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Biggest Unanswered Questions In James Cameron's Avatar

James Cameron's "Avatar" remains a landmark achievement in cinema — an action-packed motion picture boasting Oscar-winning visual effects, memorable characters, and an ecological message mankind would do well to heed. With a massive $2.8 billion haul, the film stands tall atop the list of worldwide box office earners, ahead of even "Avengers: Endgame" and Cameron's own "Titanic." In short, "Avatar" was a cultural phenomenon that defied even the loftiest industry expectations when it released back in 2009. 

The plot is simple enough. Sam Worthington stars as Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine who ventures to the world of Pandora on a mission to infiltrate a peaceful tribe of beings known as the Na'vi. To complete his task, Jake must link to an "avatar" — a human/Na'vi hybrid designed to navigate Pandora's treacherous environment — and learn all he can about the species. The ultimate goal is for the Resources Development Administration (RDA), headed by the ruthless Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), to seize control of a valuable mineral known as Unobtanium. However, things change when Jake begins to bond with his new clan and falls for the beautiful warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), setting the stage for a violent struggle between man and Na'vi.

Following its release, Cameron announced plans for an "Avatar" sequel before confirming that he would create three more films set on the world of Pandora — the first of which is scheduled to hit theaters on December 16, 2022. While "Avatar" can still be seen as a one-and-done motion picture, the story leaves enough dangling plot threads to warrant further exploration. As such, we decided it would be fun to look back at the biggest unanswered questions in James Cameron's "Avatar," many of which will hopefully be resolved in the follow up entries.

How does Quaritch return?

In the climactic finale of "Avatar," Jake Sully goes toe-to-toe with the villainous Colonel Miles Quaritch, leading to a violent struggle that ends with Earth's mightiest military leader biting the figurative bullet via arrow. Quaritch's death signals the end of Earth's occupation on Pandora, forcing the remaining humans to flee back to their corroding home planet.

At the time, it felt like we had seen the last of Quaritch. Except, during the long interim between "Avatar" and "Avatar: The Way of Water," James Cameron revealed that the good colonel would actually return for the upcoming sequels.

"The interesting conceit of the 'Avatar' sequels is it's pretty much the same characters," Cameron told Empire Online in 2017, later stating, "There's not a new villain every time, which is interesting. Same guy... through all four movies. He is so good and he just gets better. I know Stephen Lang is gonna knock this out of the park."

Exactly how Quaritch rises from the dead remains anyone's guess. Though, we imagine if Jake can use the magic of Pandora to fully connect with his avatar body, there's no telling what the planet could do with a corpse. Is there an evil Eywa fighting against the Na'vi? We see glimpses of Quaritch's avatar in the trailer for "Avatar 2," which begs the question: could he use his new form to rally other Na'vi clans against the Omaticaya? The possibilities are endless.

Will humans come back for vengeance?

After losing the Pandoran War to the very primitive Na'vi, there's no way the Resources Development Administration (RDA) simply return to Earth and accept defeat. Considering "Avatar: The Way of the Water" is set some years after the original, enough time has passed for the vanquished soldiers to return to Pandora with an even greater force and a whole lotta vengeance on their minds.

Cameron confirmed that characters such as Giovanni Ribisi's Parker Selfridge and Colonel Quaritch will return for the sequel in some capacity, meaning we fully expect Earth to launch an aggressive counterattack in order to get their hands on the valuable mineral Unobtanium. Or, maybe the RDA doesn't care about finding a cure to Earth's ailing resources and simply wants to wipe out the civilization that drove them off of Pandora. You know, for petty reasons. Imagine Cameron's "Aliens," except this time we're rooting for the xenomorphs.

This new batch of soldiers will likely arrive equipped with all new gear and sporting state-of-the-art weaponry specifically designed to handle Pandora's dangerous conditions. Perhaps this is why Jake and his clan head to the water — to find a new means of combating their foes. Time will tell, but knowing Cameron, we can expect a full-scale smackdown unlike anything we've ever seen before.

What happens to the people who stayed behind?

