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Avatar: The Way Of Water's Biggest Plot Holes

Believe it or not, the internet wasn't always obsessed with spotting movie plot holes. According to YouTuber Patrick H. Willems, there once was a time when audiences were content to just enjoy movies without picking them apart, hunting for trivial details. Yet, ever since the mid-2000s, fans and critics have become increasingly preoccupied with nitpicks about tiny inconsistencies in movies, and some of the things people call "plot holes" aren't even plot holes, points out Willems. Arguably, the whole concept of writing an article that lists movie plot holes is ridiculous. Yet, here we are.

Below are a bunch of plot holes in "Avatar: The Way of Water." Some of these items are head-scratchers, no matter which way you look at them. Others are not plot holes in the strictest sense (after all, there's no rule saying that Jake Sully always needs to make the most logical decision, and sometimes his mistakes make the movie more interesting) but are still worth mentioning. Regardless, here are all the (spoiler-heavy) plot machinations in "Avatar: The Way of Water" that don't make sense.

Jake's plan to go into hiding could have backfired

After the return of Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake (Sam Worthington) and his family decide to go into hiding to protect the Omaticaya clan from the Colonel's wrath. Since the Colonel only wants revenge on his killer, Jake assumes Quaritch will leave the Omaticaya alone. But going into hiding doesn't guarantee anything.

The plan hinges on the assumption that Quaritch knows what Jake knows. Jake didn't exactly announce to the Resource Development Administration (aka the RDA) that he'd be leaving the jungle. Quaritch has no reason to believe Jake and his family would leave their home in the Hallelujah Mountains, where they'd mostly be safe from the RDA thanks to the Flux Vortex and the Omaticaya's guerilla warfare tactics. It follows that he would try to find Jake in the Hallelujah Mountains first.

Even if Quaritch couldn't seize the Hallelujah Mountains, he would certainly be capable of taking individual Na'Vi prisoner, like he already did with Spider (Jack Champion) and almost did with Jake's children. He could try to capture Jake's mother-in-law Mo'At (C.C.H. Pounder) — a hostage almost as valuable as his children. Or he could simply capture another member of Jake's clan. If the Omaticaya tried to explain that Jake fled, Quaritch might not believe them. After all, he didn't believe the innocent Metkayina tribes when they told him they hadn't seen Jake, and he still torched their homes. It was only by a stroke of luck that the Omaticaya tribe was spared the same fate.

Why does the RDA think killing Jake will stop the rebellion?

Jake has a huge bounty on his head in "The Way of Water," but the plot may be overstating his importance. Does the RDA really think that taking out a single person will silence the Na'Vi insurrection for good? 

It makes sense for Quaritch to be single-mindedly focused on finding Jake. He doesn't care about the other Na'Vi; he just wants revenge. But Quaritch isn't the only one making decisions at the RDA. Honestly, it's a little hard to believe that General Ardmore (Edie Falco) and the other soldiers think killing Jake is going to fix everything.

Certainly, killing Jake would deal a huge blow to the resistance. He is the one who rallied the Na'Vi fifteen years ago, and without him it would take the Na'Vi a long time to regroup. Jake is also one of the few characters on Pandora who has inside knowledge of the RDA. But he's not the only one who knows how to use human technology, and he's not the only one capable of organizing an army.

This oversight is especially apparent in the battle at sea. Viewers will notice that Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) gathers his clan into an imposing battle formation — and on very short notice, too. This moment reminds audiences that the Na'Vi are quite capable of organizing themselves. Clearly, the movement to free Pandora will live on even if Jake dies. So, maybe the last thing the RDA wants is to turn Jake into a martyr.

Why don't Jake and Neytiri call for backup?

Whenever they learn that their kids are being held hostage in the forest, Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) swoop in to rescue them. It's a good thing that they're able to respond so quickly, but it's a little surprising that their rescue party consists of only two people. Why didn't they ask their clan for reinforcements? Perhaps with backup they could have even prevented Spider's capture. You'd think Jake and Neytiri would pull out all the stops to save their children.

Jake and his son were both equipped with throat mics, so it should have been relatively easy for Jake to radio for help. After all, it's not like Jake and his family are the only Na'Vi using human technology. Considering that Jake and the Omaticaya clan have been staging guerrilla warfare against the RDA for the past year, it's hard to believe that all the Na'Vi aren't equipped with throat mics.

