Avatar: The Way Of Water Explained: Academy Award-winning Canadian director James Cameron, renowned for being uncompromising in his art, is one of the most innovative filmmakers of the post-New Hollywood era. An idealistic perfectionist, Cameron’s attention to realism and detail, technological ingenuity, and visceral viewing experience has carved out a name for himself in the film industry as an auteur who pushes the boundaries of cinematic capability. A master of technical craft, he truly stands in a class of his own for his unique filmmaking style that includes genre-spanning work, epic, and lofty ambitions, resonating deep human emotions, and the use of novel technologies.
Best known for his groundbreaking visual effects, breathtaking worldbuilding, and engaging storytelling, his larger-than-life creations, typically epic sci-fi films such as The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009), explore the conflicts between intelligent machines and humanity or nature, technologically advanced imperial culture, the dangers of corporate greed, and environmental conservation and protection. A man of colossal ambitions, his mighty camera never settles for less and aims to turn his futurist ideas into reality.
Cameron’s highly-anticipated sequel to Avatar (2009), titled Avatar: The Way of Water, is estimated to be one of the most expensive films of all time. Starring an ensemble cast of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Winslet, the screenplay was written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. A stunningly immersive experience and ambitiously masterful film, the sufficiently engaging sequel follow the Sully family — Jake, Neytiri, and their children — more than a decade after the initial installment. After a familiar threat resurfaces and displaces their home, the couple and their children journey to the Metkayina’s water world in the Pandoran oceans to restore the disrupted peace.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Tread carefully!
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER  SYNOPSIS & SUMMARY
Set in the year 2168, over a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water commences with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a human who is a full-time Na’vi now, narrating his happy, contented, and peaceful life as the Chief of the Omaticaya Clan (Olo’eyktan) and raising a family with his mate Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). They have two biological sons – a responsible and kind Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), who takes his role as the eldest son seriously, often tasked with keeping an eye on his siblings, and a stubborn and reckless Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), who is self-conscious and feels like an outcast because he resembles a human having five fingers instead of four; and two daughters – and an 8-year-old biological daughter named Tuktirey, better known as Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), a charming and curious girl who loves her family and shares a close bond with her mother; and their fourteen-year-old adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), born from Grace Augustine’s comatose Na’vi avatar.
Jake also adopted a human adolescent boy Miles “Spider” Socorro (Jack Champion), son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), born in Hell’s Gate, who was unable to be transported to Earth in cryostasis. While Jake accepts Spider as an adopted son, Neytiri has a strained relationship with him and distrusts him, given his human origins. However, the children have strong connections and socialize and mingle with each other well without being affected by their origins. Kiri is affectionate towards her adopted sibling Spider even though he is a human and gave him the nickname “Monkey Boy.” Spider harbors guilt due to what the humans have done during the destruction of their Hometree and the assault on the Tree of Souls, and does not embrace his human heritage and feels inclined towards Na’vi culture and traditions.
WHY DID THE SKY PEOPLE RETURN TO PANDORA?
“The thing about happiness is that it can vanish in a heartbeat.” Jake and his family’s normal and blissful life is fractured when they notice a strange star appear in the night sky, indicating that the sky people are returning via an RDA spaceship (Resource Development Administration) to finish what they started. They are returning to colonize Pandora once again and to erect a new operating base yet again to mine the valuable rare-earth mineral unobtanium. Much to their dismay, the ship carries Colonel Miles Quaritch in his avatar Na’vi body with his memories uploaded from before his death. It is revealed that after the death of his human body, Quaritch was restored as a recombinant with a full memory up until the time he underwent DNA transfer. As a result, the recombinant clone has no memory of Quaritch’s death but is only able to recollect the events in the past. Quaritch returns with a group of former-human-now-Na’vi soldiers in his vengeful mission to eliminate Jake for the death of his human form.
After their initial attacks, Jake leads a strategic guerilla operation against the RDA supply lines to prevent the RDA from further exploiting Pandora’s resources. In one such operation, Lo’ak disobeys a direct order from Jake, eager to please his father and to prove his worth. While trying to assist Jake in the ongoing battle, Neteyam gets wounded, augmenting their trepidation and dread of Jake. After Jake rescues and disciplines both Lo’ak and Neteyam for being reckless and endangering their safety, Neytiri nudges Jake not to be too hard on their sons. However, Jake patiently expresses his fear of losing them and his necessity to be strict with them for their own well-being and protection.
