Time: 192 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver as Kiri
Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
Kate Winslet as Ronal
Cliff Curtis as Tonowari
Director: James Cameron
Jake Sully and Neytiri have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.
I have to admit, I was one of the many people who didn’t love the first Avatar upon its release, the visuals and effects were certainly revolutionary, but didn’t have much love for it beyond that. I was also one of the many who were sceptical on the many upcoming sequels, which seemed to be taking forever to come out. However, as it gradually approached the movie’s release, my interest started to increase. After seeing most of the modern blockbusters from the past 5 years, it’ll be refreshing to see one that has this much craft and care put into it. Not only that, but I also rewatched the first Avatar for the first time in a decade and I appreciated it a lot more, even beyond its technical strengths. So I went into The Way of Water open minded and it turned out even better than I was expecting.
As with the first Avatar, the story is simple, but it helps to convey the world and characters, and particularly benefits from James Cameron’s great visual storytelling. The Way of Water felt truly epic, the worldbuilding continues to excel and I was incredibly immersed. Cameron clearly has a passion for this world with the level of detail on display. It distinguishes itself from the first movie, instead of just staying in the same location, it expands on it and explores some new territory. Much of the themes from the first movie return in the sequel, namely anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, but also with more added elements, family being prominent most of all. The movie focusses on the family of Jake Sully and Neytiri and their children; the bond between the family members felt incredibly natural and believable. Despite the scale of the film, it feels very intimate as it focuses on these characters. There is so much heart and sincerity, truly magical with strong heart and soul. The emotion feels authentic and rich, an highlight being the scenes involving the whales. There is real sincerity to this movie, which I think most blockbusters nowadays are sorely lacking in. The middle hour is surprisingly quiet and lacking in conflict, but I enjoyed it for that. Much of it consists of the kids learning about their new setting and learning about the water, and honestly I could watch hours of that. Then the film culminates in a lengthy, but action filled and satisfying third act. The Way of Water is a long movie at over 3 hours in length, you definitely feel this, but in a good way, and I was never bored.
Whereas the first movie was mainly Jake’s story, The Way of Water is more of an ensemble piece. As a result, some characters are utilised and focused on more than others. Nonetheless, everyone is great. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana return to the roles of Jake Sully and Neytiri. While I thought Worthington worked well enough in the first movie, I thought he notably improved in the sequel, and was genuinely great at conveying where Jake is currently at. Saldana wasn’t used as much in the film, but she is still good and particularly shines in the last hour of the film. The new cast which includes Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet also give solid performances in their parts. However, the biggest surprise was most of all the younger cast, mainly the actors who play Jake and Neytiri’s children, who were great and believable.
Among the cast, there were two standouts to me. Sigourney Weaver plays a teenage Avatar named Kiri and the casting is definitely odd, for the obvious age difference as well as the fact that Weaver’s character Grace in the first film died. However, it makes sense in the film, especially with how Kiri relates to Grace. Her performance is great, and she was one of the most interesting characters in the film. Stephen Lang’s Colonel Quaritch was the main villain in the first Avatar; he wasn’t a very complex character by any means, but he was nonetheless effective for his role, and Lang’s performance was key in making it work. Quaritch died at the end of the first movie, but the film did find a way to get him to return. Mild spoilers (it’s shown early on), but he finds himself in an Avatar body and returns to go after Jake Sully and his family. Lang as always is effortlessly entertaining and scene-chewing, but both the performance and character are even better here. Not only is he more menacing, ruthless and dangerous in Way of the Water, but is more complex and human (ironically). This is a genuine improvement of a character, and I was interested in whatever was happening with his storyline.
Avatar: The Way of Water is yet another technical achievement from James Cameron. While some could just say that its just good visuals and appealing to the eye, the powerful technology helps to convey the story as well as it does. Unsurprisingly it is a visual marvel, Cameron has revolutionized visuals just like what he did in the first movie. The effects are on a whole other level, realistic looking with plenty of details, and it helps to immerse you in this setting. Some of the most impressive aspects are the water effects, which are fantastic. The action is entertaining, well captured and choreographed, and the third act is particularly a thrill to watch. The score from Simon Franglen is great and is very much in line with James Newton Howard’s score for the first movie.
Avatar: The Way of Water is spectacular, beautiful, and epic yet intimate, with great performances, immersive and rich worldbuilding, a simple but compelling story, and outstanding effects. It’s a technical achievement, a great sequel that builds on the original, and one of the best movies of 2022. There was a lot to take in, so I’d need to see it again to check it I have any problems with it. But for now, I’ll just say that it’s worth watching in cinemas for the visuals and technology alone, even though I found the movie great on the whole. The 13-year wait turned out to be well worth it. James Cameron is clearly invested in this story and characters and I’m on board to watch however many sequels he wants to make. Hopefully it won’t have to take too long for Avatar 3 to come out.