Avatar: The Way of Water Jake riding a banshee

This post contains spoilers for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

James Cameron’s long-awaited "Avatar" sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water," has already made enormous waves at the box office, and rightfully so. The special effects extravaganza is a terrific piece of spectacle, action, and drama rendered via Cameron’s artistic flourishes, resulting in one of 2022’s best films and one of the most impressive motion pictures ever realized. Indeed, "The Way of Water" deserves to be seen again and again on the big screen, where its luscious visuals and extreme action pop in good ole fashioned 3D.

As a huge James Cameron fan, I’m ecstatic that "Avatar" is breaking new ground. I’ve already seen it a handful of times and plan to revisit it more in the coming weeks. That said, each viewing raises questions regarding certain aspects of the picture that are a little wonky. While I appreciate the dedication to his technical craft, narratively Cameron skimped over a few details that left me scratching my head. Some of these oversights are minor, while others are more substantial plot gaffs that require scrutiny. None are drastic enough to bring "Avatar" down, but they merit discussion. Here, we explore moments in "Avatar: The Way of Water" that don’t make any sense.

Grace’s mysterious pregnancy

Avatar: The Way of Water Grace in mask on the ground

Doctor Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) died in the original "Avatar" from a bullet wound. The Na’vi attempted to transfer her mind to her avatar body via the Tree of Souls, but their efforts failed, and the character passed into Eywa. End of story, right?

Not so fast. We learn in "The Way of Water" that Grace’s avatar mysteriously gave birth to Kiri (also played by Weaver) following her death. This raises a few questions: How did the Na’vi know Grace was pregnant? Why did they keep her avatar around for so long after she passed away?

In "The Way of Water," Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) similarly sustains a gunshot wound and dies during the climactic battle. Almost immediately — like, the next evening — the Metkayina buries his corpse in the sea. One would think the Omaticaya would do the same for Grace’s avatar following the Battle of Pandora. Yet, we see her avatar preserved in an amnio tank, which means the body was taken from the Tree of Souls and relocated to a lab rather than buried in the forest. I suppose we can assume Grace’s corpse did something en route to its burial that warranted its conservation. However, given Kiri’s significance in the story, I’d welcome a little more insight into this plot point.

Jake abandons the Omaticaya

Avatar: The Way of Water Jake looks worried

Following his initial encounter with Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake (Sam Worthington) decides to hide his family amongst the Metkayina clan hundreds of miles away. By doing so, he effectively abandons the Omaticaya and leaves them susceptible to attack. He reasons the RDA will leave the Omaticaya alone if he leaves, but I wager it only makes the forest people more vulnerable; Jake was their leader, you see? He coordinated their attacks, which is why General Ardmore (Edie Falco) deems it necessary to send Quaritch after him — stop Jake, and you put an end to the insurgency.

Without Jake around to protect his people, the RDA likely moves in and wipes out the Omaticaya without much trouble. I think this will happen in the upcoming third film, which will hit theaters in December 2024. Jake will return to the forest to gather the clans and find the Omaticaya wiped out or severely diminished, leading him to take the mantle of Toruk Makto once more to dish out violent retribution. Even so, it seems silly for Jake to abandon his people in the middle of a war.

Spider teaches Quaritch Na’vi

Avatar: The Way of Water Quaritch in avatar form

Miles "Spider" Socorro (Jack Champion) is the most controversial character in "Avatar: The Way of Water." When we first meet him, the abandoned son of the now-deceased Colonel Miles Quaritch enjoys a satisfying life with the Sullys and seemingly harbors a crush on Kiri. However, that happiness subsides when Quaritch returns in avatar form and takes Spider prisoner.

From this point, Spider’s decisions are slightly confounding, right down to his refusal to wear clothes while among the humans (seriously, bro, ditch the loincloth). The young character spends a great deal of time with Quaritch, and the pair seem to bond while our resident villain learns the ways of the Na’vi. This plot point was a head-scratcher for me because Spider loves the Sullys and goes out of his way to protect them, yet aids their greatest enemy at various points throughout the film.

