How Stephen Lang's Colonel Quaritch Returns In Avatar: The Way Of Water

We film types talk a lot about James Cameron's "Avatar" and its white savior story, often comparing it to a film like "Dances with Wolves." Less discussed but just as problematic are the movie's ableist overtones. Let it not be forgotten, Cameron's 2009 blockbuster sees its main character happily dump his disabled human body in favor of a genetically-engineered "avatar." In a similar sense, the film presents motion-capture as a way for directors to "transcend" the physical limits of their actors. This has, in turn, helped pave the way for other dubious practices that treat human bodies like an inconvenience to be overcome via digital trickery like "de-aging."

For better or for worse, Cameron's preoccupation with the limits of our physical forms will once again rear its head in the director's long-awaited "Avatar: The Way of Water." The first of potentially four "Avatar" sequels will find Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) raising a family on Pandora, which includes their adopted teen Na'vi daughter Kiri, played by none other than Sigourney Weaver. As you most likely recall, Weaver's previous character in the "Avatar" franchise, the human scientist Dr. Grace Augustine, died in the first movie.

Also back from the dead, but in a literal sense? Stephen Lang's vicious human military commander, Miles Quaritch. To recap, Neytiri shot Quaritch in the chest with a pair of Na'vi-sized arrows in the first "Avatar," killing him all but instantly. In an exclusive reveal, the latest edition of Empire Magazine has confirmed the character will be getting around in "The Way of Water" thanks to his Recom (short for Recombitant), a more advanced type of avatar developed by the shady Resources Development Administration. You can check out the first official image of Lang in the film below.

'He's bigger, he's bluer, he's pissed off'

The idea of memory transference was introduced in the first "Avatar" movie with the Tree of Souls, a sacred tree on Pandora that could transfer a human's memories permanently into their avatar. This was how Jake's mind was transferred into his avatar at the very end of the film, after an earlier failed attempt to do the same with a dying Dr. Augustine. The RDA, it seems, has figured how to do this on its own in "Avatar: The Way of Water," allowing it to transfer the memories of its best soldiers (like Miles Quaritch) into the bodies of its Recoms.

Speaking to Empire Magazine for its August 2022 issue, Stephen Lang explained how his character both will and won't be changed by this process when he returns in "The Way of Water."

"He's bigger, he's bluer, he's pissed off. [Laughs] But there may possibly be an aspect of humility. When you take two Na'vi arrows in the chest, that's gonna have some kind of effect on you."

It won't just be mental changes, either. Lang also teased the new ways Quaritch is able to move physically thanks to his Recom:

"Quaritch was always a character who moved in straight lines and at right angles. But now he is as lithe as they come. He can move with that same kind of cunning and feral quality that any of the Na'vi can."

Can "Avatar: The Way of Water" avoid the ableism of the original film with its depiction of Quaritch and his "life after death" as a Recom? We will have to wait and see when the movie finally arrives on December 16, 2022. In the meantime, you can check out the August 2022 issue of Empire Magazine when it goes on sale on Thursday, July 7.