Water. Earth. Fire. Air.
My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when Eywa kept balance between the Omatikaya, the Metkayina, and the Olangi. But that all changed when the Sky People attacked.
Okay, okay, jokes about "Avatar" and "Avatar: The Last Airbender" have been done to death, but James Cameron really isn't helping when he reveals that the next "Avatar" movie will introduce the "Ash People," a Na'vi tribe who will serve to represent the element of fire, and also demonstrate that not all Na'vi are calm and peaceful. Speaking to French news outlet 20 Minutes (h/t Culture Crave), Cameron explained:
"I want to reveal the Na'vi from another angle because [so far] I have only shown their good sides. In the early films, there are very negative human examples and very positive Na'vi examples. In 'Avatar 3,' we'll do the reverse."
Yes, not only does Pandora have a Fire Nation, it sounds like the "Ash People" are going to be bad guys. But in keeping with the focus on the next generation in "Avatar: The Way of Water," perhaps there'll be a young member of the tribe who starts out as an enemy but then eventually becomes an ally to the main characters. That could be a pretty compelling storyline.
Who Are The Ash People?
There are about a dozen known Na'vi clans in "Avatar" already, with different lifestyles, cultures, and physiological quirks depending on the biomes where they live. The first "Avatar" movie saw Jake Sully become Toruk Makto and gather thousands of Na'vi from different tribes to drive the Sky People off Pandora. Now, admittedly the designs of the clans are somewhat lacking in imagination; the Omatikaya (Neytiri's forest tribe) are a pretty transparent allegory for Native Americans, and the ocean-loving Metkayina are primarily based on Polynesians and the Māori people of New Zealand.
With that in mind, there's a good chance that the "Ash People" will be based on an existing Indigenous culture, which could prove more problematic than the Omatikaya and Metkayina if these Na'vi are going to be villains. They could be a non-specific mashup of different real-world cultural influences (like the Olangi, the plains-dwelling, space-horse-riding Na'vi who played a prominent role in the final battle of "Avatar"), or Cameron could once again draw from a specific culture. Aztec mythology, for example, features a fire deity called Xiuhtecuhtli, and both fire and ash played an important role in Mesoamerican rituals.
Of course, aside from the sticky matter of appropriating the aesthetics of real-world cultures for sci-fi spectacle, we've very recently seen another big studio blockbuster featuring a hostile nation based on ancient Mesoamerican cultures. So if Cameron wants to spare "Avatar" from more accusations of being unoriginal, he might need to really shake things up with the next Na'vi tribe.
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