After 3 Hours, I Think My Avatar Has Traveled Every Way of the Water

The Stream: Super long and repetitive

The Big Screen: Beautiful and a couple very good action sequences

The Final Bill: An unimaginative story behind a beautiful landscape

– S2S: Movie Review and Trip Fontaine
Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron (screenplay by), Rick Jaffa (screenplay by), Amanda Silver (screenplay by)
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Jack Champion
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 3 hours 3 minutes
Production Companies: 20th Century Studios, TSG Entertainment, Lightstorm Entertainment
Platform: Released in theaters December 16, 2022
Notable Trailers: John Wick: Chapter 4, Barbie, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Oppenheimer, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

It has been 13 years since the original Avatar became one of the highest grossing movies in history. It was a huge spectacle with a new planet, Pandora; indigenous people, the Na’vi; motion capture performances and a lot of never-before-seen technology. The plot was pretty basic, but the impact of the all the technical impacts made it more than the sum of its parts. Here, we are all these years later and finally the long-awaited sequel has been released. James Cameron has submerged us in the waters of Pandora for the first of many sequels called Avatar: The Way of Water.

As a quick refresher, at the end of Avatar, Jake Sully, who was human in Avatar form, becomes part of the Na’vi. He’s fallen in love with Neytiri and her people. Years later, we find Jake Sully living a peaceful life with his family in the forests of Pandora, but the threat of the sky people’s return looms. Of course, that threat comes to destroy Jake’s family’s peace. Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na’vi race to protect their home. Blue combat hijinks ensue.

Now, everything about this movie screams big screen viewing. We have James Cameron, a long delay since the first movie, awesome tech and CGI, big fight scenes etc. This highly imaginative movie just lacks imagination. Yes, that seems contradictory to state, but it’s the best way to describe what’s going on here. For such a long delay for this sequel to come, Cameron and crew failed to use those years to expand upon the Avatar universe and tell a more interesting story. While we’re dealing with slightly new creatures that live in the water rather than the forest, the plot is basically the same as the original. The real question is whether the new technology that’s been developed and utilized in making The Way of Water makes this movie worthwhile. I’m fairly ambivalent about it.

On one hand, the spectacle of the effects is truly stunning. The water is so blue and clear. The colors are dazzling. Your eyes can barely keep up because there is something new to see, it seems, in every frame. There are animals that we haven’t seen before that dominate the screen. Those animals have personalities of their own. The integration of real human performances with the motion capture performances is pretty seamless as well. There really isn’t anything wrong with the look of Avatar: The Way of Water. Also, when the action kicks into high gear 90 minutes into the movie, the tension and momentum take over and make the last 90 minutes sail by.

On the other hand, when a movie is 3 hours long, it would be great for it to be at least a little unpredictable. It feels like every beat of the story is either a carbon copy of what happened in the original or it is a predictable extension of what’s to come. Furthermore, the obvious environmental theme is not very subtle. It is good that the filmmakers have a point of view and that this crazy, action spectacle has something to say about our world, but does it have to be so obvious? Really, 3 hours to tell this story??? No, sir! Not necessary.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, the wait for Avatar: The Way of Water was worth it. The technology and effects that are used to bring this movie to life are truly spectacular. The story itself is not as imaginative as the tools used to tell it. Also, you have to sacrifice 3 hours of your day to this. The movie should be seen on the big screen – that’s pretty obvious – but an early matinee should suffice. Get a bowl of popcorn and you might need another snack to tide you over.