There are films that you see and quickly forget. Then, there are films you like to watch for a second or third time. Furthermore, there are movies that you can’t get enough of. However, very rarely, there are films that not only fascinate the audience but also have a lasting impact on the entire industry. One of these milestones in film history was and still is AVATAR. Let’s see if the high expectations can be met by the long-awaited sequel, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.
AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER VS. EXPECTATIONS & DEVELOPMENTS
Fans of the first part have been waiting 13 years for James Cameron and Jon Landau to take us back to Pandora and continue the story of Jake Sully and Neytiri. There are many rumors as to why it took so many years to present the sequel. However, one fact is that AVATAR is still the most successful film of all time.
THE HIGH BAR
Such a smash hit carries the risk that a sequel might not live up to audience expectations, no matter how good it is. In 2009, AVATAR not only set sustainable standards as a film. With his breathtakingly realistic animation technique, James Cameron set the bar for future sci-fi spectacles at the top. So, not only films of the competition, but also the sequel has to be measured against the perfection of AVATAR. In the meantime, we have gotten used to grandiose CGI spectacles.
Computer-animated worlds are no longer special. In addition, times have changed in many areas during the past 13 years. In 2009, the cinema was still a very special place.
There were no streaming services back then. Hard to believe, there were still video stores. But even in these, theatrical films were available only a long time after their release. Sometimes it took years for a film to finding its way into home entertainment.
Today, on the other hand, some films are only shown in cinemas for a week. Then they are already available on one of the leading streaming channels.
AVATAR VS. GAMING
Furthermore, the gaming industry has also developed massively. In video games like Elden Ring, we can immerse ourselves in worlds that not only impress graphically. Rather, we can interact with others here and thus actively influence the story. So, why should we sit in a cinema seat for more than three hours to passively follow what is happening?
THE CINEMA IN TRANSITION
This development makes life difficult for cinemas. The number of visitors has not only been declining since the corona pandemic. Also, movies cost money. And that wants to be earned again. An important source of income is, of course, ticket sales at the cinema box office. Besides, AVATAR is an absolute motion picture.
You have to see it on the big screen to really immerse yourself in the world of Pandora. So, how is the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time supposed to solve these problems and lure the streaming generation to the cinema?
THE AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER STORY & CAST
Even if AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER is a state-of-the-art cinema blockbuster, James Cameron and Jon Landau rely on a well-tried classic recipe. Hence, they spice up a fairly simple but good story with strong characters. Each of them speaks to their own target group.
NEYTIRI (ZOE SALDAÑA)
Neytiri is still a strong and smart fighter. As a mother of five of her own and adopted children, she no longer only fights for her people, but for her family. Even if she doesn’t shy away from a fight herself, she doesn’t want her children to put themselves in danger.
JAKE SULLY (SAM WORTHINGTON)
Jake also wants his children to be safe. However, in the meantime, the former soldier thinks that the eternal struggle is not a solution. Hence, he decides to retreat.
For Neytiri, this means that she has to leave her homeland, the beautiful rainforest. And so the young family in AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER reaches the ocean and the land of the reef people clan Metkayina.
KIRI (Sigourney Weaver)
While her step-siblings sorely miss the forest at first, Kiri very quickly finds a close connection to the water and its inhabitants. She makes friends with many animals and can even communicate with them.
Kiri is the Avatar daughter of the late Dr. Grace Augustine. In AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER, the sensitive girl represents the new generation committed to preserving the ocean and environment. Through her love for the ocean, she once again makes us aware that each of us should not only enjoy its beauty but work to preserve it.
TUK (TRINITY JO-LI BLISS)
Despite her homesickness, Kiri’s stepsister Tuktirey, or Tuk for short, also quickly falls in love with the ocean. With her carefree cheerfulness and curiosity, she enchants everybody in AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER.
Moreover, she always makes us smile. Tuk stands for the pure, the innocence. She knows no evil thoughts. And she sees always the positive even in difficult situations.
NETEYAM (JAMIE FLATTERS)
Neteyam is Neytiri and Jake’s firstborn. The eldest son of the family is already a skilled fighter. However, he also repeatedly takes responsibility for his siblings, especially for his brother Lo’ak. The two guys are similar in many ways.