Following the events of "Avatar," humans are sent packing with only a select few chosen to remain behind, including the immensely likable Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao). Even so, the Pandoran War resulted in the destruction of Hometree and hundreds of pointless casualties. Thus, it stands to reason many of the Na'vi might not accept these "guests" and continue to view them as enemies. So how many people were actually left behind? Will there be a colony of families nestled somewhere on Pandora? Will the Na'vi allow said colonies to expand and consume their vast resources? Is it possible for two species to peacefully coexist on one planet? Will there be interbreeding between humans and Na'vi? Will there be those who regret killing other humans and make their way back to the RDA?

The idea of humans and Na'vi singing "Kumbaya" whilst peacefully cohabiting amongst the Halleluiah Mountains doesn't exactly arouse much enthusiasm. As such, we imagine plenty of conflicts to occur within the Omaticaya as the clan struggles to keep the peace with their human pals. On a similar note, will humans ever discover a way to successfully breathe without masks on Pandora? Spending an entire lifetime stuck behind a plastic shield can't be much fun, can it?

Is Grace really dead?

One of the more shocking moments of "Avatar" occurs when ornery (but lovable) xenobotanist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) gets shot during an escape attempt and subsequently dies following an elaborate Na'vi ritual. Before succumbing to death, Grace tells Jake: "I'm with her now, Jake. She's real." We then get a shot from Grace's point of view that dissolves into what appears to be a light wormhole similar to those seen whenever Jake connects with his avatar. Even after the original film, people were left wondering if Grace had really died or merely connected with some higher plane. Her final words suggest she contacted Eywa, a deity-like life force that runs through Pandora's veins; and gives the moon its power. 

James Cameron confirmed this theory when he revealed that Weaver will indeed return in "Avatar 2," though there are conflicting reports on who the actress will play. In a 2015 interview on The Jonathan Ross Show, Weaver revealed, "I don't play the same character." While Cameron explained way back in 2011: "Okay, here's the deal. When you have a science-fiction series, a science-fiction franchise, you're never dead, unless your DNA is expunged from the universe. And then there's always time travel!" So is it possible Grace appears as a more enhanced version of herself, or a powerful entity who can travel through time — is she the legendary Eywa? This just got real interesting. 

Where will the Na'vi live now that Hometree no longer exists?

The big turning point of "Avatar" arrives when Colonel Quaritch leads a mission to bring down Hometree, the Omaticaya's ancestral home where they've lived for generations, in order to clear the way for the RDA to acquire more Unobtanium. After a brief skirmish, the military fleet targets the tree's weak points with a missile strike and sends the massive object crashing down, killing many Na'vi in the process. This action effectively drives the indigenous people from their land to the Tree of Souls where Jake (as Toruk Makto) finds and convinces them to gather the clans and fight back in the film's third act.

Once Quaritch and his army are eliminated, we're left with a rather big problem: where will the surviving Omaticaya set up shop? As Selfridge points out, there are a lot of trees on Pandora — including other hometrees — where the clan can establish a new home. Is it as simple as walking through the forest and searching for the best-looking tree? Or is there a spiritual connection that must be made between the Na'vi and their new home? After all, throughout "Avatar" we are constantly reminded of the dangers lurking beneath every tree on Pandora. How long would a clan last without shelter? Does the Tree of Souls contain enough resources to accommodate an entire clan? If so, for how long? Clearly, this is a problem Jake and Neytiri must solve. Hopefully, they are up to the task!

What are the next steps for Toruk Makto?

Jake Sully's journey in "Avatar" culminates when he takes up the mantle of Toruk Makto, a legendary warrior capable of bonding with the Great Leonopteryx and uniting the various clans on Pandora. As explained by Neytiri, only five Toruk Makto have existed in history, with the most recent being her great-great-grandfather. After successfully uniting with the Leonopteryx, Jake rallies the Na'vi people to fight against Colonel Quaritch resulting in a massive conflict within the Hallelujah Mountains. The Na'vi ultimately succeed in vanquishing their attackers and quickly drive the remaining RDA forces from Pandora.

