Eastern ethos and laws of the nature are set to get a new tech-driven meaning as Cameron is planning two more sequels

Avatar: The Way of Water

Director: James Cameron

James Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar sequel is a tech-driven movie with thunderously underwhelming action events, wrapped in the eastern ethos.  Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is raising his family, comprising his children and an adopted daughter, with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) after parting ways with his human skin to inhabit his alien avatar (see Avatar).

Their happiness vanishes as they spot a star in the sky which hints at the arrival of the Sky People (humans). When the Sky People is seeking a fight, the forest-friendly Sullys are forced to flee Omaticaya to the distant archipelago of Metkayina, where the reef people dwell. 

They are forced to give up their forest-friendly lifestyle to adopt the ways of the waters or the new methods of the reef people and they go native there. The Metkayina tribe are headed by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his partner, Ronal (Kate Winslet) in this sequel to one of the highest grossing films of all time.

The humans trigger the destruction of the extra solar moon Pandora, to avenge their losses under the captaincy of Colonel Quaritch. How the Sullys with the reef people fight the human invaders forms the rest of the plot of the hyperbolic action movie.

The three-hour-and-fifteen-minute plot tells a predictable story, but the second half of the film has a tight plot with great visuals of blue heroes. In fact, CGI — (computer-generated imagery) is meticulously used. There are moments when one even feels that it is a rich cartoon with an occasional human presence. 

But Cameron’s antics in the sequel to Avatar (2009) do not completely let down his spectators. There are many spectacular moments in the film which may go well with children and sci-fi enthusiasts, though in many respects one may find Avatar better than the sequel.

Like Avatar, The Way of Water discusses familiar themes of invasion, exploitation, environmental destruction, and the futility of war with a predominant stress on humaneness. But one cannot ignore the foregrounding of family values, which are surprisingly connected to the eastern ethos.

Guardianship and the order of the dad

Guardianship is a major theme and Jake Sully echoes it throughout the film.  “A father protects. It’s what gives him meaning,” Jake tells Neytiri about his responsibility for safeguarding both his people and his own family when she declines the idea of leaving the forest for good.

When we see an angry Neytiri holding Spider alias Miles (Jack Champion), the son of Quaritch, and says, “A son for a son,” to avenge the death of her eldest son Neteyam(Jamie Flatters), we see a bewildered Quaritch compromising for Miles whom he never acknowledged as his own.

In this fantasy dirge, the fathers go by the order of the clan, fulfilling the responsibility of being a watchful guardian. The sons reciprocate the protection extended to them. Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), the son whom Jake never appreciated, refuses to leave him in danger and enables him to overcome death. 

Similarly, in a parallel sequence, Miles rescues his wretched father from the depths of the ocean, assisting his escape to the Earth. When Miles refuses to go with his father and chooses to stay with Jake, he stands as an accomplished son who fulfilled his filial duty of the clan. 

Miles is the son who saves his father from his own abhorrent actions that may have mandated him staying eternally in hell. 

The way of the mother

The humourless film emphasizes the importance of motherhood. The characters, their myths and their nature are about nurturing, safeguarding and mothering.  Eywa (The Great Mother) is the guardian of Pandora. There are many references that assert the importance of motherhood and the benevolence of nurturing.

 “Everything begins with water and ends with it…Water connects everything” are all references to motherhood and at times water stands for the womb, especially in the sequence where Neteyam’s body is left at the depth of the ocean. 

We see an angry mother, Neytiri, ready to avenge her son’s death, a fierce fighter when it comes to her own children.

Similarly, Ronal (Kate Winslet), who is pregnant, decides to fight when she is requested by her husband to stay behind. She is the mother of the people there. Both Neytiri and Ronal are equated with the Great Mother Eywa in many frames. We see Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) connecting with the mystical tree, securing powers to intervene and take part in the rescue missions. 

Though the order of the male is endorsed, there is a strong connection with womanhood and its greatness is stressed through both symbolic and direct references. For a change, we see in The Way of Water not vulnerable women but striking similarities with Durga (the fierce female deity of India), which the director would not have employed accidentally, since his new venture is pregnant with many eastern linguistic and cultural references.

The eastern ethos and laws of nature will get a new meaning as Cameron, who also produced, co-edited and co-wrote the epic science fiction, is planning two more sequels, which are already in progress.


Dr. V.K. Karthika teaches English at National Institute of Technology (NIT) Tiruchirappalli. Interested in cultural criticism and philosophy of education, her work focuses on communicative peace and sustainable development goals.


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