Quaritch’s desire to think and act like the Na’vi is merely another step in his plan to hunt and kill Jake. By knowing his enemy’s ways, Quaritch figures he can more adeptly combat him. Spider knows this but still goes about helping his pop learn how to Na’vi like a real Na’vi. He urges him to train a banshee the old-fashioned way, teaches him the Na’vi language, and even serves as a translator. Considering Spider’s love for the Sullys, one would expect him to lead Quaritch astray rather than aid his mission.

Norm flies out to help Kiri

Avatar: The Way of Water Kiri talks to Jake

While diving to visit the underwater Spirit Tree — the Metkayina equivalent of the Tree of Souls — Kiri enjoys a vision with her mother, Grace. Our young hero demands answers about her powers and asks about her birth father but is suddenly sucked back to reality via a seizure. Luckily, Kiri’s brother, Neteyam, brings her back to the village, where Norm (Joel David Moore) arrives and performs an examination. You see, Norm operates out of a lab in the Hallelujah Mountains and was able to hop in an AT-99 "Scorpion" Gunship and meet up with Jake relatively quickly — Woah, what?

Does anyone feel like Jake dropped the ball by asking Norm to fly out to his exact position to help his daughter? Norm’s visit lures Quaritch to Jake and puts the whole Metkayina tribe (and their neighbors) at risk. So why not meet up with Norm at a remote location far removed from the island chain? Or tell Norm to mask his trajectory just in case the bad guys were tracking his movements? Instead, Norm flies straight to Jake and, in so doing, inadvertently kicks off a series of violent encounters that culminate with Neteyam’s death.

Sure, one could argue Jake was desperate to save his "baby girl," but more caution would have been welcome, especially considering all he stood to lose. Also, does Norm’s flight path expose his position in the Hallelujah Mountains?

What do the humans want?

Avatar: The Way of Water Quaritch walks with General Ardmore

We never get a sense of precisely what the people of Earth are trying to achieve. In the original "Avatar," the RDA’s goal was to acquire Unobtanium, a valuable mineral capable of generating energy for our planet. In "The Way of Water," Earth’s goals have shifted, and the RDA, specifically General Ardmore, must now make Pandora a safe place for humans to live. We also learn that a team of whalers, led by Mick Scoresby (Brendan Cowell), hunts and murders tulkun for a fluid called amrita that effectively stops human aging.

With all of this info, we can surmise that Earth is past the point of repair, hence the decision to move on from Unobtanium; humans want to live forever but need a permanent home with enough resources to sustain them forever. Certainly, humans have better, safer options floating in the vast solar system. Yet, in "Avatar," the ideology seems to be Pandora or bust. Why? After all, James Cameron goes to great lengths to show off the many dangers in Pandora, which humans have not been able to overcome. Furthermore, humans cannot breathe on Pandora without a mask. So why the desire to relocate to this specific moon?

If humans want to live forever on Pandora, why not ditch the amrita plan and just go full avatar? That solves a lot of problems, including the oxygen issue. Hey, maybe they can get Jake to teach them the ways of the Na’vi!

Why doesn’t Jake have more military equipment?

Avatar: The Way of Water Jake with Neteyam bow and arrow

The original "Avatar" ends with the surviving RDA forces abandoning their equipment and retreating to Earth. One would expect Jake and the Omaticaya to seize the vast technology and weapons left behind to protect themselves in the event of a counterattack. After all, the various Na’vi tribes struggled mightily against their human opponents and only survived because Eywa decided to intervene at the last second.

Even so, at the beginning of "Avatar: The Way of Water," Jake and Neytiri (Zoë Saldaña) strictly adhere to the ways of the Omaticaya, bows, banshees, direhorses, and all else. As such, Jake’s forces struggle against the RDA when they return and must rely on guerrilla warfare to strike their opponents.

