Avatar The Way of Water

Movie Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

When the original Avatar came out back in 2009 and single-handedly revived audience interest in 3D movies, I was all-too-happy to drive 45 minutes to the nearest appropriately-equipped theater to experience it in it’s intended format, an experience that at the time I felt richly rewarded for. The visuals were stunning and the 3D made them impressive in a way that I hadn’t seen previously. In the ensuing years though, as the only way to watch the movie was at home (where poorly thought out 3D TVs hadn’t caught on at all), the movie began to lose some of its luster. The world of Pandora was still beautiful to behold, but so were many other fantastical creations in both films and television shows. The story, however well-intentioned it’s message may be, was not quite so engaging in 2D, and if whether or not a movie is good heavily relies on how many dimensions it’s viewed in, maybe it isn’t really that good of a movie. So 13 years later when the sequel came out, I wasn’t quite so eager to race to the multiplex, which is why I’m only seeing this movie now that it’s available for home-viewing.

Avatar: The Way of Water takes place 16 years after the events of the first movie. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) now lives permanently as a Na’vi and has raised a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), while also becoming the chief of the Omatikaya clan. Things are going well until the RDA returns to begin colonizing the planet to create a new home for the people of Earth, which is rapidly becoming inhospitable to life. Humanity immediately sets about dispatching cruel and thoughtless destruction onto the environment of Pandora, which causes Jake to lead his clan in a fight against the interlopers.

One year later, the RDA sends a team of Recombinants (Na’vi avatars implanted with the memories of human soldiers killed in combat) lead by one who embodies the late Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake’s chief enemy in the first movie. The team manages to capture Jake’s children, but then lose them to a rescue attempt, except for Spider (Jack Champion), Miles’ human child who was left behind as an infant all those years ago and has since been raised as a Sully. Quaritch takes his “son” back to base and attempts to bond with him in the hopes of gaining valuable intel, while Jake decides that the best thing he can do for the safety of his tribe is to flee into exile and go into hiding with the Metkayina tribe in a vast archipelago.

Having lived on the water for so long, the reef people have different customs and physical traits that make adaptation to their new life difficult for the Sully family, but they gradually begin to learn the ways of water (oh! there it is!), dealing with some culture clashes on the way towards hopefully starting a new, peaceful life. But Quaritch holds a vendetta against Jake for “killing” him the last time around, and will stop at nothing to find him, so it’s only a matter of time before the RDA begins to hone in on his location, putting his family and their new friends at risk once more.

As with the first film, the environment is absolutely stunning and convincingly realized. Would it have been better in 3D? Probably, but it’s still something to behold as it is. Also as with the first film, the plot is somewhat less successful. There are way too many times during the parts of it I just described that I felt myself beginning to get bored (would 3D have helped prevent that?), and even in hindsight it felt like some scenes were unnecessary and only served to extend the already long runtime. Once all the pieces come together in the last hour things do liven up, and all the time spent with the Sully family does keep the viewer invested in their fates. James Cameron once again proves how capably he can stage memorable action sequences, and the movie ends strongly. Was it strong enough to get me back into a theater for Part 3 in 2024? We’ll see. ★★★


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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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