytiri’s victory comes at an even greater cost. Their eldest son Neteyam died a hero’s death protecting his siblings, and after paying their respects, the couple goes to the world tree to commune with their son one last time. There they see a vision of their son hunting as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, giving them the peace they need to hopefully move on. Finally, just like the first film, the final shot is a close-up of Jake’s eyes as he wakes up, ready for what the next conflict with the humans has in store.

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