The Return to Pandora


Alexa Palencia

A picture of the Avatar: The Way of Water poster.

Kassie Sainz, Page Editor

Immersed in bioluminescent forests and tropical aqua shores, director James Cameron has once again transported audiences to the lush planet of Pandora with his sequel Avatar 2: The Way of Water.

Long after the first film’s release in 2009, “Avatar 2: The Way of Water” was launched on Dec. 16, 2022. With soaring success, it has grossed a total of $2.2 billion worldwide, securing itself as fourth amongst the world’s highest-earning films

I can firmly say that James Cameron more than succeeded in maintaining the rich worldbuilding of Pandora. As a long-time supporter of the first film, I was initially drawn by the religion of the Na’vi and the various creatures amongst Pandora.

In this stellar sequel, viewers are reunited with the film’s main protagonist, Jake Sully, an ex-marine who journeys from Earth to Pandora to partake in the Avatar Program, a project in which humans link to hybrids of the planet’s indigenous species. Throughout the entirety of the first film, audiences witness Jake embrace the rich customs of the Omaticaya clan and explore a budding romance with Neytiri, the daughter of the clan’s chief. 

Not sparing a moment from its predecessor, Cameron sets the opening scenes of the sequel directly after the events of the first film. Through several flashback sequences, viewers are introduced to Jake and Neytiri’s close-knit family of five children. More than a decade after the Na’vi war, the flashbacks cease and the narrative embarks with humanity’s return to Pandora. 

Forced to flee the jungles of Pandora, the Sully family seeks refuge amongst the Metkayina clan, an oceanic tribe that is located and connected to the reefs of Pandora.

The sequel only amplified my love for Cameron’s worldbuilding as I got to see new marine-like creatures and the ways in which the Metkayina clan connects to their region. I truly admire the spiritual relationship the Na’vi harbor towards nature and how it emphasizes our need to protect Earth. 

PEACE’S AP Literature and Composition teacher, Mr. Trinidad, shared that he too appreciated the environmental symbolism behind the sequel. 

A picture of the Avatar: The Way of Water movie poster. (Alexa Palencia)

“I loved the whole idea of protecting the environment and going against science that is detrimental to it,” he stated. “It was good to see that audiences are open to this kind of storytelling.”

Along with the worldbuilding and themes, I was entirely entranced by the film’s visuals. The revolutionary technology behind it made every water scene feel immersive. The beauty of Pandora flourished at every given moment.  

“James Cameron has really changed things up,” stated Trinidad. “He’s allowed the industry to spend that much money on technology. I think he’s really pushing the boundaries with technology in movies.”

While there is much to admire about the second film, I must point out the flaw I found. The plot of “Avatar 2: The Way of Water” is very much a “copy-paste” of the first film. It follows almost the exact series of events that we have witnessed before. Personally, I believe that Cameron played it safe with the sequel’s storyline. He knew what worked for the first film and replicated it without exploring any new risks. The world-building of the Metkayina clan did help to balance out the lack of change in the series plot. 

Following the release of the sequel, James Cameron shortly announced the news of a third, fourth, and fifth film within the Avatar series. Time will truly tell how the release of these films will maintain the current success Cameron has generated.