The first Avatar film by James Cameron was a visual marvel that pushed the boundaries of computer effects in movies. While many had criticisms of the story it told, nobody could deny how beautiful and surreal the movie looked with its colorful imagery. The world of Pandora wowed audiences by making us believe in things from another place we never saw before. The highly anticipated sequel, which took many years to produce, may have done it again by bringing us back to Pandora to show us something else brand new about it. Without question, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual spectacle that will have you dropping your jaw in amazement, even with a few stumbles with its plot.
Just when we thought we saw enough great things about Pandora, the second Avatar movie manages to bring us to another part of the planet with its own unique characteristics. The story continues a number of years after the events of the first movie, with Jake Sully and Neytiri raising a family within the forest of Pandora among the Na’vi. Neytiri gives birth to 3 kids from Jake and adopts two more into the family, including the human son of Jake’s enemy Colonel Miles Quaritch from the first film. After years of peace, the humans from Earth return back to Pandora to colonize it once again. Before his death Colonel Quaritch was cloned into a Na’vi body and given archived memories from his previous life, giving him the motivation to hunt down Jake and Neytiri. Over the course of the movie, Jake flees with his family to islands on Pandora ruled by the Metkayina tribe and adapts to their way of life, while also trying to avoid conflict with the humans who have returned to the planet.
The main plot of the movie is good but has pacing issues throughout the 3-hour runtime of the film. There’s a lot of setup and info dump at the beginning, with a big sidetrack in the middle before things pick up and return to the main plot again. Much of the time is spent building up this new portion of Pandora, showing the Metkayina tribe and their way of life among the seas. There are elements that tie back into the conflict between Jake and Quaritch, but much of it won’t pay off until the last act of the movie.
But is the world-building in Avatar: The Way of Water really good? Much of the praise for the movie will be for the visuals, specifically the wildlife that interacts with the Na’vi. The Metkayina look different than the Na’vi we saw in the first film and live differently than their distant relatives. But how all of this is presented is what will mesmerize and intrigue everyone who watches the movie.
Many underwater scenes look fantastic and borderline feel as if they were shot practically instead of using CGI. The Na’vi and creatures swimming through the sea look gorgeous and stand out as among the best underwater sections ever made, especially among computer-generated scenes. You’ll feel like they put the camera underwater and actually saw some of these creatures swimming around.
While the visuals in the movie are a masterclass in how to make things feel real, the characters we meet are still relatable just as much. There’s a lot that happens between all of Jake’s children and how they interact with the Metkayina tribes, as well as the strong family relationships between Jake, Neytiri, and the kids. The visual spectacle of the film is there, but it doesn’t get away from feeling like a well-thought-out story about a family trying to remain strong in the face of hardships. Everything else around that is the icing on the cake.
Both Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington are fantastic in their roles once again, but we spend a lot of time with the child cast of the film playing all of Jake’s kids to really see them shine. Some might dismiss much of it as teen drama within a big-budget action movie, but there is a very nice range of emotions and events that circle back to the big parts of the plot to make it all feel very significant. The rest of the cast is fantastic, with a nice combination of returning actors from the first film and newcomers playing the roles of the Metkayina Na’vi.
If the biggest problems with Avatar: The Way of Water are the long runtime and small pacing issues, then the majority of the film is a big success for what James Cameron set out to do. We’re definitely going to see more Avatar films in the near future and hopefully, they won’t take as long to make. But it’s good having the second film of this series knock it out of the park and impact the medium in a similar way to its predecessor. Avatar: The Way of Water is a blockbuster that you’ll definitely want to see at least once when you can. More than likely we still haven’t seen the absolute best that this series has yet to show us, but it’s exciting to see what will come from it next.
Have you had a chance to see Avatar: The Way of Water yet? Did you enjoy the first film? Post a comment for us down below and let us know your thoughts about it!
Avatar: The Way of Water
The story has some pacing issues with the long runtime, but the central themes and conflict are still good to follow. The visuals are an absolute masterclass in computer effects on film, with fantastic scenes that look jaw-droppingly amazing. The world-building of the series is very well done in this sequel, despite a few stumbles in the plot.