Avatar: The Way of Water: You’ll Love It Or You Won’t

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

After years of talking about the film, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is finally arriving on the big screen in theaters.

Here’s the thing about Avatar: you’re either a fan or you’re not. How one feels about the first movie will more or less be the way one feels about the second. I would have been fine just watching the 2D version of the film. Maybe it’s because of where I was sitting in the theater but I didn’t feel that the 3D added anything special–other than a pounding headache. Of course, I had an exit light being reflected in my eyes when I wasn’t reclining. The other thing here is that the visual effects don’t feel any different than they did in 2009. I cannot stress it enough when I say that this film does not need to be three hours long. It feels every bit of it, too. There are three-hour films that don’t feel three hours and there are those that do. Bring back the intermission, please!

The thing about this film is that visual effects are not enough to make up for the weak script. The HFR was distracting enough with the frequent switches to and from the different frame rates. This doesn’t even get me started on the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water makes some terrible mistakes with the script and I’m getting to this soon. Would it hurt to get the environmental message across without showing us the trauma happening to the animals?

Avatar: The Way of Water
(L-R): Tsireya (Bailey Bass), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In the gazillion years since the first film was released in theaters, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) are now the parents of four children: Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), and adopted teenage daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). A human kid, Spider (Jack Champion), frequently hangs out with the family because of being unable to go back to Earth. The gist of the film is that trouble follows them in the form of a reincarnated Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). This forces the Sully family to hide out with the Metkayina clan of Pandora, in which they learn all about the way of water. Not surprisingly, there are battles and tragedies that follow. Where the first film had to set up the story, this film feels more or less the same. I mean, even the antagonist is the same guy.

As the Resources Development Administration (RDA) returns, they plan to colonize Pandora. One can probably read a deeper meaning about not ruining the environment. The Earth is dying and so the RDA wants Pandora to be humanity’s new home. General Francis Ardmore (Edie Falco) leads the RDA’s efforts in a walled-off city. This time around, the RDA has recombinants (recoms) to use as their secret weapon. That’s where Col. Miles Quaritch comes back into play. He has all the memories of the real guy and so he has it out for Jake Sully. Some things do not change now, do they?

We’ll see what legacy this film will have in store. The first film led to a deluge of films being converted or made in 3D even though it added nothing to the story. For many films, it was nothing but a cash grab and led many indie films to fight for screen time. Seeing as where things stand right now, things do not bode well for the future of anything that isn’t a blockbuster tentpole. All one needs to do is look at the weekly box office. Make no mistake that Avatar: The Way of Water will make money, of course. This doesn’t change the fact that it’s not a great film, let alone even a good one. There are Oscar-worthy films struggling to find an audience simply because they’re not a Marvel film.

Here is what has happened since the last Avatar movie: an entire Marvel Cinematic Universe save for the first two installments. How do you make these action films and not make them feel like they’re the same story. This is, once again, a problem with the Avatar movies. The mere fact that Stephen Lang is playing a villain once again feels more like a rehash. I do not like going to movie theaters to watch a rehash of a previous film. It’s great that James Cameron introduces us to another area of Pandora but it shouldn’t come at the expense of rehashing a villain. You do you but this is still a franchise that leaves me feeling meh in general. Besides, we’ve already seen this film before in FernGully: The Last Rainforest.

DIRECTOR: James Cameron
SCREENWRITERS: James Cameron & Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
CAST: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi, and Kate Winslet

20th Century Studios will release Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters on December 16, 2022. Grade: 2.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.