The Avatar Sequels Have Defeated Death

Stephen Lang is back
  • Science Fiction
Colonel Quaritch will return in Avatar 2... and Avatar 3... and 4... and 5. 20th Century Fox

Fictional people come back from the dead all the time. After killing off chaotician Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton brought him back for the sequel novel, The Lost World. Ripley returned in Alien: Resurrection. Sherlock Holmes survived his tumble off the Reichenbach Falls and Vince McMahon survived that limo explosion. Sometimes the explanations are clever, sometimes perfunctory. Now, a new contender for biggest back-from-the-grave retcon has the potential to go beyond the usual cheats into transhumanist and futurist speculation: Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) will be back for all four of the Avatar sequels.

"The interesting conceit of the Avatar sequels is it’s pretty much the same characters," director James Cameron told Empire. "There are new characters and a lot of new settings and creatures, so I’m taking characters you know and putting them in unfamiliar places and moving them on this greater journey. But it’s not a whole bunch of new characters every time. There’s not a new villain every time, which is interesting. Same guy. Same motherfucker 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."

That same motherfucker took several Na’vi arrows to the chest at the end of the 2009 Avatar.

There’s a lot of different possible solutions to the death of Quaritch in the first of five Avatar movies (with Avatar 2 expected Dec. 18, 2020). Earth could send a clone to take back “their” colonial world, Pandora. But it’s more likely that Quaritch will be used to explicate Avatar ’s sci-fi holistic side. Though superficially an ecosystem like Earth’s, Pandora’s forests are much more biologically united and intertwined, forming a living computer complex enough to port Jake Sully’s consciousness from his dying human body to his Na’vi “avatar” body.

It’s possible nothing really dies on Pandora. Instead, life is absorbed into the Gaia-like world mind. Doubling down on the transhumanist themes of the first Avatar , the sequels could see Quaritch return in multiple forms. Perhaps he’ll even die in each movie. More than just a retcon, the return of Quaritch as the villain in all four Avatar sequels suggests a significant expansion of the movie series’ mythology, theoretically allowing the sequels to move beyond its “ Dances with Wolves but sci-fi” premise.

Whether Quaritch returns as some sort of resurrected animal / Na’vi or in his human form, Cameron’s got one thing right: Stephen Lang will be great. The long-time character actor elevates everything he’s in, such as his terror-inducing turn as a homicidal blind man in Don’t Breathe . He even made the Jason Momoa Conan the Barbarian tolerable (and he should have been Cable).

It may be fashionable to poo-poo more Avatar movies. Despite holding box office records, there’s not much memorable about the original. But keeping Quaritch is a good sign — he was one of the highlights of the first Avatar . And it’s never wise to bet against James Cameron.

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