Fans of James Cameron’s Avatar—and sci-fi films in general—are flooding the theaters to see the long-awaited sequel: Avatar: The Way of Water. With a runtime of 3 hours and 10 minutes, this film thoroughly explores the underwater world of Pandora, the moon where the main characters reside. Continuing the journey of Jake Sully and his Na’vi family, this movie introduces new characters, including Jake and Neytiri’s children.
The movie starts with the birth of Neteyam, the couple’s eldest son, and Kiri, their adopted daughter who was mysteriously born from Dr. Grace Augustine’s Avatar. The audience then meets Lo’ak, the second son, Tuktirey, the second daughter and youngest child of the bunch, adorably nicknamed “Tuk,” and Spider, the human son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (the deceased antagonist from the first movie).
Jake, played by actor Sam Worthington, narrates throughout the film, but most notably at the beginning during these scenes with his young children. He talks about how happy he is in his new life on Pandora, but also how happiness can dissipate in a second—marking the return of the invasive humans. Referred to as “a new star in the night,” their ship can be seen entering Pandora’s atmosphere. Aboard are the Recoms (Recombinants), which are Na’vi clones of RDA Sec-Ops soldiers, complete with their memories and consciousness. The Recoms look like Avatars, but they do not require human drivers, as they are their own living beings, similar to how Jake is now. The Recoms’ arrival marks the beginning of a new war between the Na’vi and the humans.
The RDA (Resources Development Administration) has always funded its efforts with Pandoran resources, as the company’s name suggests. The focus in the first Avatar was the mineral unobtainium; however, it is revealed aboard the SeaDragon, the RDA’s largest water vessel, that the humans are now after a new substance called Amrita. It is found in the base of a tulkun’s (Pandoran whale-like creature) brain, and it also happens to be the key to human immortality. Amrita brings in enough money to fund the humans’ hostile takeover of the planet, made necessary by the Earth’s uninhabitable state.
It is decided that the humans could never successfully move onto the flourishing moon unless the natives were put to an end. Recom Quaritch’s “Blue Team” is tasked with finding and killing Jake Sully, as he is olo’eyktan (chief) of the Omatikaya clan.
Quaritch and his team strike the Na’vi, and they hold Lo’ak, Kiri, Tuk, and Spider hostage. Jake, Neytiri, and Neteyam manage to save all but Spider, who is taken back to the RDA’s headquarters and heavily interrogated. This leads to the unusual relationship between Quaritch and Spider, as well as Jake and Neytiri’s decision to leave the Omatikaya in order to protect their family and the people.
The Sully family flies by ikran to the Metkayina village of Marui. This is where the audience meets most of the aquatic characters in the film, including Tonowari, olo’eyktan of the Metkayina, Ronal, tsahìk (spiritual leader) of the Metkayina, and their two children, Tsireya and Aonung. These Na’vi introduce the Sully family to the ilu, skimwing, tulkun, and other marine fauna. It is at this point in the film that the focus switches to the kids.
At first, Neteyam, Lo’ak, and Tuk struggle when learning how to swim and hold their breath for extended periods of time in order to ride the ilu, but with Tsireya’s guidance (and in spite of Aonung’s mockery), the three became very skilled in the water. Lo’ak especially gains a deep understanding of the way of water as he bonds with an outcast tulkun called Payakan. The tulkun are extremely intelligent aquatic creatures that are similar in nature to Earth’s whales. They are so intelligent that they actually eliminated all war and killing from their kind. Each Na’vi possesses a tulkun brother or sister, and Payakan becomes Lo’ak’s. Payakan has been outcast from the tulkun for a crime he did not commit, and this sense of loneliness connects him to Lo’ak.
Kiri, on the other hand, has a very different experience with the Metkayina. She is a natural in the water, and it is slowly revealed that she has a deep, heartfelt connection to Eywa, the Na’vi’s deity. Later in the film, the kids visit the Cove of the Ancestors, where the Metkayina Spirit Tree resides underwater, and they all connect to the tree, in the way that the Na’vi do to communicate with Eywa. Upon connecting to the tree, Kiri suffers a seizure. Dr. Norm Spellman and Dr. Max Patel, human scientists, believe the cause to be epilepsy; however, we won’t know for sure what caused this event until we have a greater understanding of Kiri’s connection to Eywa.
In the end, Lo’ak’s bond with Payakan and Kiri’s power derived from Eywa both are crucial to stopping the human threat. When the human scientists come to help Kiri, they accidentally reveal the location of the Sully family, drawing Quaritch’s attention. His motivation has changed from a mission to stop the Na’vi to a plot for vengeance against his killer, Jake Sully. The two forces clash in the ocean surrounding the Metkayina village with the humans aboard the RDA’s SeaDragon and the Na’vi on ilu and skimwings.
During the final battle, Neteyam goes to save his captured siblings, but was sadly shot in the chest while trying to help Lo’ak rescue Spider. The three boys escape and regroup with Jake, Neytiri, and Tsireya. With his mother and father holding his hands and Lo’ak applying pressure to his wound, Neteyam dies—the blood on Lo’ak’s hands. Quaritch is holding Kiri and Tuk on the ship at this time, so with mourning hearts, ripe with hatred, Jake and Neytiri go to save their family. It all boils down to a fist fight between Quaritch and Jake underwater, which leaves Quaritch unconscious and drowning and Jake trapped. Neytiri and Tuk also become encased by the sinking ship. Lo’ak finds his father and helps him to escape, while Kiri lights up the ship with bioluminescent fish, using her connection to Eywa, and finds her mother and sister. This is when Spider brings Quaritch’s nearly dead body to the surface, effectively saving him and betraying the Na’vi. In the end, the Sully family makes its way to Payakan’s fin, where they are finally able to reunite in peace.
The film ends with Neteyam’s funeral. The grieving family delivers his body to the ocean floor where Eywa takes his remains. Jake and Neytiri, dressed in mourning, then connect to the Spirit Tree where they see Neteyam in his youth, as presented at the beginning of the film. The Sully’s claim their place among the Metkayina, and the film ends on a beautiful note of hope for the future.
This comprehensive and moving story is absolutely beyond words. Laughter, tears, and smiles—it’s all there. As Sam Worthington likes to say, if the first movie is about finding where you belong and what you love, then this film is about protecting that. From 3 hours and 10 minutes of stunning underwater visuals, let this be the one thing you remember: family is the most important thing there is. Find it, cherish it, and protect it.
The first Avatar can be found on Disney+, and be sure to go see Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters now.
“Avatar: The Way of Water Movie Image.” Avatar, 20th Century Studios, 2022, www.avatar.com/movies/avatar-the-way-of-water. Accessed 20 Dec. 2022.