Following the conflict, Jake says, "The time of great sorrow was ending. Toruk Makto was no longer needed," followed by a shot of the Leonopteryx flying off into the sunset. So what happens now that Jake has established himself as the clan leader? Remember, he's still relatively new to Na'vi culture and not exactly primed to lead an entire species. Sure, he has Neytiri and her mother Mo'at at his side, but it'll be interesting to see how his former position as Toruk Makto affects Jake moving forward in the upcoming sequels. 

Does he crumble under the stress? Are his decisions sound? Do his choices stem from his experiences as a man or as one of the Na'vi? Can he call upon Toruk Makto whenever he wants, or is that a once in a lifetime, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency type of deal? Also, will his relationship with the Great Leonopteryx change moving forward? Or will the "last shadow" continue to hunt Jake as it does the other Na'vi? Can Jake call on the massive animal whenever problems arise? Doesn't it make more sense to hang onto the animal in order to maintain his legendary position atop the established leadership? We need answers!

Will Jake feel remorse for his decision to abandon his people?

Another aspect to Jake's character that should not be overlooked is the impact the war will have on his person. Yes, Jake did the right thing and prevented a clan of Na'vi from being wiped out, but he did so by killing hundreds of his own kind — an action that could prove calamitous for the entire population of Earth. Moving forward, it's fair to question whether the young soldier will feel remorse for his actions, or wish he had found a more peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

At story's end, Jake certainly seems to have made peace with his journey. He has a new clan, a partner in Neytiri, and a place within the vast universe. And while he didn't exactly carry favor with the RDA soldiers, many of whom saw him as little more than "meals on wheels" upon his arrival, Jake likely knows many Marines back home following his time in the service. So, what happens if some of his former allies arrive on Pandora and provoke another war?

We don't know much about Jake apart from the fact he's a former soldier who incurred some sort of spinal injury when serving as a Marine in Venezuela. His arrival on Pandora is merely by chance — his twin brother, Tom, died and the Avatar Program needed someone to replace him. Did Jake have other family or friends who were, perhaps, counting on him fulfilling his duties on Pandora? There's a chance Jake is more complex than the original film suggests. 

What happens to the other Na'vi clans on Pandora?

We never get a sense of the politics of Pandora in "Avatar." For much of the film, we follow the Omaticaya and don't see any of the other moon's habitants until the third act when Jake rallies them for the climatic Pandoran War. As such, its difficulty to gauge how the events of "Avatar" affect the other clans. Do they return to their lands following the conflict and continue operating as usual? Do they help Neytiri's group settle anew?

In the upcoming sequels, it would be interesting to see the various factions on Pandora engage in combat as a result of the Omaticaya's dwindling power. Perhaps, the battle with Quaritch leaves Neytiri's group vulnerable and thus susceptible to attack from outside forces. What if they lose their foothold on Pandora, forcing them to surrender their lands and seek refuge elsewhere — like, the water?

To truly understand Pandora, we need to get to know the other tribes and see how they function and interact with one another. What happens when one tribe disagrees with another? What happens when a tribe leader becomes too greedy or powerful? Does the Omaticaya owe the other clans for their support, or is Toruk Makto powerful enough to derive loyalty from outsiders without cost? Maybe we've seen too many episodes of "Game of Thrones," but there are interesting details to consider when discussing the various cultures on Pandora.

Will Jake and Neytiri have human offspring?

Midway through "Avatar," Jake and Neytiri mate under the Tree of Voices, thus sealing their partnership. Upon first glance, the moment functions as the final step in Jake's journey from embittered Marine to Na'vi tribe member. Closer inspection leads one to ponder whether Neytiri becomes pregnant with Jake's child, thus raising an important question: will the child be human or Na'vi? After all, according to actor Sam Worthington, in a 2010 interview with NPR, avatars are "grown from human DNA mixed with the DNA of the natives." In other words, it makes sense for Jake and Neytiri's offspring to possess at least some human characteristics. 