What’s more, when Jake takes his family to live amongst the Metkayina, he doesn’t bring any weapons aside from a single machine gun. So why not load up on missile launchers, Scorpions, and explosives? Jake claims he wants to put aside his fighting ways, but he had to know the RDA (or Quaritch) would find his family eventually, right? Why not be overprepared? Is this a case of Jake merely hoping for the best or behaving irrationally? You be the judge.

Jake doesn’t call for support

Avatar: The Way of Water Lo'ak in front of smoke

Stemming from the argument mentioned above about Jake ditching the Omaticaya early in "Avatar: The Way of Water," another nitpick I have is the decision not to include the forest warriors in the final battle. Yes, James Cameron shows that the Awa’atlu village is days away from the Hallelujah Mountains. Still, considering Norm made the trek via Scorpion in time to help Kiri after her seizure, it stands to reason that Jake would call upon his mates for support.

Consider this: Jake learns about the RDA whalers following their slaughter of a mother tulkun and her calf. The final battle doesn’t occur for a few more hours; when it starts, it lasts through the eclipse. So there was plenty of time for our boy to call in some support, even if it was just a weapons drop. Jake probably could have devised a better strategy that didn’t require the Metkayina to charge the RDA forces head-on. Again, this is another nitpick we can easily brush aside, but it merits discussion.

The Metkayina army vanishes

Avatar: The Way of Water Ronal and Tonowari in the water

"Avatar: The Way of Water" features an abundance of insane action — probably the best to hit the big screen since the original "Avatar" way back in 2009. While James Cameron makes his audience wait for two hours before unleashing the violence, the buildup is never dull. Instead, we spend so much time with the Sullys and the Metkayina people that we genuinely mourn when any of them get killed. Luckily, Cameron doesn’t kill off any of the latter during the big finale. In fact, the Metkayina army skedaddles before things get too out of hand — when I say skedaddle, I mean vanish completely.

No, really. After Jake and Neytiri engage with Quaritch and his RDA whalers, Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet) disappear with their entire army without any explanation. We don’t see Tonowari or Ronal again until the film’s closing minutes, which is weird considering their daughter Tsireya (Bailey Bass) is stuck on the massive whaling boat for much of the final battle.

Cameron obviously wanted to focus more on the Sullys at this stage in the film, which is understandable. But they could have given us a brief explanation as to why the Metkayina people went AWOL during such a pivotal part in the story rather than have our heroes vanish without a trace. Did any of them get killed? Did they freak out when the RDA started shooting back? Could their presence have prevented Neteyam’s death?

Kiri uses her powers

Avatar: The Way of Water Kiri in the water

Throughout "The Way of Water," Kiri demonstrates an incredible ability to manipulate the elements in the ocean. We see her control sea creatures with her hands and hold her breath underwater for extended periods without much training. She’s a natural. In fact, during the final battle, she links up with undersea flora and fauna to grab and disable a pursuing submarine in a total boss moment — Wait, what?

Look, it’s clear that Kiri hails from Pandora’s Great Mother Eywa. Grace gave birth to her after she died, and with no father to speak of, it’s obvious the young woman enjoyed an immaculate conception of sorts. As such, she possesses unique powers and abilities that allow her to communicate with the various plants and animals on Pandora. I’m perfectly fine with Kiri using her skills to guide glowy fish to Jake and Neytiri during the big climax — we see her hone this skill earlier in the picture — but the whole makes a flora disable a submarine bit comes out of nowhere and feels like too much too soon. How did Kiri even know she could do this? Moreover, no one mentions this sequence again for the remainder of the film, making it a little unnecessary in "The Way of Water."

Neytiri, Kiri, and Tuk get back on the ship

Avatar: The Way of Water Neytiri stuck in the water

During Jake and Quaritch’s spectacular knife fight, Neytiri, Kiri, Tuktirey (Trinity Bliss), and Spider leap into the water to evade the sinking ship. Suddenly, a wall of fire surrounds them, prompting the group to get back on the vessel rather than, you know, swimming to safety.