While there may not be a story-reason for this, the choice at least makes sense from a storytelling perspective. Most likely, the filmmakers wanted to keep the cast to a manageable size, and that meant not dragging a bunch of additional characters into the fight. The film is about Jake and his family, so it makes sense that only these characters would be involved. If nothing else, this is one movie epic in scale, but maintaining an intimate focus. Still, no doubt some viewers were frustrated watching this scene, knowing that Jake could have made a smarter move.

Why has the RDA forgotten about unobtainium?

Without unobtanium, the events of "Avatar" would have never happened; it was the whole reason the RDA funded the mission on Pandora. Yet, unobtanium seems to be the last thing on the RDA's mind these days. "Earth is dying," says General Ardmore, who insists that the company's new objective is colonization, not mining.

It's understandable why the RDA's priorities might have changed. Fifteen years have passed on Earth, more than enough time for war and climate change to render it nearly unlivable. Perhaps all the unobtanium in the world won't do them any good, because soon everyone on the planet is going to need to jump ship. Still, it's a little strange that the film never mentions unobtanium, not even once. You would think that unobtanium would come in handy for the RDA, if they want to expand their colony and crush the Na'Vi resistance.

The RDA's purpose is further obfuscated in the scene where tulkun hunter Mick Scoresby (Brendan Cowell) extracts a chemical called amrita from the tulkun's brain. Scoresby announces that amrita can effectively make humans immortal (or at least unable to die of old age), thus eclipsing unobtanium as the most valuable resource on Pandora. He also adds that amrita is "paying for everything on Pandora," which seems to contradict the notion that the RDA cares only about colonization. While it makes sense that amrita is extremely valuable, it seems doubtful it would be of much use to the humans back on a dying planet Earth.

Why doesn't the RDA hold Spider hostage?

Colonel Quaritch goes to such great lengths to bait Jake and capture his children, even though he already has one of Jake's children in his custody. Okay, Spider is technically Jake's adoptive son, but Jake still cares about the boy. Why lay out an elaborate trap for Jake when the RDA already has something Jake wants?

Obviously, the real reason Quaritch doesn't hold Spider hostage is clear: Spider is his son. And as one key scene from the climax demonstrates, Quaritch loves his son more than he hates Jake. Yet, once again, Quaritch isn't the one in charge. Presumably he needs to report to his superior, and it seems like General Ardmore has no such qualms about using Spider that way. Why doesn't she just order Quaritch to ransom his son? The only reason why the RDA might not take advantage of the prisoner they already had would be if Quaritch was convinced that Spider was genuinely cooperating with his captors. But General Ardmore would need to be convinced, too, and somehow it seems doubtful she would automatically trust the boy like Quaritch.

Of course, maybe it's best that the movie didn't pan out this way. There are already three different hostage situations in the movie, so another hostage situation with Spider would have been redundant. In any event, this setup allows for some fascinating character development between Quaritch and his son.

Why can the recoms breathe Earth air?

"Avatar: The Way of Water" isn't the first movie in the "Avatar" franchise to contradict itself about the science of Pandora. The first film made it clear that humans couldn't survive without a mask in Pandora's atmosphere; specifically, they'd be unconscious after 20 seconds, and dead after 4 minutes. But that doesn't seem to stop Quaritch from opening an airlock and then firing on Jake for a heckuva lot longer than 20 seconds.

There's a similar plot hole in the sequel, but it's a little less obvious. Early in the movie, Spider establishes a key rule of worldbuilding. He tells the Na'Vi, "You can breathe Earth air for hours. I can only breathe yours for, like, 10 seconds." Yet Quaritch, who now inhabits a Na'Vi avatar with recombinant DNA (called a "recom" for short), doesn't seem to follow this rule. Quaritch is quite comfortable breathing Pandora's air, as well as the Earth air inside the RDA compounds. Aside from a brief moment when Quaritch sucks in a few gulps from a gas mask before talking to Spider in his cell, there is no indication that he needs to take a break every few hours to breathe in Pandora's air. One possible explanation here is that the recoms were bred to be able to breathe in both Earth's atmosphere and that of Pandora — though, it might have been nice if the film had taken a moment to mention that.

How does Quaritch tame the Banshee so quickly?

To be honest, Quaritch attempting to ride the Banshee wasn't the smartest move. Surely Quaritch could tell that Spider was hoping the Colonel would humiliate himself. However, that's not a plot hole in itself, because it makes perfect sense for Quaritch's character. He's stubborn and wants to prove he can do anything that Jake can do, so that's why he takes the bait. However, one moment from the Banshee scene doesn't quite add up.

