Following Avatar: The Way of Water, it’s clear that Quaritch is a poorly developed villain and his status as the franchise’s big bad must change.
Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Avatar: The Way of WaterColonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) returns as Avatar: The Way of Water‘s central villain despite his death in 2009’s Avatar. Quaritch formerly served as the RDA’s senior commander before Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and the Na’vi defeated his army. Avatar: The Way of Water sees Quaritch, now returned in an avatar containing his human form’s memories, embark on a mission to kill Jake. Quaritch’s survival at the end of Avatar: The Way of Water suggests he will continue to serve as the franchise’s primary antagonist in Avatar 3.
In 2017, Cameron told Empire that Lang’s Quaritch will be the villain of Avatar 3, 4, and 5, which are slated to release every other year following 2022’s Avatar: The Way of Water. Quaritch’s status as the Avatar franchise’s recurring antagonist implies that Cameron intends to consistently pit humans against the Na’vi, as in the first two movies. While a multi-film threat can make for a compelling narrative over several films, Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water have not developed Quaritch enough as a character to make his upcoming appearances worthwhile.
Avatar 3 Needs To Move On From Quaritch (Despite Cameron’s Plans)
Avatar 2 sets up a tedious and unearned return for Quaritch in Avatar 3 and future sequels. Avatar: The Way of Water‘s conflict boils down to little more than Quaritch’s revenge quest, which undersells the vast world and intriguing dynamic between human invaders and Pandora’s indigenous population as established by Avatar. Quaritch is only fleshed out through Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Spider (Jack Champion), who is originally raised by the Na’vi. However, the film spends little time exploring their relationship in-depth after Quaritch abducts Spider early on.
Simultaneously, the concept of human militants becoming Na’vi Recombinants is explained in exposition, though the stakes and consequences of such a development are largely ignored throughout the film. Avatar: The Way of Water should mark the end of Quaritch’s role in the franchise so that Avatar 3 can introduce a new villain capable of broaching deeper and unexplored themes in its story.
How Avatar: The Way Of Water’s Villains Fall Short
Exemplified by Quaritch’s clichéd villainy, Avatar: The Way of Water‘s human antagonists are bluntly one-dimensional. Since the sky people are colonizers wreaking havoc on the land and inhabitants of Pandora, it would be in poor taste to portray them as overly sympathetic, so in that way, their superficial characterization works. The problem lies in reducing the sky people’s motivation to Quaritch’s Avatar: The Way of Water revenge plot instead of evoking the evils of colonialism established by the first film, albeit that was explored only on a surface level.
Although Quaritch subtly shows that he cares about Spider when Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) holds the boy at knifepoint, the film doesn’t explore Quaritch’s inner turmoil or the complexities of a revived consciousness existing in a different body. Avatar: The Way of Water not only fails to justify Quaritch’s revival, but in bringing him back, Cameron misses the opportunity to tell a unique story that expands on that of the first movie. Instead, Avatar: The Way of Water repeats similarly shallow plot points involving Quaritch’s destruction of Pandora and the Na’vi’s strive for self-preservation in the face of an imperialist threat.
Who Could Avatar 3’s Villain Be Instead?
Introducing a new villain in Avatar 3 would improve the franchise’s story. Despite growing up among Avatar‘s Na’vi societies, Spider’s arc in Avatar: The Way of Water could position him as an antagonist in future films. He might follow in his corrupt father’s footsteps, which would be intriguing if predictable. Unlike the human occupants on Pandora, Spider would be an appropriately sympathetic villain because of his close relationship with the Na’vi. Avatar: The Way of Water also illustrates the Na’vi’s resentment, particularly through Neytiri, toward Spider, as well as Spider’s estrangement from the Na’vi when Jake does not attempt to rescue him.
Instead of using an existing character from the first two films, the franchise could also find its new villain in an antagonistic Avatar Na’vi. Jake and Neytiri have not dealt with internal threats thus far, so this could present a fascinating conflict for their family to navigate. Even if Cameron insists on keeping Avatar‘s villains consistent, introducing a new leader or group of earth-born humans would prevent the franchise from growing staler than it already has in two films. Avatar: The Way of Water fails to cement Quaritch as a compelling villain, and Cameron’s intention to keep him around isn’t encouraging for Avatar‘s future.