Avatar: The Way of Water Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
James Cameron returns to the moon of Pandora after thirteen years of absence. Question is, can this sequel impress, or is this vision flawed?
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Trinity Jo-Bliss, James Flatters, Britain Dalton, Jack Champion, Bailey Bass, Joel David Moore, & Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder.
Run Time: 192 min.
US Release: 16 December 2022
UK Release: 16 December 2022
German Release: 14 December 2022
A merry belated Christmas to you all! Well, here it finally is… my review for the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. Apologies that it took longer than expected, I was hoping to have this review ready to post last week Monday. Unfortunately, as life is, things got in the way. Nevermind though, here I am now, ready to give you my opinion of the “Dances with Smurfs” sequel. I like the first Avatar for what it was; a visual spectacle meant to push the borders of technology in the film industry. However, I did have a couple of issues with it. Taking that into account, I was rather pessimistic about this second part.
As Jake Sully enjoys his newfound life, with his family on the extrasolar moon Pandora, a once familiar threat returns, to finish what was previously started. Jake must soon take up arms again, to protect their home from the oppressors.
Cameron’s second instalment in the Avatar franchise has a thirteen-year-long history, with the first couple of sequels planned for release in 2014 and 2015. However, that never came to fruition, as the writing process took longer than expected, with scripts being completely re-written, or overhauled. Finally, early this year, audiences obtained a first trailer that promised a release two weeks before Christmas.
While the writing has been extensive, with many changes made so that the narratives would all feel more inter-connected, I need to confess that one of the biggest weaknesses this blockbuster has, is that it doesn’t really have a cohesive plot. The first twenty, to thirty minutes recap, what happened between in timespan, in which the humans left the moon of Pandora defeated and came back to wage a new war against the Na’vi. It focuses more on the characters of Sully as well as his native wife Neytiri, forming a family.
As soon as the human element comes into play, the plot branches off in too many directions, leaving no possibility of telling a well-structured tale. It also causes some pretty heavy pacing issues, explicitly around the middle, as it doesn’t merit an over three-hour-long runtime That said, as with the first flick, the themes of environmentalism, as well as spiritualism, are woven in well. The main focus shifts this time to the subject of family versus duty. Cameron proves to be a master manipulator when it comes to emotions! Specific plot beats, especially the exploration of the family bond, are included to evoke emotions in the audience.
The subject of environmentalism also gets a bigger boost, as the director directly references problems that we are experiencing here, in our world today. Be it whaling, the pollution of oceans or deforestation, those themes are all represented!
New characters get to shine, while old ones are put to the sideline. Yes, this is still Jake Sully’s show, however, even the lead persona gets shoved aside for most of the second act. Worthington’s performance improved on what he already delivered in 2009’s Avatar, as his character is not just a soldier anymore. Sully is a father with a family, which is being threatened by the resurfacing of human colonisation, and they do have a bone to pick with him. While his military upbringing is very much reflected in his parenting, his most important mission is to protect his wife plus children, even if it means turning away from a fight.
Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri is the one who gets shoved to a supporting role, she is often on screen, yet has nothing to do to say most of the time. In her absence, the director fleshed out her children.
Sigourney Weaver returns, though not in her old role of Dr. Grace Augustine. Instead, she plays the adopted daughter of Jake and Neytiri, Kiri. Weaver gives an incredibly powerful performance that was full of emotions. Kiri herself is an exceptional character, even for a Na’vi, as she has a special connection to the spiritual realm. I won’t say more about the character, as it would lead to spoilers.
Britain Dalton breathes life into the character of Lo’ak, the second son of the Sullys. Lo’ak is easy to break rules, always striving to be like his father, therefore ignoring orders. He is mostly protected by his older brother Neteyam when Jake reprimands him for his actions. Dalton gives a solid acting rendition.
Further new personas include Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), the chieftain of the water tribe, as well as a very openly warmhearted character. Ronal, portrayed by Kate Winslet, is the wife of the chieftain, yet very different to her husband. She distrusts outsiders from other clans, giving off a very hostile energy. Joel David Moore returns as Dr. Norm Spellman, though his character has even less screen time than before. Further characters are introduced but to avoid spoilers, I will leave them out of my review.
The Way of the Water is filmed at a higher frame rate, using 48 fps for underwater and action-oriented segments, while the traditional 24 fps were used for more tranquil moments. While I am personally not a fan of the higher frame rate, it did give the 3D effects smother depths. The live-action parts of the blockbuster were filmed in New Zealand, while the performance capture was filmed in Manhattan Beach, California.
The pictures are once again magnificent! It is incredible how far technology advanced in these couple of years. This is what this movie is all about, a display of effects and it looks marvellous! The water scenes are out of this world, paired with incredible picturesque imagery, which sets a new stage for future effects in the world of cinema. The colours, the textures, the depth, it all looks real! The blending of motion capture with underwater filming was a completely new field in the effects department, never tried before.
The music was this time composed by Simon Franglen, who took over after the tragic accident that cost Horner his life. Franglen builds upon Horner’s former composition, using parts of his melodies but creating mostly his own score for this second part.
Verdict: Judged by the merits of what this motion picture is, Cameron’s sequel to the 2009 cinematic spectacle of the year, tops its predecessor in every way possible. However, don’t expect complex storytelling, with subjects that will stay long with you after having seen it in cinemas. The Way of Water is what its predecessor was, a visual extravaganza with jaw-dropping graphics, great 3D effects and a larger-than-life final battle. Storytelling-wise, it is the same as its predecessor. Nonetheless, the motion capture and CGI look more polished, with the theme of spiritualism much more focused in this one. The cinematography is amazing, as is the musical composition of Simon Franglen, who took over after Horner’s passing. It is not a perfect movie! For one, there was no necessity to make this a three-hour-long flick, containing several pacing issues. That said, as a striking cinematic display, Avatar: The Way of the Water deserves an 8.5 out of 10.
With the end of the year approaching, I have four reviews left to post that will be up in the following days. So keep an eye out & as always - thank you very much for reading!