Again, this is more of a nitpick, but considering we’ve just spent three hours watching our heroes learn the way of water, you would think they would use their newfound skills to zip past this rather simplistic obstacle. While the fire is undoubtedly hot, our group (including Neytiri) could hold their breaths long enough to swim underneath the flames. Or, heck, call one of those Ilu water creatures and zip away as they’ve done in similar situations throughout the film!

Now, it’s easy for me to sit back and judge characters’ actions from my cushy theater seat; I’ve never been in such a predicament. My reflexes suck, which means I would probably panic, swim straight into the fire, and burn to a crisp. But I’m not a Na’vi, who are clearly much stronger, faster, and quicker than humans. Neytiri’s party had several more options to choose from that would have taken them out of harm’s way without much difficulty. But that would have robbed us of the thrilling finale, so I’m willing to move on.

Spider saves Quaritch

Avatar: The Way of Water Spider screaming with bow and arrow

Spider is by far the most controversial character in all of "The Way of Water." Not only does he resemble Cha-Ka from "Land of the Lost," what with his bushy hair and loincloth, but some of his decisions are borderline bizarre. Early in the film, our scrappy hero is kidnapped by a resurrected Miles Quaritch, who just so happens to be Spider’s pop. The RDA tries to mine info from the lad, but Quaritch intervenes and decides to let his kid tag along while he learns the ways of the Na’vi.

Throughout this subplot, Spider witnesses his pop do some truly awful things — the man kills sea animals and burns villages for cripes sake! Yet, at the end of the film, Spider reluctantly returns to save his father from certain death. Now, one could argue that Spider’s actions were the result of Quaritch saving his life from Neytiri earlier in the story, but considering Quaritch’s blood-thirsty ways, our young hero probably should have just let the villain rest in peace.

Spider goes back to the Sullys

Avatar: The Way of Water Jake comforts Lo'ak and Spider

After Spider saves his blue pop, he returns to his other blue pop, Jake, seemingly to live with the Sullys forever. A few questions: how does he breathe? Yeah, I get the whole mask/filter thing, but he will probably need a replacement component to keep him alive at some point. Will Norm fly out to meet him again with more equipment, even after everything that transpired at the film’s end?

James Cameron goes to great pains to tell us about Pandora’s toxic atmosphere. We learn that humans can’t breathe the air in the original "Avatar," Spider reiterates that point when he tells Kiri and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) that he would die in 10 seconds without his mask. So, why would Cameron allow Spider to run off into the wilderness without giving us some sort of explanation as to how he intends to live amongst the Na’vi?

Maybe Jake will summon Norm and the gang to live with the Metkayina and aid in the upcoming battle, or perhaps he assumes Spider has it all under control. Or maybe Spider will drop dead during a hunting party after his battery pack unexpectedly runs out. Time will tell. Also, Neytiri literally tried to kill Spider moments earlier. Shouldn’t he be a little more reluctant to rejoin the Sullys knowing Neytiri views him as expendable?

Why didn’t the Sullys try to save Spider?

Avatar: The Way of Water Spider in a mask

Finally, another question I had after "Avatar: The Way of Water" was why didn’t the Sullys ever try to save Spider? The young kid is taken prisoner by Quaritch early on and all but abandoned by his clan. Indeed, Jake could have devised a rescue attempt before high-tailing it to the Metkayina. He knows battle strategy and even has a handful of humans at his side who could infiltrate the RDA locale without difficulty. Neytiri could offer support — she easily takes on an entire armada by herself during the climax. So what’re a few dozen more soldiers?

At one point, Jake mentions Spider knows everything about the Omatikaya operation, which is one of the reasons he takes his family away from the forest. If Spider is that important, why not rescue him? Furthermore, we see how much Spider means to Kiri. Shouldn’t Jake do everything in his power to make his daughter happy?

Again, I know why James Cameron went this route. Spider’s capture ushers in the second act and gets the Sullys to the Metkayina. Still, having Jake at least float the idea of saving Spider would have gone a long way in further establishing his significance to the Sully clan.