The second chapter of the “Avatar” movie franchise, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” has been released worldwide to quite positive reception, with viewers praising not only its breathtaking visuals but also its character dynamics, which contain more depth than its predecessor. While the first installment was occasionally marred with flimsy characterization, with some characters being nothing more than stereotypical representations, Stephen Lang’s portrayal of a ruthless, persistent Colonel Miles Quaritch was a dominating presence on screen, and the actor received the Saturn Award for the best supporting character for the role. Although Quaritch was killed at the end of the first movie, the character makes a surprise return in the sequel, which actually makes perfect sense in the context of Avatar’s worldbuilding. The sworn enmity between him and protagonist Jake Sully continues in this sequel, offering a new dimension to the story and leaving newer possibilities to explore in the future. There is also a parallel angle presented, which we will mention while briefly discussing his character progression and what awaits him in the upcoming continuation.
Quaritch Makes A Return: Bigger And Meaner
In “Avatar” (2009), we were introduced to the RDA security head Colonel Miles Quaritch, a hardboiled ex-marine chief ironed with the usual military toughness, who harbored a deep disgust for every sentient being on Pandora, especially for Na’vi. He believed in using force and violence first as a method of approaching Pandora’s indigenous race and was disgruntled by the RDA’s approach of using Avatars to mingle with them as a method of negotiation. However, as paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully arrived at Pandora as a candidate for the Avatar program, Quaritch saw his chance to infiltrate the Avatar exploration team to get intel on the Na’vi clans. Quaritch tapped into Jake’s military sensibilities as they shared mutual experience and managed to get him to be his informant. Jake later grows a conscience and turns his back on him, but over the course of three months, Quaritch manages to get enough information about the Omaticaya stronghold to orchestrate a devastating attack to destroy the home tree. Later, in an all-out battle against the collective force of Na’vi clans led by Jake and Pandoran wildlife, Quaritch-led RDA loses, and Quaritch gets killed by Na’vi warrior Neytiri. Therefore, it can be said that Jake and Quaritch had a shared history.
In “Avatar: The Way of Water,” it is revealed that before the final battle with the Na’vi commenced, RDA stored the consciousness of selected security personnel and sent it to Earth. The objective was to bring them back to life in an Avatar body in the event of their death in battle, and these Avatars were called recombinants. After fifteen years have passed since Quaritch’s death, his rebirth takes place as his Avatar retains all his consciousness and memories. The situation is initially tricky for him, as he has to accept himself in a form he has despised since his childhood. Befittingly, when he wakes up in Avatar form on the spaceship en route to Pandora, he sees other recombinants and starts attacking as his instincts kick in at once. The waking up and initial struggle at the same time parallels and strikingly opposes the waking up as Avatar sequence of Jake Sully from the first movie. He sees the reflection of his new body and cannot identify himself initially. After seeing the video log of his own (pre-war human) Quaritch, he is reminded of his objective of destroying the Na’vi in general and Jake Sully in particular, as they have a score to settle. However, the hardboiled colonel has not lost his touch even in his new form and wastes no time planning a covert operation to detain and kill Sully.
Quaritch is again faced with the ghosts of his past as he goes to the site where he was killed and sees the captured footage taken moments before his death all those years ago. In a scene that almost reminds us of the Phantom’s pledge, Quaritch holds his own skull (of the human form), but instead of uttering any vow (the Phantom’s origin reference), he crushes it. Without using a single line of dialogue, that scene hints at the character’s grit, which remains the same. However, he gets the shock of a lifetime when he discovers that his son, also named Miles, aka Spider, has been brought up on Pandora by the Sully family. For an individual who has detested the Pandoran natives till death, this might as well be the most traumatic experience. But paternal feelings change Quaritch, even if it’s on a very small scale. In one of his monologues in the movie, Jake Sully mentions that a father protects. Quaritch exemplifies that in the movie a number of times in his interaction with Spider. During RDA’s information extraction tortures of Spider, Quaritch’s paternal feelings take over his military aptitude, even though he doesn’t admit it. Even his decision to adopt the Na’vi way of life to infiltrate the Omaticaya stronghold must have roots in his relationship with his newfound son. He longs to have a rapport with his son, but his past life is the biggest hindrance to that. Spider, who was brought up in the Na’vi way of life and who calls Pandora his home, hates his identity as the son of a person who brought great misery to “his people” and Pandora.
Quaritch’s flexible attitude extends only up to the point where he is trying to bond with his son; beyond that, he is as diabolical and ruthless as he was in his human body. He enjoys torturing natives as remorselessly as he used to earlier. In search of Jake Sully, Quaritch raids ocean clan villages, forces them to confess, and even kills their animal companions to make them give up the intel he needs—much to Spider’s disgust. His killing spree continues as he nonchalantly murders a pod of Tulkuns using whalers just to draw Jake Sully out of hiding. Even in front of his son, he is unabashedly evil as he holds the Sully kids at gunpoint and taunts their father, Jake, to surrender himself in exchange for their lives. His troops also cause Jake’s son – Neteyam’s death. In the end, after his underlings are dead as Jake and Neytiri take them out one by one, Quaritch grabs Kiri to threaten Jake into submission. And once again, he is shown the mirror as a vengeful Neytiri threatens him with Spider’s life. During the closing monologue, Jake stated that family is the source of both our strengths and weaknesses. At this juncture, the family becomes Quaritch’s weakness as he is forced to surrender. He fights with Jake and is defeated, left unconscious underwater to his apparent death. Spider dives underwater, searching for Jake, and locates Quaritch. Unwilling at first due to the loathsome feelings he harbors for his father, Spider ends up saving him. At this point, the family becomes Quaritch’s strength. After waking up, Quaritch asks his son to join him, only to get an unsurprisingly blunt rejection from his side. A disheartened Quaritch parts ways with his son. “Avatar: The Way of the Water” draws upon family relationships as the emotional crux of the movie, and the father-son relationship exemplifies that.
What Can We Expect From Miles Quaritch In Avatar 3?
James Cameron had previously popularized the undying villain trope to great effect with his Terminator franchise, and with Miles Quaritch, he has somehow followed that trait, as in the sequel, he has returned from the dead, and whether he can ever be killed remains a question as long as his consciousness is stored. But the major deviation from the Terminator route was to give Quaritch a relatable vulnerability, which also adds a new tone to his character. Failing miserably as a father in this venture, in the next installments, we might see him mend his ways to earn his son’s trust. But his steadfastness and unwavering focus on his objective, coupled with his blood rivalry with Jake and Neytiri, might not allow that to happen so easily. We might also see Spider going up against his father, creating a “Return of the Jedi” situation. With the added responsibility of a father, Miles Quaritch has unlocked the potential for significant character development and now has multifaceted utility, depending on how the creators choose to use him.
See more: ‘Avatar 2’ Story Recap & Ending, Explained: What Is Next For The Sully Family & Pandora After ‘The Way of Water’?