Avatar The Way of Water Review: Recaptures The Visual Magic

With “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the cinematic experience reaches new heights as Cameron transports audiences back to the magnificent world of Pandora in a spectacular and stirring action-packed adventure. Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure. Directed by James Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, the Lightstorm Entertainment Production stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Kate Winslet. Screenplay by James Cameron & Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Story by James Cameron & Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver & Josh Friedman & Shane Salerno. David Valdes and Richard Baneham serve as the film’s executive producers.

Avatar The Way of Water Trailer:

The Good:

Director James Cameron came, saw, and conquered with the amazing visuals in Avatar The Way of Water. The detail and VFX have, yet again, pushed the bar for the industry as a whole. The cinematography alone makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action. There were times when I thought some of the 3D effects were literally an arm’s length away or other times when I felt like I was literally in the water with the characters.

Thanks to the captivating visuals, you can’t help but be in wonder at the new world-building. I loved how much more of Pandora that’s revealed. The new tribe and creatures that were introduced were fascinating to explore. Overall, Pandora came alive in a way that made you feel like it was actually real.

Aside from the beautiful setting, James Cameron didn’t hold back when it came to the thrilling action. The major battle scene in the final act of the movie was a perfect jolt of energy to make me stop thinking about the film’s runtime. I really appreciated how much Cameron advanced human technology to make them a truly terrifying presence. There were some suspenseful chase scenes that seemed reminiscent of Cameron’s Terminator 2 film. This was, again, where the solid cinematography came into play and amped up these exciting moments.

Another thing Cameron succeeded at with Avatar: The Way of Water was tapping into our feels. There was a lot of emotion in this film given the characters, their plight, and other situations that take place. I couldn’t believe that this film had me feeling for some alien whales, but that was the case. Much of the emotional impact was supported by the strong and constant theme of family. Thankfully, it wasn’t as cheesy as in the Fast and Furious franchise, but it was referenced just as much.

Lastly, I thought some of the performances in Avatar The Way of Water were handled well. Stephen Lang was the perfect villain in this story. He was a bit one-note but ever so effective. He was definitely a character you wanted to hate and it was interesting to see a new dynamic added to his character. Next to Lang, I think Zoe Saldana probably had one of the most powerful performances in the film. Her character’s build-up to the end was outstanding, and her delivery was everything. She had a solid 10-minute sequence in the final act where she just stole every scene she was in.

The Bad:

The main weakness for Avatar The Way of Water is the primary story and writing. The biggest issue with the plot was that it was incredibly repetitive and familiar from the previous Avatar movie. While the world-building was nice to see, we literally went down this exact same path last time. We discovered new animals, new plants, new people, had a training sequence and got acclimated to a different culture. Sure there were some minor tweaks for this sequel, but not enough to truly make this feel unique.

The other issue with the plot was how basic it came off to be. There were instances in the movie that felt like a video game. I don’t mean in a visual sense but in a controlled way. For example, there are scenes in the film that feel like the moment when you reload your ammo or maybe you reach a save point in a game.  In addition to that, there were a number of incredibly convenient moments that would happen. As a result, the movie seemed overly predictable. Furthermore, because you can predict much of the simplistic story, some of the stakes felt lessened. A primary example of this was with Jake Sully’s oldest son, Neteyam. His character was primarily used as just a plot device to service his younger sibling and other characters. It was kind of messed up because, given the long run time of the film, so many other characters were given more treatment, but in his case, it wasn’t hard to tell where his story was going to end up.

The Verdict:

Avatar The Way Of Water is a jaw-dropping, visually immersive experience that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. James Cameron continues to raise the bar when it comes to the movie-going experience. While the plot may not be as compelling as one would hope, you’re going into this film for the adventure of it all. The sequel continues the themes of colonization, gentrification, and appropriation in a way that makes it feel like Aliens meets Get Out.

I wouldn’t say that it’s a requirement to rewatch the first Avatar film, but a youtube recap video may be helpful. If you’ve never seen the first film, then I would say watching Avatar (2009) would be a better way to appreciate what this film sets out to do. For those wondering, this movie’s run time is about 3 hours or more, and you do feel it at times. If you’re in need a bathroom break, I’d say you may want to go right around the time the main characters visit the water tribe. Parents of younger children may also want to be advised because this film can be pretty violent and has instances of course language too. Either way, Avatar The Way of Water is more than worth the watch. I would not recommend seeing it in anything less than IMAX or Dolby 3D if possible.

Director: James Cameron
Writer(s): James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang

Avatar: The Way of Water  is in theaters now. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

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Avatar The Way of Water Review: Recaptures The Visual Magic
  • Acting - 7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 10/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 9/10
  • Rewatchability - 6/10
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About Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette

Emmanuel is a Chicago film critic who founded Eman's Movie Reviews. He freelances as a writer and video content creator for sites such as MovieTickets.com. Be sure to join the other 33K+ fans on his Facebook Fan Page for even more movie opinions and fun. Feel free to contact him with any professional inquiries: [email protected]