Avatar: The Way of Water – movie review

The magnificent journey that is Avatar continues with awe-inspiring distinction in The Way of Water.  The franchise has maintained its ability to mesmerise and excite.  Seeing it in 3D on the biggest screen possible, with the most advanced sound, served to heighten an already captivating experience. Maestro James Cameron doesn’t do anything by halves and once again he has excelled with technological wizardry and special effects.

I found it extraordinary how heavily invested I felt in a movie which relies on the latest CGI. I really cared deeply about the characters and their story.

The story continues the legacy of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). In Avatar, he was a paraplegic marine grieving the death of his twin brother and desperately searching for a new path. Now he’s the happily married patriarch of his family and head of the Omatikaya clan, fully inhabiting his Na’vi body. He and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have four children – two boys and two girls. They are Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and adopted teenage daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver).

All is sweet for more than a decade before the Sky people return to Pandora in force. Earth is on the precipice of being uninhabitable and the “raiders” want to make this moon the new home for humanity. This time their secret weapon – not to overlook and armada of land, air and sea vehicles – is an elite team of soldiers resurrected as recombinants. They are autonomous avatars that look like the Na’vi – tall and lean – embedded with the memories of the humans whose DNA was used to create them. Leading the fighting force is the recombinant of the soldier that locked horns with Jake in the original movie and was killed at the end of that film. I speak of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). And surprise, surprise, his target is squarely Jake; who eventually realises that he has to flee the rainforest to try to keep his family safe.

He and the family reluctantly travel across the vast oceans of Pandora, arriving at the home of the Metkayina clan. The Metkayina are sea people, led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet), who thrive underwater. It is there where Jake and his family seek and are granted refuge, having to learn new skills to adapt to their new surroundings. The film includes  conflict between the children of the two clans, disobedience on the part of the kids and their coming of age. Also playing an important part is “Spider” (Jack Champion), a human orphan and bundle of energy who stayed on after the last war and who feels like a Na’vi. Notwithstanding internal conflict, the very real spectre of Quaritch and his mercenaries continues to loom larger as their hunt for Jake will stop at nothing.

While the story arc, and the family and society machinations, in Avatar: The Way of Water follow a familiar route, their realisation is truly masterful. It’s a magnificent looking film that runs for three hours 12 minutes (half an hour more than the first one). As I was so involved, I didn’t find the length to be an issue. Cameron has done a superb job carefully crafting the new watery environment where much of this picture is set. He has put enormous effort and resources into getting the fine detail just right.

The characters are readily relatable, as love, family, friendship, trust, yearning, betrayal, anger and hatred are dominant themes. While Jake continues to play a pivotal role, including squaring off with Quaritch, much focus is on his second son and adopted daughter.

Avatar: The Way of Water is an excellent sequel that sees Cameron continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the big screen. It builds on the plaudits rightly afforded to Avatar 13 years ago. Avatar: The Way of Water is an unqualified stunner.

Alex First


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