Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) – Review
(3 / 4)
Avatar: The Way of Water matches an improved central narrative with breathtaking, hyper-realistic visual effects that astound and amaze. James Cameron has raised the bar once more, using unique technology to craft another larger-than-life epic film.
If you want to properly appreciate this new installment of Cameron’s magnum opus, watch it at the biggest IMAX you can find.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) return a decade after the events of the previous Avatar movie. They are no longer merely the leaders of their clan, but also the parents of a large and growing family.
Adding to their family, Jake and Neytiri adopt Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), a teeange Na’vi girl with a mysterious birth, as well as Spider (Jack Champion), a human child left on Pandora after the first Avatar.
As the Omatikaya clan have rebuilt following the conclusion of the last Avatar entry, Jake and his family have spent a decade together in paradise. Unfortunately for our heroes, despite their hard-fought victory, all good things must come to an end.
Appearing as a foreboding new star in Pandora’s night sky, the RDA returns with a new colonization fleet that dwarfs any military they’ve sent before.
Pollution on 22nd Century Earth is progressing so rapidly that it will soon be uninhabitable to human life. Unwilling to live in harmony with the Earth, humanity has instead arrived on Pandora to repeat their cycle of colonial devastation.
Stephen Lang features as the main antagonist, despite his character’s death in the previous film. It’s impossible to provide any further details about his character in Avatar: The Way of Water without wading into significant spoilers.
The returning themes of economic stewardship and colonial oppression in Avatar: The Way of Water are unsubtle, but their resonance has only increased since the first film’s release. Cameron has woven a sprawling, epic narrative that tells a story spanning several generations. The worldbuilding is incredibly detailed and makes Avatar‘s universe feel complex and realistic.
But exceeding that in realism is the groundbreaking CGI that bring Pandora to life. Even before Pandora’s ocean comes into play, all the Na’vi look incredibly lifelike with individual pores visible on their skin. From the flora to the fauna, Pandora is a vibrant and verdant world that makes Earth look dull by comparison.
The oceans of Pandora, on the other hand, takes this Avatar sequel from evolutionary to revolutionary. Cameron’s one-of-a-kind underwater mo-cap technology puts each scene leagues and fathoms beyond Wakanda Forever‘s murky depths.
The high frame-rate (HFR) format of 48fps makes 3D showings surprisingly pleasant on the eye compared to the Hollywood-standard 24fps. Audiences will take a few minutes to adjust to the change, but it’s largely preferrable.
Unfortunately, not all scenes are in HFR, and when the frame rate drops in half, the stutter is irritatingly notable. This inconsistent and intentional choice of Cameron’s only serves to distract the audience rather than enhance their experience.
The actors’ performances are serviceable but run-of-the-mill, including supporting Na’vi Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). Sigourney Weaver does well with the dramatic elements of Kiri’s character, but her adult voice sounds unusual to the ear when cast as a teenager.
Despite these flaws, Avatar: The Way of Water swells with immense spectacle and epic scale. Truly a blockbuster in every sense of the word, James Cameron transforms a simple narrative into an awe-striking journey. Audiences will leave with only one word in their heads: “Wow.“