James Cameron revealed to Variety in 2016: "The storyline in the sequels really follows Jake and Neytiri and their children. It's more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans." Now, this statement doesn't confirm our theory outright, but we imagine Cameron could find some good drama to wring out of a family featuring a mixed species of children. If so, what would then happen when the great Toruk Makto produces human offspring molded after the same species that nearly wiped out the Omaticaya? The child or children would obviously be royalty — Neytiri is a princess and Jake was (or is?) Toruk Makto — a status that could lead to a whole slew of problems for a clan likely still recovering from their violent battle against the RDA.

What will the Na'vi do with the military-grade weapons and ships left behind?

"The aliens went back to their dying world," Jake says solemnly as we see the surviving members of the RDA boarding transports that will take them back to Earth. Look closer at this shot, which is among the final scenes of "Avatar," and you can see the RDA's equipment nestled in the background. Ships, Avatar Program equipment, military facilities, weapons — it's all there for the taking. In fact, many of the Na'vi brandish giant assault rifles and military gear, which is interesting because this technically gives them dominion over the other bow-wielding clans. So what will the Na'vi do with this high-powered equipment?

Seeing how Pandora isn't exactly designed for Earth's tech — the Flux Vortex in the Hallelujah Mountains, for example, make missile tracking and computer navigation practically impossible — it makes sense for the Na'vi to upgrade the lingering tech and weapons to function better within the moon's environment. Or, at the very least, keep them on hand to prepare for Earth's counterattack. 

"We're going up against gunships with bows and arrows," Trudy says before the climactic battle against Quaritch. Well, now the Na'vi can go against the RDA using gunships and advanced weaponry, assuming they hang onto the tech. If not, they better pray to Eywa that the tech doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Without Unobtanium, will Earth fall?

There's a good chance Earth becomes inhabitable as a result of the RDA's failure. We don't learn much about the state of the planet outside of a few lines of dialogue and an extended opening where Jake traverses a city clearly suffering from overpopulation and lacking natural resources. Obviously, there's enough of a problem to prompt the need for Unobtanium, "a room temperature superconductor with a number of unique properties that make it a profoundly useful energy generator," according to James Cameron's "Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide." In other words, the mineral is valuable enough to force the likes of Quaritch and Selfridge to wage war — nay, commit genocide — against an otherwise peaceful society. 

Assuming Earth was on the brink of death, so to speak, before the events of "Avatar," is it fair to assume the planet will fully collapse without anything from the returning members of the RDA? Does this make the powers behind the RDA program even more desperate than before? How far are they willing to go to save their planet? Per a theory from ScreenRant, there's a good chance humans evacuate Earth and make their way to Pandora as refugees in need of a new home. Would the Na'vi accept these people on their planet and willingly share their resources? Are there other moons orbiting the gas giant Polyphemus that could serve as a new Earth? The events of "Avatar" suggest Earth lost its way long ago. Perhaps the sequels will give humans a second chance to right the ship.     

What's to become of Earth's Avatar Program?

After so much money and valuable resources are allocated to Earth's Avatar Program, it's unlikely the powers behind the project sit on their laurels and abandon the concept altogether. Throughout "Avatar," we see a number of other humans-as-Na'vi playing basketball, wandering around the military compound, and enjoying the many pleasures Pandora has to offer. And while Jake and Grace manage to break through the Na'vi lines and become part of the Omaticaya, none of the other characters find similar success.

Following the Pandoran War, almost all of the humans (save for a select few) are forced off Pandora — meaning, there's a whole bunch of Na'vi bodies floating around tubes on the RDA compound somewhere. Unless, of course, Jake allowed the people to take the materials back to Earth, which doesn't seem likely.

Is this how Quaritch returns? By tapping into one of the avatar bodies left behind? Does he already have one for himself — a secret Plan B in the event exterminating the Na'vi failed? Without their actual human counterparts, these Na'vi bodies are basically worthless since they can only sync up with their perfect DNA match. So, why keep them around, especially since they'll probably die without proper care? At any rate, someone somewhere is going to be looking for these valuable specimens and probably demand the project continue. Though, it might be best for the mysterious individuals behind the program to simply lick their wounds and start anew elsewhere.