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Why Avatar: The Way Of Water Should've Looked To This Hated Sequel For Inspiration

Contains spoilers for "Avatar: The Way of Water"

The reception of James Cameron's latest film is rising and falling like the alien oceans he's so obsessed with dropping us in. While "Avatar: The Way of Water" hauled in $135 million its opening weekend (via Deadline), it is being met with one of Cameron's poorest critical receptions to date (via Rotten Tomatoes). The Tomatometer rating for his eagerly anticipated sequel is 78%, dog-paddling between "True Lies" (70%) and his first blockbuster trip to Pandora, 2009's "Avatar" (82%). For many, the biggest issue under all its pixelated veneer is the plot, which we pegged as "an uninspired revenge tale" in which Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) is back for blood but not as initially advertised, chasing down Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) for killing him in their last battle.

And even though the home team suffers a weighty loss, it's the same old Quaritch, who loses again. Sure, "Avatar 3" might see the decorated soldier have a change of heart thanks to Spider (Jack Champion), given how things leave off here, but those are epiphanies that shouldn't take a three-hour film to reach. What's annoying is that there's a different route the film could've taken while recycling from another massive, albeit muddled, sequel that could've left it washing up on far more compelling shores.

Avatar: The Way of Water could've taken from The Matrix Revolutions and succeeded

Cast your mind back to 2003, six years before we knew about Na'vi but when were already aware that there is, in fact, no spoon. "The Matrix Revolutions" was met with the same reception as "The Way of Water," being a decent box-office smash (via Box Office Mojo) but the lowest-rated entry in the franchise (via Rotten Tomatoes). With that said, bringing Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) into the real world from within Resistance fighter Bane (Ian Bliss) makes for a compelling element. Pulling the tie-wearing tyrant behind his enemy's lines disguised in a "rotting piece of meat" with "dull cow eyes" is one of the film's highlights even now. It's also a plot point that could've been in James Cameron's sequel and been even more successful.

From the second Quaritch II is seen watching the original's last rites recording, "The Way of Water" throws away a potentially exciting dynamic and squanders the opportunities available. His team's mission is to take down the leader of the Na'vi and his "former" foe, Jake Sully. Rather than use their new forms to their advantage, the grunts go in with itchy trigger fingers, confirming that the sky people learned nothing from Jake's last successful infiltration. Had the plotline in "Revolutions" been used here, it would've made the film and Quaritch's character much more interesting. More importantly, there's a high chance it would've made the relationship between father and son much more tolerable.

Different tactics in The Way of Water could've made major issues less noticeable

James Cameron may be pushing his cinematic scope to its limits so that we mere mortals can process it, but it doesn't change the fact that some story elements are pretty frankly bonkers. Besides Sigourney Weaver returning to the franchise as Kiri, a Jesus-type character already sparking wild theories, there's also Quaritch's son, Spider, the Na'vi wannabe who is never mentioned in the first film. In "The Way of Water," the only effort made to form a bond between orphan and father figure is Spider teaching Quaritch II the lay of the land and being impressed he can handle a banshee. It's one of the film's most forced story threads and could've been so much more.

Imagine if the Quaritch clone had been welcomed into Jake's tribe and realized how he is connected to this human outsider that some of the enemy welcome. Might the villain have learned the error of his ways and come to the conclusion that the aliens he was so bent on destroying are actually an okay bunch? No, but chances are that might be appearing in "Avatar 3" given how "The Way of Water" ends. Of course, we could be wrong and Cameron could take us in an entirely different direction. Let's hope it's a far cry from the first film and its second with added H2O.