The Way of the Water’? -ScreenHub Entertainment – ​​ScreenHub Entertainment

By Alex Abbey

Avatar: The Way of the Water reached another major financial milestone, and it doesn’t stop there. To everyone’s surprise (except James Cameron), the long-awaited Avatar sequel received very positive reception from critics and audiences alike. There is, however, one demographic whose opinion can get lost in all the buzz. We reached out to some Indigenous creators to find out what they thought about the portrayal of their cultures in Cameron’s latest sci-fi blockbuster.

Editor’s note: We understand that there is no singular “native” voice. There are thousands of indigenous cultures around the world, and each one is beautifully unique. The following quotes are just a sample of the wide range of reactions these communities have had to Avatar: The Way of the Water.


Pnuks is a student, youth worker and member of the Maori community. He was quick to point out that he does not speak on behalf of all Maori. In fact, many members of the Maori community have expressed excitement at seeing their culture represented. But when asked to give his honest thoughts on Maori cultural influences in Avatar: The Way of the WaterPneuks said this:

“In terms of the depiction of the Maori people or the Polynesian people as a whole, I felt a little weird. I think James Cameron did a decent job of respecting the cultural elements as a non-indigenous person. But I think still that there are a lot of things that need to change around that…
I’ve seen this repeatedly in many films, how directors or people in positions of authority pull elements from a specific culture and don’t necessarily highlight the context behind them.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

He explained that some elements of Maori culture were presented without context. Some of these elements are facial tattoos and Pukana (sticking out the tongue in an act of intimidation, traditionally performed during a Haka war dance). With a runtime of over 3 hours, taking an extra 5 minutes to provide some context seems like an easy way to establish a better connection with the cultural community that inspired these traits.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

He also acknowledged that although the world depicted is fictional, it still affects people in very real ways.

“I understand that it’s a made-up movie with made-up people on a made-up planet. However, there are still elements of real life…I felt uncomfortable watching the movie because I heard my parents’ stories of what it was like growing up in a racist New Zealand.

Miranda due

Follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaDue

Miranda Due is a Pawnee/Cherokee content creator and game developer. His journey with the Avatar The franchise started differently than most, with the original being its inspiration for joining the entertainment tech profession. She proudly admits to enjoying Avatar: The Way of the Water but expresses some concerns about James Cameron’s past comments.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

“The film is beautiful and I love learning about the technology behind it. The James Cameron quote that has been circulated is awful and hurtful and I hope he has since changed his views on indigenous communities and he’s willing to do the good job of being better informed… The movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the world of Pandora, and being able to sit down and get away from it all for a few hours at the cinema is something I look forward to.

She offered great advice to help the future Avatar incarnations. She suggested that the plots and worlds of Avatar films could be improved by working with more Aboriginal storytellers.

“We have so many rich histories, lore and philosophies that could greatly enhance world-building in fantasy genres, it’s a shame our voices have been ignored for so long. In the future, I hope to see films by Indigenous directors and writers produced with budgets similar to those Avatar franchise.”


Mozart Gabriel is a musician, filmmaker and proud member of the Navajo and Taos Pueblo Nations. He has deep roots in the Native American community and a deep connection to his native heritage. Mozart harshly criticized James Cameron’s creative choices, but when asked to react to the indigenous elements of Avatar: The Way of the Water he explained

Credit: 20th Century Studios

“The most offensive part of this movie is that it’s basically saying that all the native people of the world are basically the same blue character. I’m Navajo, and I’m also Taos Pueblo, and we have two totally different beliefs. There has so many different tribes, so many different traditions. You’d think now, with everything going on, we don’t need a white savior anymore. But I guess James Cameron can’t let it go.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

Gabriel further explained, in a separate interview, why he feels that the Avatar sequel should have learned from the mistakes of the original:

“We have a good friend, Wes Studi, who was in the first [Avatar] and we never said anything about it because I think we have a lot of love and respect for Wes Studi…he’s done a lot for Native American cinema. So I think the former definitely got a pass, the latter not really because, you know, times have changed and people are realizing that this stuff is not acceptable.

Wes Studi, Native American actor/director

Although these are large blue aliens, both the original Avatar, and Avatar: The Way of the Water, borrowed extensively from indigenous Earth cultures to tell their stories. Unfortunately, in telling this unique Indigenous story, James Cameron once again neglected to include Indigenous voices in any meaningful way.

There’s no doubt that Cameron has crafted another visually stunning film, and the overall story has improved greatly from the original formula. It is quite possible to enjoy the spectacle of Avatar: the way of water, while acknowledging its cultural insensitivities and urging its creators to do better. One can only hope that James Cameron is ready to change the world of Avatar even further, and bring a more diverse and inclusive vision to the multitude of sequels that have become almost inevitable.

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