More than ten years have passed since the events of the first Avatar film. Avatar: The Way of Water sees Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) as chief as he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) now have five children. Humans have returned to Pandora once again to attempt to colonize it.
Despite his human body being killed off in the first film, Quaritch (Stephen Lang) is now known as a Recombinant; he is an Avatar that has been implanted with his human memories. Quaritch and his entire platoon are now Recombinants and his only mission is to get revenge on Jake Sully.
Even as a James Cameron fan or if you enjoyed the first Avatar film, The Way of Water feels like a pretentious film from the moment you walk into the theater. Despite utilizing groundbreaking technology for its special effects, The Way of Water is shown in 3D which feels like an outdated format these days.
Avatar is the highest-grossing film ever and the added price of the 3D format only makes it seem like more expensive tickets make reaching higher box office success all the more likely. The 3D still has its benefits as gunfire, flying sequences, and sea life look incredible on the big screen.
The Way of Water is very similar to the first film for the first hour, the second hour is when they finally go underwater, and the last hour of the film is essentially all action leading up to the final battle. James Cameron has stated that the film is so long because it’s a character-driven film. Since there are more characters in The Way of Water, it needs a longer runtime. Cameron’s intentions were to tell a compelling story filled with emotion.
But the story, written by five different people, by the way, is unbelievably shallow and one-dimensional. You could make the argument that you don’t go to see Avatar for the story, which is true. James Cameron also hasn’t always relied on a deep story to be successful. But they have had 13 years to mold and shape this into whatever they wanted it to be.
It really seems like we’re going to get the same villain for five films and it’s already exhausting. Quaritch wore out his welcome in the first film and the blue clone of him here has no further character development.
The specifics surrounding his son Spider and Dr. Grace Augustine’s daughter Kiri (both played by Sigourney Weaver) are purposely vague like they either won’t be revealed until a future installment or nobody bothered to finish establishing their origin. They’re now both the adopted kids of Jake and Neytiri.
Jake and Neytiri’s other children, Neteyam, Lo’ak, and Tuk are all just the worst form of blue turds. Neteyam tries to be just like Jake; a worthy hunter that does his best to listen to his parents. Lo’ak is always disobeying Jake’s orders and trying to find his own way.
Lo’ak bonds with a whale-like creature known as a tulkun named Payakan who is literally the coolest character in the film.If you’re hoping for a Free Willy moment, there absolutely is one loaded with giant harpoons, severed limbs, and people consistently and violently being tossed into the air.
And then Tuk is a typical 8-year-old that runs around and gets into a bunch of crap she’s not supposed to before whining about it.
The transition underwater from the forest isn’t all that different. The CGI is breathtaking and phenomenal, but also really bizarre. The high frame rate combined with special effects this realistic makes it feel like you’re watching a three-hour video game cutscene. There are some really cool crab exosuits that crabwalk and look like something the Capsule Corp and Bulma Briefs invented in Dragon Ball Z during the Namek saga.
There’s also this really weird side plot of whale hunters and scientists that are hunting the tulkun and slaughtering them. They go inside the mouth, suck a little hoagie-sized tube of gold goo out of their brain, and literally just throw the carcass away. The gold goo is worth about $80 million and stops human aging. It’s never mentioned again after this sequence.
The Way of Water is the first film repeated with more Na’vi and a big swimming pool. The dialogue is atrocious as everyone, even the scientists, seems to talk like stereotypical marines. The Na’vi hissing thing as a defense mechanism reaches an all-time low. Jake’s family hisses and the reef people of Metakayina do this bouncing up-and-down thing while they stick out their tongues. There’s this entire sequence where they’re arguing and just doing this back and forth for five minutes straight.
Most films are presented at 24 frames per second, but The Way of Water incorporates 48 frames per second. While the entire film may not be presented this way, heavy action sequences like during flight or underwater are presented at a high frame rate. The best way to describe how this looks is when you go over to someone’s house, turn on their TV, and realize they have motion smoothing turned on. Movements seem too fast or too smooth. The intention is to look more natural or genuine when it’s anything but.
James Cameron has always been able to piece together memorable and worthwhile action sequences and The Way of Water is no exception. There’s an explosive train derailing in the first hour that is crazy. The 3D does allow the tips of rifles and the sharp points of arrows and spears to seemingly protrude directly into the theater.
Cameron seems to combine what he learned from the likes of The Terminator films and The Abyss in an attempt to amplify them with more impressive technology. Whether it works as its own thing or is just a rehash of his previous works is entirely up to you.
State-of-the-art special effects, revolutionary underwater cameras, and the resurrection of what is otherwise a mostly forgotten movie theater format can’t hide the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water is basically the same movie as the original with more blue people (some are slightly green now!) that get on your last nerve. The emotion in the film feels forced and the story is like swapping a blue thread for a green one as it threads the same, withered fabric from 2009. This is a special effects extravaganza with nauseating results that only partially impresses and mostly succumbs to being its own biggest fanatic.
- You have never seen CGI or special effects this impressive.
- Absolutely stellar action sequences.
- A weak story stretched well beyond its limits.
- Quaritch is so dry and boring that it hurts your brain.
- Why is everyone so annoying?