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REVIEW — “Avatar: The Way of Water”

The absolutely immersive Avatar: The Way of Water drops you in the deep end of mind-blowing visuals and emotionally epic storytelling and seldom comes up for air.

Tuk (Trinity Bliss) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In Avatar: The Way of Water, director James Cameron invites audiences to dive back in to the world of Pandora. More than 10 years have passed since the events of the first film, but the film brings us up to speed like no time has passed at all. We are quickly re-introduced to familiar (blue) faces, and meet new characters and a few resurrected ones along the way.

(L-R): Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) are now tribal leaders and parents to a growing brood of Na’vi children with human traits (like five-fingered hands… and Brooklyn accents?).

(L-R): Tsireya (Bailey Bass), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Responsible eldest son Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) is constantly pulled into danger by adventurous black sheep son Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), while sweet, young daughter Tuk (Trinity Bliss) is the apple of her father’s eye. As a former Marine, Jake runs the Sully clan like a military unit, which often clahes with Neytiri’s more motherly instincts.

(L-R): Kiri/ Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Among them is free-spirited adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who is the result of a mysterious immaculate conception by comatose Dr. Grace (also Sigourney Weaver) and Pandora nature goddess Eywa, and “Spider” (Jack Champion), an abandoned human boy who has integrated himself into their Na’vi tribe.

Jack Champion as Spider in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The love and stress that tests their familial bonds feels both real and relatable. Jake and Neytiri are parents with responsibilities and too few nights to themselves. However, their past soon comes back to haunt them when the sky people suddenly return with advanced reinforcements led by a back-up avatar of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the deceased villain of the first Avatar. He’s on a mission for revenge, and on the hunt for Jake and his family.

Quaritch (Stephen Lang) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Fearing for their safety, the Sullys escape across Pandora to a remote chain of islands where they are reluctantly granted sanctuary by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet), leaders of an aquatic tribe of finned Na’vi.

Ronal (Kate Winslet) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR 2. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

To stick together, the Sullys must make new alliances and adapt to the water that surrounds them. It is here where they must make their stand against the Quaritch’s heartless and relentless forces in a dramatic and action-packed final battle.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In this first Avatar sequel, the way of water is said to have no beginning and no end. With 13 years having passed since its first installment (2009’s box-office dominating Avatar) and no less than three more sequels on the horizon, both of those statements appear to be true, the film’s three-hour running time, notwithstanding. Indeed, Avatar and its characters are back and here to stay.

(L-R): Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine, Director James Cameron, and Joel David Moore as Norm Spellman behind the scenes of 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of Mark Fellman. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Which is good, because James Cameron doesn’t make bad films (see Aliens, The Terminator, True Lies). And, clearly, the director of Titanic and The Abyss knows a thing or two about the way of water. With Avatar: The Way of Water, he delivers yet another grand-scale masterpiece that has absolutely been worth the wait.

(L-R, Front to Back): Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Kate Winslet, and Cliff Curtis on the set of 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo by Mark Fellman. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The film’s life-like CGI is another technical achievement for the maestro, and Cameron’s immersive world building is unlike anything ever put on film. Pandora is a rich, lush world that the director has only begun to explore. However, with the land, sky, and, now, sea of Pandora introduced, where will Cameron take us next? 4.5/5

Rated PG-13 with a running time of 3 hours, 12 minutes, Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters December 16, 2022.

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