Quaritch is seen tumbling off the cliff on the back of a Banshee, only to emerge victorious a minute later. How does he learn so quickly? Clearly, the Colonel is a novice to Banshee-riding, not even knowing that he should muzzle the Banshee before trying to mount it. According to the rules established in the first movie, Quaritch could have only tamed the beast by completing the Tsaheylu (the bond), which involves linking the nerve receptors in his queue to the Banshee's receptors. But how does Quaritch know about this?

Most likely, the RDA knows about Tsaheylu from Jake's videologs from the first movie, but whether or not Quaritch knows is a different story. Knowing Quaritch, he wouldn't do his homework. Judging by his rudimentary grasp of the Na'Vi language (Spider says he has the vocabulary of a three-year-old), the Colonel would have probably only researched the bare minimum necessary for the mission. And unless he predicted that his guide would goad him into trying to tame a Banshee, the bonding ritual probably wasn't in his plans.

Why do the recoms forget their plan to go undercover?

The first half of "The Way of Water" seems to be building toward Quaritch and his fellow recoms trying to go undercover among the Na'Vi. That's why they go out of their way to tame Banshees and learn the language — so they can get close enough to Jake to kill him, and then destroy the Na'Vi insurrection from the inside. Yet, this plot thread is abandoned halfway through the movie.

It's understandable why the filmmakers didn't take this route. The "undercover" angle was already explored in the first movie with Jake, and honestly the recoms wouldn't have gotten very far — they wouldn't fool a real Na'Vi for an instant. However, the way that Quaritch and his team switch gears is a little contrived. After Quaritch tames a Banshee, he flies back to the colony instead of continuing with his original plan to "go native." That's when the RDA conveniently picks up a signal from a rogue gunship, which sends the plot in a new direction.

Everything that happens in the second half of the movie hinges on Quaritch guessing (correctly) that the unidentified aircraft will lead him straight to Jake. It turns out the aircraft in question does indeed reveal Jake's location, but that's an awfully lucky guess. Up until this point, Quaritch had every reason to believe that Jake was in the Hallelujah Mountains. Besides, it feels implausible that General Ardmore would let Quaritch travel halfway around the planet on a hunch.

Why is Spider treated as expendable?

Poor Spider goes through a lot in "Avatar: The Way of Water." So, it adds insult to injury that his family seems to forget about him for most of the movie.

When Spider gets captured at the beginning of the film, Neytiri urges Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) to keep running, and she makes no move to go back and save Spider. Even after the other children are safe, Jake and his family don't seem particularly concerned about Spider. Why do they forget about him? Do they assume he's as good as dead and there's nothing they can do? Are they confident that Quaritch won't kill Spider because he's Quaritch's son? That seems like an awfully risky gamble to make with Spider's life, especially since Jake is going by his previous knowledge of Quaritch. As far as Jake is concerned, Quaritch is a stone-cold killer who doesn't care about the son he left behind. Audiences know that Spider is going to be okay, but there is no reason for the Na'Vi to believe this. Later in the movie, Neytiri plunges back into a sinking ship to save Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), while Lo'Ak (Britain Dalton) rescues Jake, but nobody seems to be wondering if Spider made it out okay.

Judging by Jake's actions, it sure seems like he's more attached to his biological children (and Kiri) than Spider. Is it because Jake can't help but look at the boy and see Quaritch?

Where did Jake's army go in the climax?

There's one plot hole in "Avatar: The Way of Water" so enormous that Reddit users called it out almost immediately after the film came out: Where is Jake's army when he needs it most? The Metkayina clan had Jake's back throughout the first hostage exchange on the ship and the ensuing battle. But the moment that the chief's daughter Tsireya (Bailey Bass) is rescued, the clan is nowhere to be found, leaving Jake and his family to fend for themselves. So, why did they bail?

Perhaps the Metkayina retreated after Tsireya was safe because they no longer had a personal stake in the conflict. After all, it seems like they only rushed to Jake's aid because the chief's daughter was in danger. Maybe Chief Tonowari decided that rescuing Jake's remaining children was a suicide mission, so he chose not to drag his people into the conflict. Or maybe they were physically unable to help. 

Reddit user darth_ave speculated, "They couldn't get past the fire on the water." That is a fair point, though it seems like the Metkayina might have been able to swim under. Meanwhile, another Redditor offered a solid explanation, even if it wasn't an in-universe explanation. "Cameron wanted to focus on the family unit," wrote Surrideo. Had the filmmakers included the whole army in the final battle, it would have become too crowded. Trying to focus on any characters other than Jake and his family would, honestly, have only hurt the story.