Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

No doubt ahead of its predecessor both visually and technically, with compelling stretches of action and world immersion, but its storytelling depth and character development are unexpectedly shallow.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,536

Dir. James Cameron
2022 | USA | Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi | 192 mins | 2.35:1 | English
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet
Plot: Jake Sully lives with his newfound family formed on the extrasolar moon Pandora. Once a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na’vi race to protect their home.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Golden Globes – Best Picture – Drama & Best Director
Distributor: Disney

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family & Way of Life; Militarism & Environmental Destruction
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres – Shaw Waterway
Spoilers: No

Reviewed on IMAX 3D.

The loss of composer James Horner can be sorely felt in this hotly-anticipated sequel thirteen years in the making.  Despite its rather conventional narrative, the first Avatar (2009) was able to soar largely thanks to Horner’s top-tier scoring, one that effortlessly connected the sprawling story together and produced the requisite emotions even when the characters struggled to elicit them. 

The Way of Water doesn’t come close to the experience I had with the first movie, but it remains a tour de force in blockbuster filmmaking and on the grandest scale imaginable. 

It is no doubt ahead of its predecessor both visually and technically, with its world-building and immersion many notches above what we have experienced from Hollywood over the past decade. 

“We cannot allow you to bring your war here.”

This sequel is best described as the ‘Water Edition’ of the same film, coming very close to what Scorsese had lamented about the state of Hollywood’s ‘theme park’ movies, but this is, ironically, its iron-clad defence in the best possible way, the ‘movie experience’ par excellence. 

I generally enjoyed The Way of Water and there are a number of compelling stretches of sea action, particularly in its final hour which sees Cameron very much in his element

However, I can’t say I left the cinema feeling all the more energised or richer a person—some have explained this to be the post-Avatar depression syndrome, though it could just be the film being unable to ground audiences in the unexpectedly shallow narrative and scant character development. 

The themes of family, environmental destruction, and militarism don’t stick as well as in the first movie.  In fact, I cared more about the fate of a large outcasted fish than anyone rendered in blue. 

Grade: B



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