Avatar: The Way of Water Review: A stunning visual spectacle

(L-R): Jake Sully and Neteyam in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Jake Sully and Neteyam in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved. /

Over thirteen years after the original film and countless times being pushed to a different date, the sequel to Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water, is set to hit theaters. Can the sequel live up to the hype? Let’s dive in.

Avatar: The Way of Water follows the story of Jake Sully adapting to his new family that was brought to life on Pandora. As he finally settles in, Jake’s past starts to catch up with him, causing him to do whatever it takes to protect his family. We see the return of James Cameron in the director’s chair with Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Winslet starring in the film.

Spoilers ahead of Avatar: The Way of Water

The film begins by seeing Jake and his family living like any other family. From hunting down food, bonding over the beautiful land, kids being kids, and fighting about dumb stuff. However, as this is happening, the Marines have figured out a way to turn soldiers into Na’vi-like creatures to look just like the rest while also being more deadly. Once that foundation is laid on both sides, we see the Marines attack Pandora leading to the kidnapping of Spider and causing Jake to take his family on the run.

Avatar: The Way of Water’s emotional journey resonates

Shortly after leaving, we see Jake and the family pull up to a new island which causes a stir because they don’t want trouble or these unique (Na’vi) creatures on their island. However, a little convincing by Neytiri (Saldana) and Jake (Worthington) lets them in. Unfortunately, things don’t go particularly well for the kids in the new land because the other kids make fun of them and make them feel like outcasts.

"I know what it’s like to be one big disappointment. – Tonowari"

One of the things that stood out about The Way of Water was that this script had an emotional journey that I didn’t feel from the first one. First, it dives into the importance of family and how a father feels like he always has to protect his own. Then within that same journey, you have a son who is struggling because he has to live up to his father’s high standards. Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) never felt like he could fill those shoes, and no matter how hard he tried, he made mistakes and always felt like he was disappointing his father.

"The way of water has no beginning or no end."

The other part of the story is how Cameron and his writing team deal with the idea of losing someone we love profoundly impacts the story. Loss is a tricky thing that often is done wrong in film, but what Cameron and his team got right was that yearning we feel on the inside, attempting to reconnect in any way possible. We yearn for their touch, voice, or smell in a way that life is never the same after losing them. Several pivotal moments had me in tears.

James Cameron delivered the most impressive visuals I’ve ever seen.

I have never enjoyed 3D because I thought it was tacky, and most movies have only a few moments, and the price is crazy high. However, SEE THIS MOVIE IN 3D (preferably Dolby 3D)! I have never in my life seen such beautiful visuals that truly bring 3D to life in a way we’ve never seen before. Cameron and his team do a brilliant job of engulfing us in this world that makes us feel like we are part of the family. I was (still am) blown away by the visuals.

The cast of Avatar: The Way of Water was genuinely brilliant. From heartfelt performances from Zoe Saldana and Kate Winslet to incredible villain work from Stephen Lang to some great work by the young Na’vis in Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and Bailey Bass. However, Sigourney Weaver as Kiri melts your heart and has one of the most beautiful arcs throughout the whole film.

Overall, as someone who didn’t love the first movie I am genuinely blown away by the spectacle of this sequel. An incredible job by James Cameron (and his team) for giving me a theater experience I will not soon forget. Go see this movie on the biggest screen possible because you don’t want to be left out of the conversation this holiday season.

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Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on Dec.16, 2022.