“Avatar: The Way of Water” - Movie Review

Story posted January 24, 2023 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Kaitlyn Murphy

After thirteen long years of waiting, “Avatar” fans around the world finally got a sequel to the 2009 sci-fi film that started it all. “Avatar” still holds the record for the highest grossing movie of all time with over 2.9 billion dollars made, but “Avatar: The Way of Water” is already hot on its heels.

“The Way of Water” places viewers back into the beautiful, lush world of Pandora, where blue beings called “avatars” live peacefully in the forestland with other alien creatures. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Pandora and its magic, and after Disney recreated the land for its Animal Kingdom parks, it became even more popular.

The Disney attractions undoubtedly contributed to the success of “The Way of Water.” With a thirteen year gap between films, it would’ve been easy to forget “Avatar” existed.

But the success of the “Flight of Passage” and “Na’vi River Journey” rides that allowed guests to immerse themselves directly into Pandora grew the demand for the second film to be made.

“The Way of Water” reintroduces the audience to Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who has now become a full-time avatar and started a family with his partner, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña).

They have three blood-related children– Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Tuktiery (Trinity Bliss) – but also adopted Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), the daughter of Grace from the first film (who was also played by Weaver). A little confusing, right?

That is one definite flaw of the “Avatar” movies, since they are made almost entirely with computer generation, it is difficult to match actors to their characters or tell them apart from each other. After an hour or so it becomes easier to identify them from their small hair or clothing differences.

The Sully family is actively being hunted in “The Way of Water,” by an adversary any fan of the first film would recognize– Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who was supposed to be dead. However, he transferred his memories into an avatar and became the very thing he hates the most, just to exact revenge on Jake for “betraying” the humans.

The humans that wanted to murder all avatars and take Pandora for themselves in the first film, and are now doing basically the same thing in the sequel. The plot of “The Way of Water” was unfortunately eerily similar to its predecessor, which took away from the overall enjoyment.

Jake ends up moving his family out of the forest after it was raided by Quaritch’s team, and the Sully’s settle in with the Metkayina Clan, a tribe of water avatars that live among Pandora’s reefs.

The Sully children have a difficult time adapting to their new surroundings, and their peers make fun of them for being “different.” It’s a moving display of what countless immigrant or displaced children go through every day in the real world, and was a refreshing change of pace from the fight scenes.

That’s not to say the fight scenes weren’t incredibly entertaining as well, as they kept up the audience’s attention throughout “The Way of Water’s” three-hour run time.

The main attraction of “The Way of Water” was, unsurprisingly, the water. James Cameron and his team created true magic that has to be seen on the big screen to be believed.

Crystal blue water, glowing bioluminescence, giant whale-like creatures with inky black swirling patterns on their bellies, the oceans of Pandora are just as awe-inspiring as the forest landscapes.

Cameron does an excellent job at creating empathy between the viewers and the creatures of Pandora, mostly by showing what happens when the greedy humans try to exploit them.

The Metkayina Clan and Sully family join together to stop the attacks, which leads into the intense final battle scene of the film.

In this sequence, Zoe Saldaña once again delivers an emotional powerhouse performance, and newcomer Britain Dalton also shines with his portrayal of Lo’ak, the younger brother who constantly feels tossed to the side and just wants to prove himself.

Sam Worthington’s portrayal of Jake Sully has garnered intense praise on the social media app, TikTok, which could also be a contributing factor to the success of the film. The “Avatar” hashtag has over 20.4 billion views on TikTok, turning “The Way of Water” into a global cultural phenomenon.

Overall, “Avatar: The Way of Water” was a gorgeously made film with strengths in its world and character building, but weaknesses with the human vs. avatar plotlines that just felt too similar to the previous installment in the franchise.

Two more “Avatar” films have already been confirmed to be on the way, so audiences can expect to return to Pandora in 2024.

Rating: 3.5/5

Kaitlyn Murphy is a first-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email kvm6255@psu.edu.