The 13-year sequel: Avatar: The Way of Water film review

Daniel Ketchelos—Staff Writer

Thirteen years later, the highest-grossing film of all time, “Avatar,” has received a sequel. James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water,” premiered on Dec.16, 2022, over a decade after the release of the first Avatar film. The original quickly became the most successful film in the world, grossing over $2.9 billion internationally at the box office.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is continuing the success of the franchise.“Avatar: The Way of Water” follows the familiar character, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), and his mission to save his family from the threat of execution by the Sky People. The familiar antagonist, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephan Lang), who seemingly died in Avatar, made a surprise return in the sequel. Quaritch’s memories were uploaded and placed in a new avatar host body so he could continue to hunt Sully in the sequel.

To avoid capture from the Sky People, Sully, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and their five children, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), and Miles “Spider” Socorro (Jack Champion) must flee from their home clan, Omaticaya, in the forest region of Pandora for a new way of life in the water with the Metkayina ocean clan.

Overall, this sequel integrated well with the original 2009 film. New characters were introduced organically while previously introduced characters also maintained important roles. Familiar characters remained, but some were too familiar. The return of Colonel Quaritch felt like a cheap way of bringing conflict back into the plot. After Quaritch’s “death” in the 2009 film, his return felt a little jarring and seemed like the easy way out for the plot.

There’s no doubt that “Avatar: The Way of Water” is visually striking— even more so than the 2009 film. The original release pushed the envelope for what can be done with digital effects in cinema, and the sequel continues to push the limits. Very few scenes in the film felt animated, and the lighting in the film felt organic and natural throughout many of the underwater scenes.

This sequel has the potential of being one of the most beautiful films released within the last few years. Cameron’s Avatar films, while highly successful in creating beautiful worlds that have immersive elements and world-building, lack many of the important story elements of plot and character development.

The plot of this sequel left much to be desired. The film has an abundance of conflict, but it often lacks the substance needed to push it into excellence. Much of the film felt predictable and took too many of the same elements from the original. It felt like a similar plot to the original film but set underwater.

If Cameron had spent more time exploring the inter-world aspects between clans instead of bringing back Quaritch from the dead, this film would have been much more interesting to watch. Many scenes in the sequel felt dragged out and could’ve been cut from the film’s almost dreadfully long three-hour and 12-minute runtime. The film could’ve cut about half an hour of sequences and kept the same plot while keeping the same feel and story development.

While this sequel had many shortcomings, it still performed well at the box office and hopefully set up important plotlines for the remaining three films. “Avatar: The Way of Water’s” $350 million budget has been returned with opening weekend sales of $134.1 million and a total worldwide gross of $1.972 billion to date.

The third Avatar installment, supposedly highlighting the fire element, is expected to reach theaters in December 2024.

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