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Avatar: The Way of Water review: James Cameron pays an ode to himself in a recycled but paradisiacal new world of Pandora

Despite its flaws, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visually stunning look into the oceans that will keep you watching.

Avatar: The Way of Water review: James Cameron pays an ode to himself in a recycled but paradisiacal new world of Pandora
A still from Avatar: The Way of Water

Last Updated: 11.43 AM, Dec 14, 2022


Avatar: The Way of Water opens with the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their children), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they experience. This story is set more than ten years after the events of the first movie.


James Cameron's obsession with water and how it also can be the biggest threat to human life has been witnessed widely with his magnum opus Titanic back in 1996. That film became a go-to for many to set technical standards, and it became an easy crowd-puller across the globe. However, Cameron had previously depicted water as a threat in his 1982 directorial debut, Piranha II: The Spawning, his first feature film. Since then, it has always been either man vs. machines or man vs. water in his films.


Avatar: The Way of Water is an amalgamation of both! The 2009 film established human life as a threat to any planet they visit. After 13 years and a long wait for a sequel, Cameron returns with a recycled version of the first instalment. Well, the story is recyclable, unlike the garbage we find in the ocean that was created and thrown by humans. In this film, the human race is revealed to be garbage once again, only interested in causing havoc and never coexisting.

The first half of Avatar: The Way of Water is a detailed feature film in its own right, providing viewers with a recap of Pandora's world in case you were impatient for the sequel and watched the film multiple times until the new one was released. The extrasolar moon, like Earth, has water and 1,000 islands surrounding it. Having created family life and becoming the jungle leaders, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) once again encounter the sky people descending towards Pandora, like an apocalypse. Thus, this leads to them migrating to Metkayina Island and starting a new family with their four children.

This is the basic premise, and there's no surprising fact about how the story needs to turn. But it's the detailed execution that takes the cake, making us get lost in the oceanic world and dash through the waves just like the marine life.

It's the family life of Jake and Neytiri that gets the most attention in the screenplay. We see them conversing in Naʼvi at the start, and in no time Jake says that they are somewhat comfortable talking only in English, making that a priority altogether. This time, the new language they learn is ASL, so as to converse underwater and also to make sounds from the epiglottis.

A still from Avatar: The Way of Water
A still from Avatar: The Way of Water

The parallels between Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water are easy to draw because the film begins in a documentary style and shows how, this time, not just Jake but the entire Sully family adapt to a newfound marine life. The first film featured dragon-like flying creatures as their mode of transportation; this time, giant whale-like oceanic animals have been added.

Furthermore, Russell Carpenter's cinematography plays a significant role, as it mostly gets into Go-Pro mode, with tilts and high-speed action captured just as we would when shooting on a phone camera. The Jaws-like sequence will keep your heart racing in the first half, establishing the excitement that the film failed to achieve in the first hour.

However, not taking away the credit where it's due, Cameron manages to suck us entirely into his world, like we do while donning augmented reality (AR) glasses. There are jump scares and also the thirst to hate the human race for its selfishness, which keeps the film going. At one point in time, it's quite disturbing to keep the eyes wide open looking at how humans, be it in any form or avatar, will only know how to create a massacre because "money is riding on them."

Avatar: The Way of Water can also be called a nostalgic trip Cameron took to sum up his four-decade-long journey as a filmmaker. We see a nod given to Piranha, Terminator, Abyss, Aliens, Titanic (watch the climax), and, of course, Avatar itself. The 192-minute journey is both intriguing and distracting. But maybe because even I am a "water baby" like Cameron, the world fascinated me more and more as the film progressed.

This time, Sam Worthington was totally in his Na'vi avatar, but his voice is enough to hear him and show that his words are the only thing that matters. So does Zoe Saldaña, who owns this character like nobody else can. She is a delight and, once again, one of the show-stealers. It was heartbreaking to watch Sigourney Weaver's character, Dr. Grace Augustine, die in the first instalment. But we get to see her as Jake and Neytiri's eldest and adopted daughter, Kiri.

You wait with bated breath for Kate Winslet to make a grand entrance after a certain point in time. However, she has been the most underwhelming and underused character in the entire film. It was mostly as if she came and went, but expecting her to make an impact is unrealistic. Hopefully, more can be expected in the next two instalments.

A still from Avatar: The Way of Water
A still from Avatar: The Way of Water

The kids talk mostly like gangstas in this one, which is kind of a letdown in terms of dialogue and actually one of the major drawbacks of the film. It's kind of rudimentary and makes the whole narrative look more cartoonish than a factional reality, as it aspired to be.

Overall, the subplots that make up Avatar: The Way of Water are all connected by an overarching storyline. It takes us back to the first part, and maybe that's what the Avatar series is all about—making different versions of the original story.


Avatar: The Way of Water is a flawed film, but you will not take your eyes off the visual treat it offers of the oceanic world. Let the obsession with water continue, but with a storyline that's hopefully never been seen before.


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