‘Avatar: The Way of Water’: A Sophisticated Sequel That Expands Every Aspect.

Ever since 2009, the sight of the James Cameron blockbuster ‘Avatar‘ would make me roll my eyes and groan, it was one of those movies that was just so overhyped and talked about to the point of great annoyance so there was a natural distaste for it on my end. This was the case for quite a few people as the announcement of a new sequel every two years till the franchise reached its conclusion with its fifth movie brought along with it a level of interest not in the movie itself but whether or not a blockbuster from 2009 would be able to pick up where it left off, culturally with audiences and create that same level of hype and revolution for original stories. I had two types of friends at work, ones who were insanely excited for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ and ones who were dragged to watch it, I fell into the latter. I had to finally sit down and watch the first movie mere hours before the screening started and to my surprise, I actually quite liked it. However, nothing compares to the experience I had watching ‘The Way of Water’ on opening weekend on brand new laser projection screens. It was a constant element of awe, wonder, and true disbelief at what I was watching for three straight hours. It is safe to say that I came out that screening a changed man, an ‘Avatar‘ stan. It’s quite crazy because I actually forced my own family to watch the first movie so that we could watch ‘The Way of Water’ in IMAX 3D during our Manchester Trip in January, and that is precisely what we did. ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is just fucking amazing filmmaking and I will be sitting in that damn theatre for every single one of these sequels!

slight spoilers for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ are featured in this review.

It goes without saying that the first ‘Avatar‘ is visually groundbreaking. I found myself staring in complete awe and disbelief in 2022 and this movie came out in 2009, it is without a doubt a massive technical achievement. The character designs for the Na’vi are super unique and eye-catching, the entire world-building on Pandora, that is the entire selling point and the movie absolutely delivers. The aesthetic, the lore, the music, the sound design, everything about Pandora is just incredible. However, I also think the script is quite cliched and I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. Cliches are there for a reason, however, the dialogue and character writing are just annoying at times. Jake Sully is just not captivating, the antagonist is just cartoony beyond belief, it’s just not what the creation of Pandora deserved, and having seen ‘The Way of Water’, I can safely say that this time around, James Cameron adds a much-needed layer of sophistication that was sorely missing in the first movie. From the tone to the writing to the emotional core, this sequel is a step above the first in every conceivable way. I absolutely love and adore where this movie took this franchise both visually but also story-wise.

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ takes Jake and Neytiri and the world of Pandora and expands them naturally. One would think that after that many years, this sequel would be a retread of the first movie and it is to an extent but it establishes a lot of new ground and sets up exciting conflicts for future movies. I absolutely love and adore Jake and Neytiri’s family. Their addition to the movie adds a lot and it allows us to explore more of Pandora which the first movie never really allowed us to since it was just Jake and Neytiri. The coming-of-age element with Lo’ak, Neteyam, and Kiri was genuinely entertaining and captivating. Cameron captured that cheesy coming-of-age touch only it is set in this fantastical world and these teens are blue and tall and have tails. It’s a super fun element in what is otherwise a darker movie than the first. Just like the first movie, the movie lets you spend huge chunks of time exploring and discovering new parts of Pandora through its characters, the first time we saw it through Jake and this time it’s with the entire family. It’s these gorgeous, stunning oceanic scenes that are just jaw-dropping to behold. Never underestimate Cameron’s ability to capture true magic on screen, the sheer amount of detail put into how this world works, what sign language looks like in Pandora, and how the entire culture of the Metkayina differs from the Omaticaya from how their villages look and work differently. It’s all just fascinating to behold, it’s why repeat viewings are so rewarding because staying in Pandora is just incredibly fun, that being said, ‘The Way of Water’ has a far more satisfying screenplay than the first movie and with the way things unravel in the third act, it makes for one of the best third acts I’ve ever seen in my life.

It’s funny that I mentioned ‘Top Gun‘ in the vein of the first ‘Avatar‘ because the movie I got reminded of the most with ‘The Way of Water‘ was ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘. A sequel years in the making comes back with emotion and incredible technique as the biggest priorities. These movies wouldn’t be the mega-hits that they are if they weren’t as emotional as they are. It’s the simplest rule to make any blockbuster, you get the audience to care for these characters so that when the big action-filled third act comes around, the stakes are that much higher. It also helps that the presentation of both these movies is incredible, they are as cinematic as it can get. The entire third act here left me speechless, it actually took me out of the movie to realize that this is the direction they’re going in and that somehow it still hasn’t finished and despite being quite literally out of breath from genuine tension, I didn’t want it to stop. It’s an entire hour of high emotions, adrenaline, and instantly iconic moments. This is one of those movies that upon rewatch is going to be filled with anticipation for one great moment to the next and to have that constant in a three-hour movie is just insane but he does it, he actually gets away with it.

Overall James Cameron manages to not only deliver the promise of an ‘Avatar‘ sequel but he manages to deliver a better movie. It is pointless to say how insane the visual effects look because that is all anyone is saying and I cannot add anything to that other than that I agree that it’s a visual masterpiece. I don’t really have any critiques for it, the runtime didn’t bother me honestly, especially not on rewatch. It’s structured fairly well, the acting is great, the emotion is there and as far as blockbusters go, this and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ should be the blueprint.

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is now showing in cinemas.


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