Avatar: The Way Of Water – Opening Pandora’s Box. By Connor Walsh.
Since the dawn of time, humanity has looked to the stars, wondering what life exists beyond outer space. Humans have remained the uncontested dominant race on Earth– over consuming its resources, shaping the environment to suit our needs, and filling the world with waste. Climate change is on the rise with the extinction of countless species as a result of humans. What will become of Earth as decades and centuries span–will humanity learn to take steps to repair the damage done, or will humanity look to the stars to replace the home they have damaged? Would we have to seek a new home as a result of a decaying planet? James Cameron poses these questions in his Avatar (2009-present) film series. The series began with a marine traveling across galaxies to colonize a new world and strip it of its resources, but instead he fell in love with the indigenous life of Pandora letting go of humanities greed; to fight for the planet and its many lifeforms. The sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) takes place years later, in 2169. Humanity has moved on from simply extracting the resources of Pandora and have instead has set their sights on it becoming a replacement for their dying Earth. Avatar: The Way of Water contemplates the importance of the natural world and the forms in which evil takes place throughout history, what it will take to heal the damage already inflicted on our world and the consequences of colonial efforts that view land as something to conquer instead of something to nurture and protect. Avatar: The Way of Water might contain the ingredients needed to repair our planet before it is too late.
Avatar: The Way of Water focuses on Jake Sully, a former marine turned Na’vi living a quiet life with his Na’Vi wife. These new parents are learning to raise their kids within the forests of Pandora, after earning their peace during the first film’s climactic battle. The peace is short lived as their lives are quickly upended when a familiar threat returns–The RDA (Resource Development Administration). The RDA are a threat to life on Pandora as they seek to siphon its resources and in an attempt to heal the damage humanity caused to earth. In the first Avatar, Miles Quaritch failed his task of scaring off the indigenous life of Pandora when a rebellion led by Jake Sully fought back the military. The battle between the army and the na’vi leads to his eventual demise. Quaritch 2.0 is created to lead the RDA to victory to hunt down Jake Sully. This ignites a cat and mouse chase which drives the Sully family into hiding amongst the ocean tribe of the Metkayina. Throughout the film Jake Sully and Miles Quaritch serve as mirror versions of each other with Jake Sully letting go of his self serving military interests while Miles Quaritch seeks revenge over the demise of his human body and is more determined than ever to make Jake Sully face the consequences for his victory in the previous film.
Humanity’s insatiable greed in the Way of Water led the military to implement an RDA Recombinant Program. In which memories of the dead are placed within false bodies to continually serve the military for as long as that data remains. These Avatars can die and respawn similarly to a video game character. The RDA soldiers blinded by duty don’t see that they are being exploited and recycled; they believe they are the soldiers who died–they, however, are nothing but data in a hollow shell. Their endless quest to expel the residents of this planet has removed any element of a soul. This mirrors how the military of our modern age views soldiers as a resource they need to endlessly extract when engaging in modern-warfare. If any military could produce a soldier without the concern of loss, they would do that instantly–even to the point where they’d dress their soldiers like the population they are trying to control. But would the population fall for this?
Miles Quaritch existing as false memories in a newly formed body shows what prioritizing one’s job can do to someone. Ambition can plague the mind to the point where the job has consumed all your aspirations and goals–you have become your job. Avatar The Way of Water reflects this through using military bodies as nothing more than a resource, something to obtain. These soldiers are not their human counterparts they are machines devoid of any thought or any purpose other than the task at hand–they have been replaced by these endlessly respawning clones. The military’s ambitions in Avatar represent the leaders of capitalist interests of the world and how people are viewed as resources and view environments based on how they can benefit the ruling class.
Jake Sully reflects how humanity can unlearn societal norms and seek to become something more and finds it challenging to connect with his family and see them as anything other than a military unit to command. The old life he lived, he finds himself retreating toward finding the structure difficult to break because of how much he has eternalized that aspect of his life. Both Miles Quaritch and Jake Sully represent two halves of humanity. One places itself within the idea of how serving someone else’s interests can cause one to lose what is important in life. The greed that this causes forces one to see the world and people they meet within as elements that help one to serve themself. We should strive to question how to help a dying planet instead of impulsively seeking out a new home to replace the old one. Swallowing life from one place to another is not a way to live and soon we’ll find ourselves traveling an endless void with nothing but haunting echoes of our past.
Avatar: The Way of Water further explores what science and technology create within communities, with the evolution of tech impacting the understanding of faith and religion. Jake Sully’s children, especially his adopted child Kiri, interact with the world that showcases the spirituality that remains concurrent with this fictional Native American analogy. The Na’vi have their own rules they abide by and grounding of faith concerning Eywa, known as the All Mother or Great Mother, is a biological sentient force that communicates with all life on Pandora through the roots of the trees. Everything on Pandora is interconnected, life is sacred, which is where the title of the Way of Water comes from, life-like water flows and ripples across time and space, facilitates growth and is formless. The humans from Earth do not understand this element, and their greed vs the quest for knowledge on those for and after the Na’Vi element has a similar fact. Humans see the Na’Vi as a resource in different ways–one resource is using them for knowledge with preconceived ideas concerning technology that clashes with the Na’vi’s spiritual side–asking for a sound explanation to a leap of faith. The others want to control the resources of the Na’vi and see their planet as an escape from the home they have hollowed out. In the real world today, we encounter many similarities where government-funded militaries see land primarily as a resource to take, a sense of entitlement that because they want something, they should have the right to take it–that in turn also means that those under attack have the right to keep it–whatever the cost.
Civilization has always looked towards the stars for guidance but when greed enters the fray and we start looking beyond our planet as a replacement we should ask ourselves–what are we doing? How can we fix the wrongs and repair the image of our planet? Avatar The Way of Water has answers and encourages us to look into our own spirituality and see each other as a collective whole. By chasing wealth and power we lose the aspects that make us human and we should wonder why is a series about a fictitious alien species holding answers to many of our planet’s problems? James Cameron may not be the first person to implement these ideas but his technological fears and concern for our planet could not be louder in Avatar the way of the water. Instead of looking to other planets or lands to fix the wrongs of our planet, we should be seeking voices and perspectives and what they can offer us.
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