OPINION | Beneath the surface of Avatar: The Way of Water

Warning: Spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water

After twelve years of waiting, “Avatar: The Way of Water” splashed into theaters in December 2022 and is now available on streaming platforms (sadly not Disney+ yet, though). 

The first movie ended with Jake Sully, Neteyri and the Na’vi people defeating human efforts to take over Pandora, expelling all but a few humans from their alien planet. Jake is fully accepted as “one of the people” and passes Eywa’s test to stay in his Avatar body permanently. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” begins with Jake narrating all the events of the last twelve years. He and Neteyri had three biological children, Neteyam, Lo’ak and Tuk, along with an adopted daughter named Kiri. They also care for a human named Miles, known as Spider in the movie.

Neteyam, the oldest, is the peacemaker. He has the leadership of his father and the grace of his mother. He is given the responsibility of caring for the rest of the children and is very protective. His maturity sets him apart from the children and makes him a fan favorite. He’s my favorite character in the movie. 

Compared to Lo’ak, Kiri and Spider, he doesn’t seem to have any special powers.

Neteyam’s death reminded me of Tus’tey’s. Tus’tey died fighting humans exactly like Neteyam. His death allowed Jake to become the leader of the Na’vi people. Maybe Neteyam’s death will enable Lo’ak to become the leader of his family. 

Lo’ak is a troublemaker. He has Jake’s attitude, determination, stubbornness and boldness. He considers himself an outcast throughout the movie, but he doesn’t really seem like it. Granted, he was a target for bullying because he has five fingers, a human trait, instead of four fingers like other Na’vi people.  

I believe Lo’ak was the cause of many problems. He seems to hold substantial value in the movie, but I didn’t like his hotheadedness. Looking back, if Lo’ak had behaved differently, the film’s plot would have been entirely different and Neteyam wouldn’t have died. 

Kiri has very strong traits that reflect those of her mother, Grace. She rolls her eyes a lot and has a constant attitude. But, her strongest personality trait is her connection with Pandora. Kiri said she is able to feel the heartbeat of Eywa in the movie, and she is able to connect with all things on Pandora.

Some speculate her father is Eywa, but Eywa is referred to as “Great Mother” and “she” in the movie. Grace’s avatar was probably pregnant when she was connected to the Soul Tree, which is a direct connection to Eywa. 

There is a chance this is how Kiri developed some of Eywa’s power and connection with the creatures and plants of Pandora. 

Kiri will likely play an essential role in the film franchise. She saved her parents, her brothers and the reef people in the final battle, which could foreshadow what’s to come. 

Tuk is still very young, but she is closely attached to Kiri and Neteyri. She was captured, threatened, chased and has seen her family be threatened and endure a family member’s heartbreaking loss. 

I can’t help but notice that Tuk’s emotional trauma is extremely similar to her mother’s. Neteyri had to endure humans destroying her home, her father dying in her hands, her brother’s death and a war. Perhaps this is one of the reasons she gives Tuk so much attention. 

Spider, although he’s not Na’vi, played an essential role in the film as well. Spider’s father is the Corporal, the main antagonist in the first film and returning threat in the second. Spider is not like his father because he was raised on Pandora with the Sully family and is loyal to them. 

Spider seems like a good person, and it’s evident that he cares deeply for the Sully family since they’re the only family he’s ever known. But, when he is captured by the humans, he discloses the ways of the Na’vi people, which can be interpreted as a sign of betrayal. 

At the end of the movie, Spider makes the decision to save the Corporal. I believe this was the director’s way of showing the distinct difference between Spider and the Sully family.

Although Spider resented the Corporal for most of the film, the decision to save the Corporal’s life could lead to future problems for the Sully family. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is a must-see film filmed with fantastic acting, graphics, production design and storytelling. 

Grab some snacks, head to your couch to meet Jake and Neteyri’s family, and go on a three-hour adventure to the world of Pandora!