WHERE DID QUARITCH TAKE SPIDER?
In the meantime, the retaliation on the RDA supply lines infuriates Quaritch further, and he initiates a search mission to kill Jake. During a playful adventure into the deeper parts of the rainforest, Lo’ak, Kiri, Tuk, and Spider come across the Quaritch and his Na’vi soldiers. Unbeknownst of their presence, Quaritch ventures to the vicinity where Quaritch was killed by Jake in his AMP suit and sees his human remains. Without second-guessing, Lo’ak alerts the presence of the intruders to Jake, who, in return, asks Lo’ak not to engage. Soon after, Quaritch’s squad captures Jake’s children, but Jake and Neytiri arrive with Neteyam and free them, except for Spider, who Quaritch takes after recognizing him as his son.
In the spaceship, the RDA tries to extract information forcefully from Spider about Jake, but a wild and bitterly hostile Spider, being loyal to the clan, refuses to provide their location. Quaritch changes his strategy of interrogation by addressing him as his son and asks him to explain the Na’vi traditions in exchange for his freedom. Although Spider was reluctant and unaccommodating at first, he teaches Quaritch Na’vi culture and their language and to mount and bond with a mountain banshee, unaware of Quaritch’s actual mission. Quaritch successfully tames an Ikran, which is a rite of passage for Na’vi warriors.
WHY DID THE SULLYS LEAVE PANDORA TO JOIN THE REEF PEOPLE?
When Jake realizes that Spider’s knowledge about his whereabouts poses a threat to their safety, Jake steps down from his position as Olo’eyktan of the Omaticaya clan and convinces a reluctant Neytiri and his family to banish themselves from the clan. Jake passes on his chief mantle to his successor and leaves together with his family to seek refuge in the Metkayina reef people clan. It is an oceanic Na’vi clan located at Pandora’s eastern seaboard, led by its Olo’eyktan Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet). When they arrive at their new sanctuary, they are greeted by Tonowari and Ronal, who is dubious of them initially. They initially receive backlash from the tribesmen as they deride the children for their genetic human heritage and call them half-breeds. Jake explains their dire situation, and they agree for them to stay.
Soon enough, Jake and his family learn the ways of the reef people, gradually earning the respect of the clan members. They learn to breathe underwater and ride the ilus, a sleek and lithe reptilian sea creature, the dire horse of the Pandoran oceans. While Lo’ak befriends the daughter of Tonowari and Ronal, Tsireya (Bailey Bass), a graceful and strong free diver, Kiri is deeply fascinated with the sea. She develops a spiritual bond with the aquatic life. Jake and Neytri also adapt and learn the skills to sustain and survive in the aquatic clan to the best of their abilities.
HOW DID LO’EK MEET PAYAKAN?
The teens of the Metkayina clan indulge in picking on Jake’s kids, and Lo’ak gets into a fight with Tsireya’s brother Aonung (Filip Geljo) for bullying Kiri on her mixed lineage and for calling her a “freak.” Jake reprimands Lo’ek and Neteyam for not behaving well, and on Jake’s insistence, Lo’ak returns to apologize to Aonung. Aonung and his friends tempt him to a trip into the part of the sea where a whale-like sea predator, tulkun, resides and leaves him stranded there as revenge. The Metkayina clan considers tulkuns their spiritual family, and they are sentient, highly intelligent, and pacifist creatures who can communicate with Na’vi. When Lo’ak struggles to escape a dangerous sea monster, he is saved by a young tulkun named Payakan. On Lo’ak returning to the clan, Tonowari asks Aonung to apologize to Lo’ak. However, Lo’ak blames himself and wins respect and friendship of Aonung.
Lo’ak learns from Tsireya that Payakan is an outcast among his species and is shunned by the Metkayina clan. Lo’ak determined to find the reason why Payakan was outcasted, enters his mouth, and performs tsaheylu (bonding or neural connection) to link with him mentally. Lo’ak realizes that he was cast out because he went against the “tulkun way” by attacking the whalers who killed his mother. Lo’ak empathizes with the creature after the revelation and forms an intimate bond with him.
