Avatar: The Way of Water review – a spectacular, immersive, jaw-dropping experience

By Marc Miller
Published: December 13, 2022 (Last updated: last month)


Avatar: The Way of Water is a spectacular, immersive, jaw-dropping Hollywood experience that only Cameron can bring to movie theatres.

We review Avatar: The Way of Water, which does not contain spoilers. 

Tom Cruise may have saved the movie theatre experience and kept the doors open with Top Gun: Maverick last May, but James Cameron may have made it viable for decades to come. Avatar: The Way of Water is an immersive, spectacular pure Hollywood experience like no other you’ll have this year or maybe the next. This is why you go to the movies, for the magical experience a theatre can represent.

The last time we visited Pandora, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, reprising the role that made his career) was permanently transferred by the Tree of Souls into his Avatar. After finally changing sides and defeating Colonel Miles Quaritch (Tombstone‘s Stephen Lang, born to play the Hollywood villain), Jake helped the Na’vi permanently expel all humans from the planet (and don’t forget Norm). Jake has started a family with Ney’tiri (the science fiction and blockbuster queen, Zoe Saldana). Now, they have a family living at peace with other living entities and enjoying what the world has to offer.

They now have four children, including the oldest son, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters). He can do wrong in the eyes of Lo’ak’s (Britain Dalton), their second oldest child. The character serves as the old story cliche of constantly butting heads and being a disappointment to his father. You also have Tuck (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), an adorable and precious eight-year-old daughter attached to Kiri’s hip (Sigourney Weaver, I know, confusing), their adopted teenage daughter. Jake and Ney’tiri serve as surrogate parents to Spider (Jack Champion), a teenager who was born in Hell’s Gate. The real head-scratcher is the return of Lang’s Colonel Quaritch. As we said, he was killed in action when his team tried to invade and destroy in an assault on the Tree of Souls.

However, he is experiencing a resurrection or sorts as a “recom” (or a Recombinant), a highly specialized avatar embedded with the memories of its human driver. In this case, it’s Miles who has a bone to pick with Jake and revenge on his mind. The Colonel returns with a team of recoms, attacking Na’vi land. Miles drives Jake and his family to the reef people clan of Metkayina. They beg the leaders, Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet), for shelter from human combatants. They also dismiss them as in danger from the invaders. (“Oh, Ronal, look at this giant horse someone left on our reef!). To complicate matters, Spider is now Mile’s hostage. He is under forcible threat to serve as a Na’vi scout and translate in the search for Jake and Ney’tiri.

Directed by Cameron and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who penned the first two scripts of the Planet of the Apes reboot, the sequel to Avatar is a consummate marriage of big-time studio entertainment and jaw-dropping technology. Whatever you do, the movie must be experienced first in Imax 3-D. The special effects are mind-blowing and simply spectacular and light years ahead of the original. I won’t pretend to be an expert on such things, but from reports, Cameron again reinvented the wheel to shoot his sequels, including creating a 9,000-gallon water tank to simulate the kinetic energy of the ocean waters.

The director combines performance capture with underwater filming, something that has never been attempted or accomplished. This took his team 18 months to create a new motion capture technology. (Unfortunately, the rumors of a “glassless 3-d” viewing experience have not yet materialized as he hoped). Combine this with the director’s staple director of photography, Russell Carpenter (True Lies, Titanic). The overall experience reminds you why the moviegoing experience should always be a visual medium first and foremost.

Make no mistake, Avatar: The Way of the Water is a commitment running over 180 minutes in length. And the film does have some minor pacing issues in the beginning and toward the end, which is an improvement in comparison to the first. However, regarding the themes in the second Avatar, Cameron has commented that if you weren’t a fan of the first, you probably won’t embrace the sequel.

Yet, think about the time we live in. A new generation, specifically the Obama generation, have grown and are embracing blockbuster with greater meanings. The social and environmental consciousness, along with themes of colonialism and the ever-changing face of what it means to be family because of the new migration, are present and more welcomed than before. That may be familiar territory, and Cameron’s latest is more contained to family elements. But the undercurrents, if you will, that made the first Avatar so successful are still there.

This gives Avatar: The Way of Water that emotional connection that could have been lost in all its glorious technology.

What did you think of the film Avatar: The Way of Water? Comment below.

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