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Avatar 2 is bringing back many characters from the first movie. However, some of them may present the same problems seen in the Star Wars franchise.

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While there’s been a lot of interest in James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the highly-anticipated second installment in the Avatar series might be making the same mistake as another famous sci-fi franchise: Star Wars. But this potential misstep is not the only similarity between these two films. Both series shared massive success at the box office during their respective releases, both experienced decade-long waiting periods between franchise installments, and both were, and are, under massive pressure from avid fanbases to deliver.


The phenomenon of releasing sequels and follow-ups to films long after their initial installment’s release is relatively new, with examples such as Incredibles 2 and Mary Poppins Returns. But both Star Wars and Avatar 2's release dates were delayed and continued legacy stories were established in earlier installments with similar, if not identical, premises and characters between films. Although not much is known about the upcoming plot for Avatar: The Way of Water, audiences will see familiar faces such as heroes Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), antagonist Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the RDA (Resources Development Administration), and even reprises of actors from the previous film such as Sigourney Weaver, albeit as a new character.


While these returning characters and shared setting between Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water can create continuity and immersion between the two installments, they do run the risk of making the same mistake as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. This issue isn’t primarily about the years between series installments but in the return of characters between movies. In particular, it could be a mistake for Avatar 2 to bring back Na'vi Quaritch as an antagonist, like Emperor Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) return in the last Star Wars movie.


Bringing Back Quaritch As A Character Is Risky

quaritch stephen lang in avatar 2

Bringing back characters and settings, particularly villains, could be a risky move for Avatar: Way of Water. While reusing characters can create a congruity that’s necessary with such a large gap between movies, it can invite the recycling of plot points as well. In the Star Wars sequel trilogy, while the antagonists weren’t specifically the Empire from the Original Trilogy, the First Order shared many aesthetic similarities, roles, and villainous plots with the first series. From specificities such as creating a giant planet-killing superweapon to revealing the dark side machinations of Emperor Palpatine, the latest trilogy hit several of the beats used in the original. Using Quaritch as one of the Avatar: The Way of Water’s villains could work to a similar effect. If Quaritch’s goals and methods haven’t changed between films, his characterization will feel stale and the film will feel like a rehash of the first movie, lessening its ability to explore new conflicts.


Additionally, similar to how Emperor Palpatine was brought back from a final, climactic death in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, returning Quaritch in Avatar: The Way of Water after Neytiri killed him to save Jake could cheapen the other losses and triumphs experienced in Avatar. By returning Quaritch to the screen, the film risks making death seem less tragic and permanent or making Stephen Lang's Quaritch return seem contrived, lowering the stakes for the new story.


While Avatar: The Way of Water and the latest Star Wars movie share many similarities, their core elements differ greatly. With their differences in setting and the unexplored culture of Pandora, the second Avatar film still has many options to tread new narrative ground. Perhaps these variations will help Quaritch avoid the mistakes of Palpatine’s return and make him a satisfying villain to see back on the screen.

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