HomeAAPI Actors'Avatar: The Way of Water' has problems with logic and lechery
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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has problems with logic and lechery

by Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

This review contains spoilers.

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is a return to the blue-skinned Na’vi for some amazing CGI.

Pursued by last movie’s bad guy, our protagonist Jake Sully (Australian actor Sam Worthington in screen capture), his Na’vi wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), and his family must find sanctuary amongst the Na’vi reef tribes. They must learn The Way of Water, a fictional culture that draws heavily from Pacific Islander traditions.

The CGI-layered imagined underwater world and the new creatures discovered there are wondrous, but the plotting is water-logged and the film is too long.

Important details from the first Avatar movie

The first “Avatar” movie begins in the year 2154. It takes place on Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system with an atmosphere poisonous to humans. The planet has a valuable mineral, unobtanium, which was being mined by the Resources Development Administration brutal forest and fauna obliterating operation. Unfortunately, the 10-foot-tall Na’vi we meet have their main settlement, the giant Hometree, over a particularly large deposit.

The title draws from the special Avatar Project headed by exobiologist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). In this project, Na’vi-human hybrid bodies are genetically matched to a human operator. The human operator is held in stasis during the time they take control of the Na’vi avatar. Jake was one of the project human operators but after he switched sides he The avatar body must sleep while the human operator is out of the stasis chamber. 

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic and former marine, who joined the Avatar Project as a last-minute replacement. On Pandora, in his Avatar form he meets Na’vi, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), switches sides and fights with the Na’vi, even through he was recruited by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head of the mining operations security department to be a mole for the RDA instead of supporting the Avatar Project research team.

As one might expect, there is a battle between Jake and Quaritch, but ultimately Neytiri kills Quaritch to save Jake. 

Jake is joined permanently to his avatar via the power of the Tree of Souls. While most of the Sky People are forced to return to their dying planet Earth, a few were chosen to stay: Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao) and xenoanthropologist Dr. Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore). 

Avatar: The Way of Water

I went into the Monday evening 3D press screening without reviewing the 2009 film. My initial reaction was there were problems of logic and lechery here. 

The Omatikaya clan has led a peaceful existence for about a decade. Jake is not the head of the Omatikaya clan and has three kids–Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Tut (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). In addition, they have an adopted teenage daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). An orphaned human child, Spider (Jack Champion) hangs around to round out the brood to five.

The Sky People return–still under the RDA, but this time, they want to colonize the entire moon of Pandora since Earth is dying. Under the command of General Francis Ardmore (Edie Falco), their mission is subjugation. New technology has allowed the creation of hybrid Na’vi-humans, recombinants or recoms, that have the memories of the humans used to create them. One recom has the memories of Miles Quaritch. 

Quaritch is obsessed with finding and killing Jake. Jake and his family flee and seek shelter with the reef Na’vi clan the Metkayina clan which is led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Māori Te Arawa and Ngāti Hauitit actor Cliff Curtis). 

Tonowari tells his kids, Tsireya (Bailey Bass) and Aonung (Canadian Filipino actor Filip Geljo) to help the kids learn the water clan’s customs. The Metkayina have thicker arms and tails that are more adapted to swimming.  The Metkayina also have tattoo patterns that tell their family story; these tattoos resemble Maori and other Pacific Islander designs. Further, the Metkayina also have a spiritual relationship that joins them with one individual a whale-like creature, the tulkun. 

The sequences in this imagined underwater world are detailed and lush. But we also get a hint of danger when Aonung and his best friends play a mean trick on Lo’ak. 

If the first movie took on the environmental travesty of deforestation and strip mining, this one takes on the slaughter of whales. Quaritch may not want to kill the whale-like tulkun, but he has a Captain Ahab -like fixation on Jake. One wonders why the RDA wouldn’t rein this bonkers blue guy in. 

Since there are sequels already scheduled, you can guess that some of the leading characters will be coming back and after the death and rebirth of Quaritch, no one has to stay dead, do they?  

The problems of logic and lechery might be tied to the creator/director declaring that the Na’vi females had to have breasts. Cameron said this in an interview and there are several articles on it, but this might also be the reason these warriors never use breastplates. I have a fuller discussion on this on my blog.

Even without reviewing these issues (which I did the day after the press screening), I was uncomfortable with the representation of female Na’vi, particularly of the younger ones. It is creepy that the underboob and sideboob of female Na’vi are so prominently displayed. The body type of the female Na’vi in general (with the exception of the pregnant Na’vi) seems to be modeled on early pubescent girls.  

The sexualization of the female Na’vi then combined with the reef Na’vi clans would seem to draw on the hyper-sexualization of Pacific Islanders. Think of Paul Gauguin. Think of sex trips by Americans to the Philippines. Think of the term LBFM. In this case, B doesn’t stand for Brown. 

Beyond these problems, at 192 minutes or three hours and 20 minutes, it is bloated.

Avatar: The Way of Water premiered in London on 6 December 2022 and will be released on 16 December 2022 in the United States.

For a fuller discussion, visit my blog Age of the Geek.

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