Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

13 Years after Avatar, visionary director James Cameron is back with the long awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water.

Some time has passed after the first film and Jake Sully (Same Worthington) lives as chief with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and children Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), and Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). As Jake is enjoying the beautiful life he’s built, the “sky people” return.

The humans from Earth have returned to colonize Pandora because Earth is dying. Their mission is to control the Na’vi and that starts with taking out Jake Sully and his army of Na’vi that are disrupting the plans of Earth’s military. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) has been cloned and is now living in a Na’vi body. He leads the mission to find Jake and he has one thing on his mind…revenge!

Jake fears the mission to find him will put his village in danger; the Sully family leaves the forest and flees to the Metayina reef people for safety and protection. The Sully family must integrate themselves into a new way of life while trying to avoid being found by Quaritch and his army of Marines in Na’Vi bodies.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a simple plot audiences have seen at least a hundred times. What puts Cameron’s story above most of those films is his ability to draw audiences in with incredible visual storytelling. Cameron uses 3D technology to bring audiences into the world of Pandora and puts you right in the middle of vibrant colors and fascinating creatures – he makes his fantasy  world not only feel real, he immerses audience in it.

A lot happens during the 3hr 12m runtime. Truthfully, the film could be 1hr shorter and still accomplish the same results. Most of those beats are familiar and repetitive concepts audiences have seen in other sci-fi /fantasy films. However, the film doesn’t feel that long because Cameron does a phenomenal job keeping the audience engaged with his visual art.

The film also benefits from an amazing third act. The final hour of the film is a glorious action set piece with arrows, guns, sea creatures, beautiful landscapes, comedy, sadness, and all the action you’d want in a second showdown between Sully and Quaritch.

Where the film is at is weakest is the character development. Along the journey, there are some new interesting characters. Sadly, a lot of them are either underdeveloped or given plot points that don’t go as far as they need to. Most of this is due to the fact Cameron plans on making a few more of these Avatar films and I expect we’ll have those characters and ideas fully flushed out during those stores. It’s very minor thing but does stop the film from truly standing on its own.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a beautiful film. It’s visually stunning from beginning to end. It serves as a solid successor to the first film will be celebrated by many. The issues with this film like underdeveloped characters, pacing, or even some of the cookie-cutter sci-fi plotlines are still present but don’t undercut how enjoyable the ride is. We will see what world of Pandora Cameron and company will reveal next.

Grade: B-