Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) Review
Updated: Jan 27
DESPITE directing my favourite movie in history Terminator 2: Judgement Day, James Cameron has, oddly enough, also created what I believe to be the most overrated movie: Avatar. The 2009 phenomenon garnered gargantuan praise from movie-goers and critics alike, praising the film for its game-changing visuals effects. While I can't deny its beautiful effects, Avatar's story and characters have always been bland and forgettable to me, a problem promised to be mended in the long-awaited sequel, and spoiler alert: almost nothing has changed.
After living with the native Na'vi people of Pandora for over a decade, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his newfound family are faced with a familiar foe seeking revenge. This forces Sully, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of his family to travel to undiscovered locations on Pandora to help combat Sully's past and adapt to the sudden change in landscape.
The Way of Water attempts to do what any good sequel should: expand the universe and further develop characters we've come to know and love, and while this successor technically achieves its goal, any development we are given feels disingenuous to the point where some of our main characters are disposable and forgettable; not something you want out of a 3 hour-plus movie. Cameron gives focus to Sully's kids in the sequel; a smart decision, in theory, soon turns moot by the time we're given reason to care for the safety of the children. Dull and short-sighted writing makes them hard to get behind, especially when they show little character progression and keep getting themselves into situations too similar to be deemed as "kids being kids".
Debut characters are hurt the most by this lacklustre script, with the younger cast being given little direction and coming off more robotic as every hour passes. Franchise veterans Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang carry the performance side of the movie, with Saldana in particular becoming her Na'vi persona to solidify her place as the Avatar MVP and one of the many reasons why she's called upon to portray sci-fi characters time and time again.
But despite all these negatives, Way of Water is still a crowning achievement for visuals effects in cinema. Cameron proved in 2009 that he could change the game with the original through its stunning visuals, and 13 years later, he's managed to outshine himself by giving audiences a sequel that looks gorgeous and revolutionary. The CGI water effects are used frequently throughout, looking and feeling realistic with every stroke that is taken.
Avatar: The Way of Water is a glass half-full/empty kind of movie: if you focus on the visual positives and disregard the negatives of underwhelming characters and an over-indulgent runtime, then this long-awaited sequel will be right up your alley. However, while I can respect James Cameron for his commitment to his craft, a bit more commitment should be put into the story for the trio of sequels set to release over the next few years.