WHY IS TULKUNS BEING HUNTED BY WHALERS?
In the interim, while on a trip to the offshoot of the Tree of Souls, Kiri links her tsaheylu to the tree, making a neural connection with her mother. She tries to ask her mother, Grace Augustine, whose consciousness lives on in Pandora’s neural network, who her father is. Before Grace can answer, Kiri, suffers a violent seizure. Tsahik Ronal, the spiritual leader of the clan, heals her. But when Jake calls Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and Max Patel (Dileep Rao) to help Kiri, Quaritch tracks their location to the island where the reef people live. Quaritch, along with his Na’vi avatar soldiers, violently interrogates the indigenous tribes of the archipelago in an attempt to find Jake’s hiding spot. Despite Spider’s pleading words to let go of the tribes, Quaritch continues his brutality of burning down the homes of the oceanic clans, beating their leaders, and killing innocent creatures.
The oceanic tribes believe that killing a tulkun is the same as attacking one of the Metkaniya themselves and is regarded as a war cry against the clan. Quaritch seeks the help of Captain Mick Scoresby (Brendan Cowell), the head of a private sector marine hunting vessel on the planet of Pandora, to draw out Jake from his hiding spot. Scoresby is hunting tulkuns as they are the only source of Amrita, a liquid extract from their brain enzymes for creating anti-aging remedies. This extract harvested from tulkuns is funding the colonization efforts at Pandora. On failing to find Jake, Quaritch orders Scoresby and the whaling crew to kill the tulkun Roa wantonly, which is Ronal’s soul sister. Scoresby brutally kills Roa angering Jake and the Metkayina clan.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER  ENDING EXPLAINED:
DOES THE SULLY FAMILY SURVIVE QUARITCH’S ATTACK?
The Metkayina clan becomes furious on learning about the killings of the tulkuns and prepares for war against the whalers and Quaritch. Jake advises Chief Tonowari to strategize their defenses and to warn the tulkuns to move away for safety. While the clan members take off to warn the tulkuns, Le’ok goes to warn the outcast Payakan, closely followed by his siblings, Tsireya and Aonung. They witness Payakan shot with a tracking device and the whalers chasing the tulkun to extract Amrita. Lo’ak, Kiri, and Tuk free Payakan, after much effort, from the tracking device, but they are ultimately captured by Quaritch and brought aboard the RDA vessel. When Jake, Neytiri, and the Metkayina clan find that their children are in danger, they confront the RDA vessel led by Quaritch. Quaritch gives Jake an ultimatum to Jake to surrender or risk having his children killed. When Ronal blames Jake for bringing danger to the clan, Jake decides to surrender to avoid further bloodshed and war.
When Spider realizes that Quaritch captures Lo’ak, Kiri, and Tuk, Spider becomes fed up with the cruelty of RDA’s motives. He sabotages the vessel, attacks the crew, and runs away to rescue his siblings. When the freed Payakan finds his soul brother Lo’ak tied to the vessel and in danger, Payakan attacks the whalers and the vessel, killing the crew and damaging the vessel. Jake finds the vessel sinking and takes it as an advantage to attack Quaritch and his squad. Neteyam rescues Lo’ak, Tuk, and Kiri by cutting off their ties, but Lo’ak insists on saving Spider. The brothers rescue Spider together, but Neteyam gets shot in the process while evading the enemies. Neteyam is fatally shot in the chest and is dying. Jake, Neytiri, and his children, along with Tsireya, desperately try to save Neteyam, but he succumbs to his wounds and dies.
DOES JAKE KILL QUARITCH?
Neteyam’s death shatters the Sully family, and Neytiri is inconsolable. Jake implores Neytiri to hold it together, and they both decide to confront Quaritch and his squad to avenge the death of his first-born son. Jake finds Tuk and Kiri as hostages and rescues them. Jake and Neytiri, who is berserk with rage, kill Quaritch’s troops one by one until Quaritch is the last man standing. Jake violently battles Quaritch in a fistfight until he grabs Kiri and puts a knife in her neck. Neytiri intercedes and does the same with Spider holding him at knifepoint and threatens Quaritch to release Kiri. At first, Quaritch denies his son is inconsequential, but when Neytiri cuts Spider’s chest, Quaritch releases Kiri. Jake decides to end the fight by taking down Quaritch once and for all.
