Thirteen years after Avatar smashed box office records, filmmaker James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Titanic) takes audiences back to the lush alien moon of Pandora with Avatar: Way of Water in this exciting science fiction sequel. Shot in 3D, the film is set years after the blue native inhabitants, the Na’vi, battled and repelled human colonizers exploiting the moon’s resources. It continues the saga of human-turned-Na’vi Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), now leader of his clan, and his native wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). The Sullys live peacefully in the forest with their sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and daughters Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and the adopted Kiri (Sigourney Weaver).
Eventually, the humans return to Pandora in stronger force than before and resume destroying its pristine resources. Fearing Jake may be personally targeted by avatars of the human mercenaries, the Sullys travel to the aquatic habitat of the Metkayina tribe for refuge. They learn of the ways of their hosts, who have adapted to life near the oceans. It’s not long, however, before the Sullys and the Metkayina tribe must confront the evil avatars.
The 3D visuals and the action carry the film and make it such a spectacle. Because it is such thrilling escapism, audiences can forgive the film’s basic plot, which is a basic rehash of the original film’s derivative plot. Also easily forgiven is how The Way of Water does not stand apart enough from the first film aside from exploring the new settings on Pandora or expanding on in-universe mythology.
The performances of Saldana, Weaver, Bliss, and Kate Winslet as the wife of the Metkayina chief continue Cameron’s legacy of strong female characters. Like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley before, Cameron’s lady Na’vi are just as tough and kicks just as much butt as their male counterparts.
Like its predecessor, Avatar: Way of Water spent more than a decade in the making with the real stars of the movie being the latest state-of-the-art CGI imagery. The Na’vi characters are brought to life with motion-capture technology, including improved wizardry to better secure underwater performances. The characters and settings rendering shows how far this technology has advanced films such as Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace and The Lord of the Rings pioneered such applications.
However, Avatar: Way of Water does not seem as bar-raising as the 2009 original. This might be due to the fact that the original’s pioneering legacy and the large-scale cinematic spectacles with wall-to-wall effects that followed in its wake are not as novel as they once were.
Regardless, Avatar: The Way of Water was also just nominated for four Acadamy Awards earlier this week, including Best Picture. The film is pure escapism from one of Hollywood’s master showmen and worth the premium admission at the multiplex.