'Avatar: The Way of Water' Easily Bests the Original

Directed by James Cameron

Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Jack Champion, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Winslet

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

BY Marriska FernandesPublished Dec 16, 2022

James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water is nothing short of a cinematic marvel, outweighing its predecessor on many fronts (and fonts), including the jaw-dropping scale and size of a project that's also riding on a far more entertaining storyline.

Taking place over a decade after the first film, the planet of Pandora is now home to marine-turned-Pandoran Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and their four children: Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), their older son who is respectful and obedient; the rebellious younger son, Lo'ak (Britain Dalton); youngest daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), a simply adorable and innocent little kid; and teenager Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), a curious empath whose birth mother was scientist Grace Augustine (also played by Weaver). Their family is complete with the addition of Spider (Jack Champion), a human boy left behind by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and raised among the Na'vi.

Chaos ensues when Quaritch and his team of "sky people" come back to colonize Pandora as they clone themselves as Na'vi avatars. Jake and his family escape to the Metkayina clan on Pandora's shores, led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). There, the Sullys learn to explore the breathtaking aquatic world of Pandora's islands and its many creatures, including the Tulkun, a highly intelligent whale-like species who are spiritually connected with the Metkayina.

The film is visually stunning, soaking up every frame with gorgeous cinematography. It's the underwater world that is the most breathtaking, a love letter to the ocean where the marine life dazzles and splashes audiences into a never-before-seen world. The film does switch between 24 and 48 fps from one shot to the next, something that some critics have found distracting, but it's easy to get used to and I didn't find it to be distracting in any way.

The story is well-formulated, with Cameron giving the audience the chance to connect with the characters and invest in their journey from the very start, rooting for them against the sky people. The introduction of the young children easily win us over and they quickly stand out — especially Lo'ak, who forms a heartwarming bond with Payakan, an outcast among the Tulkun.

The movie delivers both heart and humour, drawing tears one minute and laughs the next. The three-hour-and-ten-minute runtime goes by pretty fast — it's only the first hour that felt a bit unnecessary, but once the Metkayina and their part of Pandora is introduced in the second hour, it's smooth sailing. Notably, the stunt choreography of the Na'vi, Metkayina and the Tulkun is a marvel to watch.

Avatar: The Way of Water is an achievement of epic scale and proportions, and best watched in IMAX, which allows audiences to dive right into Cameron's flights of fantasy and follow the Sully family on this wild adventure. There were many moments that earned applause, while others got the crowd hooting and cheering. It is, for a lack of a better word, a masterpiece.
(20th Century Studios)

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