Avatar The Way of Water movie review: The long-awaited sequel to the 2009 film continues its breathtaking saga of Pandora, reuniting audiences with Jake Sully and Neytiri as they protect their young family and ageless traditions.
Moving from the sweeping vistas of Pandora’s forests, James Cameron trains his vision on its seas in Avatar: The Way Of Water. Former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) left his human form in the 2009 original film to become one with the Na’vi and join his mate, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) in the fight to preserve the land and its people. The two have settled into domesticity and started a family, but as they say, peace never lasts long. The Sullys’ world is threatened once again and Jake has to regroup to protect his family after all this time.
James plunges us back into Pandora at a furious pace as we are re-introduced to the world and the years that have gone by. Few friends have remained, old foes return and a new generation is beginning to take shape. Jake and Neytiri’s children have both their spirit and drive as they stumble into new adventures, this time under the sea. The Way of Water introduces us to a new Na’vi clan, the Metkayina, led by leader Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet).
Shifting gears from the floating mountains and dense woods, the lifestyle of the Metkayina is peaceful and remains a safe harbour for the Sully family. One new, young character reminds the ‘refugees’ that ‘the way of the water has no beginning or end’. It is this lesson that they must learn over the events of the film, just as Jake learned about connection among all living things in the first film. If one has not seen the first film, the introduction of characters old and new can be a bit overwhelming seeing as the story sweeps ahead to a grand final, inevitable clash.
The underwater sequences in The Way Of Water are absolutely breathtaking, worth the price of admission ticket alone, and the wonder on the faces of Sully family as they witness this new paradise reflects the amazement of our own. James Horner’s score adds to the moving sequences.
After about the halfway mark, the film settles in to what it has to say. Jake has no choice but to face the looming battle ahead even with his children’s safety at stake. Old threats from the Sky people still persist as they continue to plunder Pandora for its natural wealth. In the first film, it was the mineral unobtanium and now, it is another elixir for the human race. (Also read: Avatar The Way of Water first reactions hail James Cameron film as ‘masterpiece’, critics say it’s better than part 1)
The motion capture performances and other animation, this time around, are much smoother and life-like. Sam and Zoe ground the film with their continued intensity, while their younger son Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), another interesting new character, chafes at the expectations thrust upon him. Sigourney Weaver returns as Jake and Neytiri’s adopted daughter Kiri, who holds many new mysteries. There is so much more to be explored with her connection to the world of the ‘aliens’ and Na’vi. But that can be for a future film in the franchise.
The computer-generated environments too look amazingly real, thanks to the many advancements in technology that have occurred in the 13 years since the 2009 film first premiered. The 3D also has more detail woven in, both above and underground, and doesn’t feel overwhelming. It is something to be experienced only the big screen. The Way of Water’s finale is grand, messy and emotional, with several echoes of James’s own Titanic (1997) and its warm, emotional ending. But the much-touted running time of a 192 minutes isn’t much of a factor here. The action keeps you engaged on the big screen as the screenplay by James, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver sets up scenarios that can take the franchise forward.
Much has been said over the last few years of the slow death of the theatrical experience. Avatar: The Way Of Water is a stunning spectacle that is mounted by a passionate filmmaker who knows exactly how to mould action and emotion together for an enjoyable time at the movies. Don’t miss it.