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Avatar 2's Villain Arc Is Already Avoiding Star Wars' Palpatine Problem


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Avatar 2 will soon see viewers finally return to Pandora, but the sequel has already guaranteed that it will avoid the issue that later Star Wars installments ran into with the unlikely re-emergence of Palpatine. Released in 2009, the original Avatar was an immersive, ambitious sci-fi adventure from legendary director James Cameron. Avatar told the tale of Jake, a US veteran who is conflicted about infiltrating a native tribe of aliens, the Na’Vi, upon his arrival on their home planet of Pandora.

Avatar’s story drew criticism for what some reviewers considered simplicity, predictability, and an unfortunate "white savior" narrative undertone to Jake's decision to help the Na'Vi instead of colonizing their homeworld. However, fans of Avatar praised the movie’s lush visuals and groundbreaking CGI, and even detractors noted that a few of the film’s performances were worthy of praise. Actors often singled out among the Avatar cast were sci-fi veteran Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang as one of Avatar’s primary villains, Miles Quaritch.

A colonel who leads the charge against the Na’Vi and their newfound ally Jake at the end of Avatar, Quaritch is a classic villain who combines James Cameron's two main dislikes: overpowered authority figures and corrupt company men. Quaritch spends the original Avatar directing the military to destroy vitally important Na’Vi territory to plunder their planet’s resources, and eventually seemingly dies in a face-off against Jake. However, it has since been confirmed that Miles Quaritch returns for all of the upcoming Avatar sequels, an enigmatic development that led some fans of the franchise to worry that the character would soon become an unintentionally goofy, Emperor Palpatine-esque puppet master, who is revealed to be orchestrating the events of the sequels in order to bridge all the movies together.

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However, it is already clear that this will not be the case, even from the little detail that viewers know so far about the Avatar sequels. Not a lot is known about the exact plot of the Avatar sequels, but a few stray details about Lang's role paint a promising picture. Rather than just popping up as a vengeful, souped-up version of the original Quaritch for a glorified Avatar 2 cameo, the fact that Lang’s character will appear in every subsequent Avatar installment ensures he won’t be a last-minute addition who exists mainly to satisfy fans of the franchise. More importantly, Lang has also been quoted as saying that the character will go through extensive growth throughout the Avatar sequels, earning an actual arc rather than merely popping up to take credit for the plot at the last moment.

As proven by the multi-movie character arc undergone by the title character of The Terminator, who went from slasher villain to unlikely hero to suburban dad, Cameron is skilled at the art of turning one-dimensional villains into fully rounded characters. As such, the arc of Lang's villain is a promising piece of Avatar news that ensures the movie will avoid pulling a regrettable "it was me all along" scene like Palpatine’s at the end of the Skywalker saga. Instead, befitting the grand ambition of Cameron’s franchise, it looks likely that Avatar fans will get to see Quaritch grow into a villain worthy of the entire franchise billing he is receiving, or perhaps even an unlikely hero who learns from Jake's journey in the first film and takes the side of the native Na'Vi.

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