Published Jan. 30, 2023
BY FLINT NACHBAR
After the release of the first “Avatar” in 2009, fans were left hungry to return to Pandora, director James Cameron’s fictional planet that works as the home planet for the Na’vi, 10-foot-tall humanoid creatures that populate the planet, and 13 years later, Avatar fans flocked to theaters to experience “Avatar: The Way of Water,” a three-hour, visually stunning, yet somewhat lackluster film.
Cameron has built a reputation for crafting compelling and complex film such as “The Terminator” (1984) and “Aliens” (1986), and the original “Avatar” held up to the reputation that Cameron has built for himself as a director: a fresh story with breathtaking 3D technology that seamlessly blends live action and CGI imagery in a way that had never been seen before, along with acting performances that are just as stunning as the visual effects.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is a beautiful cinematic experience and does not lack any of the alluring visuals that the first movie has, but where the second installment in the Avatar series falls short is in the writing and storytelling. The film sees the return of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the trigger-happy commander, who returns to Pandora to kill Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former U.S. Marine who has joined the Omatikaya clan, one of Pandora’s many native clans made up of Na’vi. This time Quaritch dawns the human/Na’vi hybrid look as an avatar.
There is a strange lack of an appearance for a main antagonist in the promotion for “The Way of Water.” This stirred curiosity in who the mystery foe to the Na’vi would be, so to see Quaritch return onto the big screen instead of a new, interesting character is a disappointment, and it ultimately causes the plot to play out the same as the original film, with only a few minor changes, such as a new location and the fact that Sully has a family. This causes the movie to feel unoriginal and lazy, as it falls back into tired cliches and overused plot twists that can’t be redeemed by its visual beauty.
“The Way of Water” is a showcase for how far GCI technology has come, and it does not reach any further past that, lacking depth and creativity, because of its simple story.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is the second film out of a five-film series, and if this is the best they have to offer, expectations should stay low for the next three films. “Avatar” never felt like a film that needed a sequel, let alone a five-film series, making it clear that this is just a cash-grab.