James Cameron’s elastic world-building creates endless possibilities for how his sequels work Avatar: The Way of the Water brings viewers back to the alien world of Pandora and prepares them for a journey that will span across Avatar 3, 4and maybe 5. Part of the drive for Cameron was to work with actors he loved; although the characters played by Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang both “died” (we’ll get to that) in 2009 Avatarthey both return in the sequel in new forms.
Weaver’s new character, Kiri – Jake Sully’s teenage Na’vi daughter – becomes the central mystery of Pandora’s past, present and future. Parental issues tend to be fun interests for franchise storytelling—think Star Wars’ obsession with Luke Skywalker’s or Rey’s parents, or Game of Thrones‘ endless teasing about Jon Snow’s mother. And the Avatar series is no different, too Avatar 2 raises the burning question: Who is Kiri’s father? The film’s context clues and Weaver’s own commentary shed light on what is likely to be a key issue in Avatar 3 and beyond.
[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water.]
Years after the events of Avatar, The way of the water Jake sees Sully and Neytiri happily bonded and caring for a blended family. Along with their three biological children (two sons, Neteyam and Lo’ak, and a young girl, Tuk), they now care for a surrogate human son, Spider, and Kiri, born from the avatar of Dr. Grace Augustine (Weaver) while she is in suspended animation. The notion that Grace’s comatose Na’vi body conceived and birthed a child while floating in an avatar chamber is, uh, a tough world-building nut to crack. And Cameron doesn’t really crack it! Instead, Kiri’s conception blossoms and takes root The way of the waterits weirdest plotline.
In case you don’t remember the ending of the now 13-year-old Avatar: Grace is mortally wounded during the final battle against human invader Colonel Quaritch (Lang) and the human military, and to save her life, Jake and Neytiri attempt to transfer her consciousness into her avatar body using the power of the Tree of Souls. Except it doesn’t actually work. But before Grace crosses over, she tells Jake, “I’m with her”—referring to Eywa, Pandora’s deity, who the Na’vi believe connects all living things. The Ultimate Bummer: While Quaritch’s persona was preserved for later cloning, either no one on the human side cared enough about the scientists to download them with full consciousness, or the scrappy human faction on Pandora wasn’t equipped to help her , so there’s no Grace Brain filling in an Avatar clone The way of the water. Yeah.
Based on what the audience and Kiri witness The way of the water, it is reasonable to conclude that Grace’s spirit missed the avatar boat and instead came through the neural network of Pandora. Midway through the film, Kiri—who is not only a big nature-loving nerd, but seems to have a supernatural connection to the ecological systems of Pandora—bonds with the underwater equivalent of the Tree of Souls and “meets” her mother (Weaver again, without CGI) for the first time. The face-to-face connection ends in one of the film’s more shocking moments: When Kiri is zapped back into her corporeal body, she suffers a near-death attack.
But how did Grace’s avatar get pregnant? The end of Avatar, now overshadowed by Weaver’s human-self cameo, suggests you ask who Kiri’s father is — like the Na’vi kids do in the movie! – Could be the wrong question. In contrast to the Christian notion of Jesus’ immaculate conception, Kiri seems less like the embodied child of God and more like the Greek goddess Gaea, a wandering incarnation of the world itself. If Grace’s “soul” was fed into the synapses of Pandora, Eywa, more of a ghost inside the machine than the machine itself, could easily have been sent back to Grace’s avatar form.
Kiri’s untapped power comes into focus late in the film, when Clone Quaritch and the tulkun hunters chase the Sully kids through Pandora’s seas. Up to this point, Cameron has illustrated Kiri’s attachment to Eywa with a delicate touch – she just loves plants, and sometimes she rules animals around a bit! She could look at the sand all day! Extremely relatable to us Beach Kids who could spend eight hours standing in the ocean, but then Cameron ups the ante: During the action sequence, Kiri starts using the plants and sea life as weapons. Kiri is an X-Man (X’vi?) and we can only imagine what that means for Jake Sully’s never-ending war against the Sky People.
This is all to say that one of the movie’s burning questions may never yield a secret character answer like in Star Wars or Game of Thrones. Sully bros can rib Kiri all they want over a potential Grace/Dr. Norm Spellman mysterious origin, but Eywa’s power goes beyond the typical birds and bees. (Or tulkun and ikran, in Pandora’s case.) The mystery speaks to Cameron’s real vision for Avatar: Spirituality, biology, and technology are all intertwined and blurred by the living moon of Pandora. Kiri lives, Eywa goes and Avatar 3 through 5 promises to somehow be even weirder and wilder than The way of the water.