Avatar: The Way of Water Review – James Cameron is the Sequel King of the World

Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar was a global phenomenon back in 2009 due to its stunning visuals and use of 3D. Although 3D has been played out since then, James Cameron continues to try and push the envelope of what’s possible in cinema with his latest directorial effort: Avatar: The Way of Water. With thirteen years since the first Avatar, Cameron has had time to develop new technology to capture performances underwater. The research and development into furthering the lore of Pandora are not lost in the sequel. 

Despite the second death of 3D again in Hollywood, Cameron proves that 3D can still be a good gimmick… If done right. The 3D in The Way of Water completely sucks you into the world of Pandora. At the same time, the HFR (high frame rate) makes the 3D look buttery smooth. However, the HFR (like Christopher Nolan and IMAX shots) are inconsistent. Cameron uses the HFR in crucial scenes, but the frame rate returns to normal afterward. 

Visually, Avatar: The Way of Water is innovative and wholly groundbreaking—adjectives that have become synonymous with James Cameron throughout his career. Yet, once again, Cameron shows that despite the preachy subject matter of the Avatar films, no one can world-build as he can. The oceanic side of Pandora is teeming with life and beauty. Not to mention, the action sequences are mindblowing and brutal as well. There were times when I thought, “wow, this is way more violent than the first movie.” However, if you think about it, all of the kids who saw Avatar in 2009 are now adults. So, the action grew up with them.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a film that feels small and intimate but still delivers mega-budget thrills.

On the other hand, Avatar: The Way of Water is too long and has too many characters. Several of the characters are underdeveloped and get short-changed because they’re trying to set them up for the third film. As a result, a chunk of the almost 3-hour runtime is dedicated to the future and not the present. Additionally, Cameron is not subtle about the teasing either. He builds everything up with no payoff at the end.

Also, there’s a thematic and narrative redundancy between the broader franchise and this sequel—especially the final act. That’s not to say that The Way of Water doesn’t try something new, but the themes and narrative are similar to the first film.

Overall, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual spectacle that goes on for too long. With fewer characters and a tighter script, The Way of Water would’ve been the next perfect Cameron sequel. As a result, the movie is just great and not perfect. Nevertheless, Avatar: The Way of Water is a film that feels small and intimate but still delivers mega-budget thrills. Oh, and yes, this is a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16th.

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