To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Avatar: The Way of Water is a sci-fan action film directed and produced by James Cameron (Aliens), from a screenplay written by Cameron, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Jurassic World). Featuring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald, and Sigourney Weaver reprising their roles from the original film with newcomers Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Bliss, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, and Jemaine Clement; it is the sequel to Avatar (2009) and the second installment in the Avatar franchise. Twelve years after the events of the first film, the story follows Jake Sully, his wife Neytiri, and their children as they leave the forest to seek refuge with the reef-dwelling Metkayina clan after the Resources Development Administration (RDA) returns to Pandora.
In the forests of Pandora, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former human who had his consciousness permanently transferred into his Na’vi avatar, lives as chief of the Omaticaya clan with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). Over the years Jake and Neytiri start a family including their firstborn Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), younger son Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) – born from Dr. Grace Augustine’s inactive avatar, and youngest daughter Tuktirey (Trinity Bliss). They live in peace with the remaining RDA scientists and the children befriend a human child named Spider (Jack Champion), unable to return to Earth due to his infancy.
After a little over a decade, Jake notices a new “star” in the night sky signaling that the RDA ships have returned to the planets. The enormous spacecrafts scorch the forests upon landing killing many plants and animals. Using their new machinery they begin to build a new base of operations. One year later, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) awakens on a ship in orbit around the planet. Noticing the Na’vi avatars around him he becomes hostile and attacks. After calming down, Quaritch notices that he is in an avatar. In a message left by his original self, Quaritch is told that he is a recombinant, a clone possessing all of his memories in a Na’vi avatar. He is also told to find Jake Sully to get some revenge.
After over a decade, we finally have a sequel to Avatar! I, like many others, felt the first film to be beautiful, but average. It was a story we had seen many different times before in Ferngully, Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, etc. Even after it became the biggest blockbuster in history I felt that it didn’t need a sequel as the story was complete. James Cameron on the other hand said he wanted to make five more and began the years-long task of bringing them to the silver screen. Cameron worked on the overarching story and shot films 2 through 4 at the same time developing new technology to improve upon the already amazing visual effects. However, after many years and repeated delays many people wondered if the sequels would ever be released and if they were would people even want to see them? Well, it’s officially time that we should stop doubting the great James Cameron as at the time of writing this Avatar: The Way of Water has already grossed over $1.9 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2022 and the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time.
This large box office take is warranted because the movie is pretty good. Better than the first I would say. The story this time around is more family oriented with Jake and Neytiri’s children taking the forefront. This allows the audience to connect with the Sully family on a more emotional level. The characters have grown over the years and have not been stagnant, which is the route most sequels choose to take so that the characters don’t feel too different from what people loved about them. Cameron also delivers an interesting story that brings back a lot of familiar faces from the first film in ways that are believable given the futuristic setting. Some of the ideas such as marines becoming recombinants and other tribes of Na’vi were teased in the first film.
In terms of visuals, Avatar: The Way of Water is a technical achievement! The visual effects in this film are phenomenal! Watching this film in IMAX 3D is awe-inspiring and is the best way to experience this movie. The world that Cameron has created is leagues beyond what we see in film right now. The Na’vi have so much care and detail put into them that you can see their different types of hair, body markings, bone structure, and even fingerprints. Metkayina clan differs from the Omaticaya in many ways including different textures of hair, lighter skin, blue eyes, and fins on their arms and tails. The effects in this film look better than anything that’s come out in the past ten years and will probably hold up for the next ten years.
Russell Carpenter (Ant-Man) takes over as cinematographer from Mauro Fiore and carries the baton with gusto. It must be difficult to work on a film of this nature when very few locations are used. Somehow though Carpenter has created scenery that feels real to the human eye. The shots of the characters interacting with and moving through the water is a prime example of the wizardry that was accomplished. Simon Franglen (Peppermint) is another new addition, taking on the score after the passing of James Horner. Having worked with Horner on the previous film, Franglen honors what came before by interweaving cues from Horner’s work into the new music for the film. Both are expected to remain with the franchise through Avatar 5.
Even though the story is better than the first, Cameron doesn’t shy away from reusing plot elements from his previous films. Instead of the RDA mining the silver-colored unobtainium that appeared in the first picture, the group now focuses on hunting the whale-like tulkuns for the golden-hued amrita that resides in the creature’s brain tissue. The expensive fluid is said to stop human aging. The final act of the feature also happens to take place on a large sinking boat, that screams Titanic. As with Avatar, the runtime for the sequel is pretty grand sitting at 3 hours and 10 minutes. Though it doesn’t feel long, Cameron could have shaved at least 30 minutes from the runtime and the story wouldn’t lose anything important.
This is one of the few instances where a film must be seen in the theater to truly appreciate the experience. The visuals are breathtaking, the world is realistic and vibrant, and the story is emotionally riveting. I give Avatar: The Way of Water a Decent 8.9/10. I am now on board for Cameron to make as many of these films as he wants and I’ll even take a few spin-offs if he has any ideas. Somehow he has figured out the key to making successful movies that people want to see multiple times in the most expensive way possible.