The vessel starts to sink with all of the Sully family trapped inside. Jake strangles Quaritch into unconsciousness and almost gets drowned. Meanwhile, Neytiri gets sucked into the ship after Tuk slips inside a shaft. Despite feeling like his father always treated Neteyam as his favorite son, Lo’ak goes to rescue Jake. Jake is rescued by Lo’ak and shows how he learned the way of water and how he utilized the Metkayina teachings to save them. Lo’ak brings Jake to the surface with the help of Payakan. Kiri uses her special connection to Eywa to summons a school of luminescent fish to light the way to navigate and save Neytiri and Tuk. On the other hand, Spider, who has been searching for Jake, finds his dying father, Quaritch. He hesitantly and begrudgingly rescues him and brings him up to the surface, where he regains consciousness. Spider then renounces Quaritch for his cruelty ending his relationship with him, and rejoins Jake’s family, much to the dismay of Quaritch.
When peace is restored, Jake and his family mournfully conduct Neteyam’s funeral according to Metkayina customs and lay his body to rest at the bottom of the sea, where the spirit tree linked to Eywa absorbs Neteyam’s body. Jake dejectedly informs Tonowari and Ronal of his decision to leave the Metkayina clan and move far away. Tonowari, however, respectfully identifies Jake as part of the ocean-dwelling Metkayina Clan and welcomes his family to stay. Jake and his family adopt the Metkayina’s identity and continue to stay there. The film ends with Jake saying, “I can’t save my family by running; this is my fortress,” as the camera approaches his closed-eyed face. Just as he opens his eyes, much like in the original film, the credits boom onto the screen.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER  THEMES EXPLAINED:
A CRUSADE AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND MILITARISM
Avatar: The Way of Water, much like its prequel, thematically reaffirms the conflict between the indigenous Na’vi of Earth-like habitable extrasolar moon Pandora and the oppressive and alien humans who use their military and technological might to exploit their rich and rare resources. The dominant, aggressive culture subjugating a native population metaphorically suggests the historical instances of colonization by Western powers against indigenous native Americans and Eastern countries. The Earth’s RDA attempts to gain control over Pandora and its resources at the beginning of the film. Alongside, whalers are hunting the mighty and intelligent tulkans for Amrita, the liquid extract that seizes aging. The harvested extract that costs an arm and a leg is funding the colonization efforts at Pandora. Utilizing the resources of Pandora in order to subdue and colonize Pandora draws a parallel between the corporate imperialism of RDA and the historical equivalent of East India Company.
THE UNIVERSAL THEME OF FAMILY DYNAMICS AND RELATIONSHIPS
Cameron’s much-awaited sequel is a family drama that addresses and emphasizes the universal theme of family as an integral unit that offers love, protection, and safety to its members and redefines family units in the form of chosen families. Jake Sully repeatedly saying “Sully stick together” reassures the family dynamic of surviving through thick and thin, through the best and the worst together. The well-defined roles attributed to each unit ensure the safety and protection of its members. The relationship dynamics instill values in children and educate the members to pull their weight and take an active role in the community. Jake and Neytiri, as the adoptive parents of Kiri and Spider, prove the relations that exist beyond the blood bond. Spider recognizes right from wrong through the moral teaching imparted through family relations and refuses to slip into his father’s inhuman and brutish ways.
THE POLITICS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
James Cameron, in his water-drenched Avatar: The Way of Water, hits the important environmental talking points, even though it is overly-simplistic than before. The wanton exploitation and destruction of the diversity of Pandora, the planet that functions as a collective of flora and fauna, is emphasized at the beginning when Jake forces himself to leave the Omaticaya Clan. From then on, the environmental message is imparted by depicting the equilibrium maintained in the natural world that sustains life. The whalers hunting the tulkuns for the brain enzymes emphasize the brutality of man and the sense of entitlement that rationalizes the imperialistic and unsustainable ways. Kiri, the biological daughter of Grace Augustine, is connected to the natural world around her and understands the rhythm of life. The Metkayina clan considers the tulkuns as their soul sister and their brother and maintains a unique bond with the creatures. The film serves as a protest against environmental destruction and implores anthropogenic forces to protect and sustain it for the future.