As such, it’s not always easy for Neteyam to keep his brother out of trouble. Of course, in AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER, he is the more mature and, therefore, more level-headed of the two.
LO’AK (BRITAIN DALTON) & PAYAKAN
Lo’ak is young and rebellious. The secondborn is a real teenager and a daredevil. He doesn’t shy away from risk. And so, he always manages to get himself into big trouble and anger his parents. But his courage comes from a pure heart. Like his mother, he stands up for those he loves. Besides, he fights for what he believes in.
However, he thinks that this is not seen. As a result, Lo’ak feels like an outsider and befriends Payakan, a Tulkun, outcast from his group. Also, the Metkayina clan, which is very close to the Tulkuns, avoids this whale-like creature. Because it is said that he has done something bad in the past. But Lo’ak believes in Payakan and becomes his only friend.
REYA (BAILEY BASS)
Lo’ak thinks the others don’t see him. But he is wrong, because the beautiful Tsireya, Reya for short, does it. In AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER, Reya represents love, friendship, trust, beauty, and the sensual.
The daughter of the leader of the Metkayina clan is a firm believer in Lo’ak. Therefore, she tries, again and again, to convince her parents that they can trust the young Na’vi and his family.
RONAL (KATE WINSLET)
But this is not so easy, because Ronal has her concerns and prejudices against the Na’vi. She is about to have a child and worries about its safety. Moreover, Ronal is worried about her people as they provide shelter to the refugees from the rainforest. But as a mother, she doesn’t have the heart to refuse her help to Neytiri and her children.
SPIDER (JACK CHAMPION)
Miles “Spider” Socorro is a human who chose to live with the Na’vi. Though others often tease him about his species, he holds his own quite well among the Na’vi of the rainforest. He is also Kiri’s best friend. But while the boy considers the Na’vi to be his family, he’s still human.
COLONEL QUARITCH (STEPHEN LANG)
After Neytiri killed Quaritch’s human body in the first part, the head of the Security Forces’ memories were saved. This is how the scientists of the humans, who still trying to colonize Pandora, were able to resurrect Colonel Quaritch. Too bad the guy remembers everything. Hence, Jake’s nemesis has only one goal in AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER, revenge.
IS AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER WORTH WATCHING OR NOT?
Ok, the film lasts over 3 hours. That’s a clear message from James Cameron and a challenge for those whose capacity to absorb information is no more than three minutes. Howsoever, can AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER really convince 192 minutes everybody?
The answer is YES! But…
First of all, AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER is a fantastic film that offers a beautiful story with really interesting and – despite computer animation – approachable, warm characters with whom we can quickly develop a close relationship.
THE NEXT GENERATION
The main role is clearly played by the new generation. And that’s perfect. The kids, older and younger, solve even difficult problems in a constructive and sometimes naïve way. Always following their heart. That makes them all more than lovable. But Kiri stimulates the deepest emotions when she swims with the sea creatures and cuddles with them.
Furthermore, the Metkayina embody the beauty of the sea. Reya, in particular, appears enchanted with her grace and charm.
And these sea creatures speak to us through the Metkayina and Na’vi. This is how we learn about their feelings and suffering. We experience that on Pandora, too, mankind kills the most wonderful creatures without consideration, out of sheer greed. The animals are just wonderful. But the humans are not!
THE LINK TO REALITY
So, James Cameron is always looking for a connection to reality. Therefore, the focus is on the beauty of the ocean. With impressive images, Cameron manages to pull us under the water and literally leave us breathless. We get so intoxicated by the impressive images.
And this is where the “but” comes into play. You absolutely have to watch AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER in 3D! Because that’s how the film unfolds its powerful effect. Even better, you watch it in an IMAX theater.
This is where the digital spectacle gets the icing on the cake. Right at the start, you want to reach for the fireflies and pollen buzzing through the cinema hall. Of course, the story and cast are still worth seeing in 2D. Nevertheless, the film loses that certain something that makes it so particularly worth seeing and unique.
Apart from this small “but”, the question of whether AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER is worth seeing can not only be answered with a simple “yes”, but with an “absolutely YES!” Because not only the ocean is deep. The new AVATAR story goes even deeper. Because there are not only strong messages that we have to take care of the water bodies and their inhabitants and protect them.
In addition, James Cameron shows us incredible diversity. Without using clichés, it can be found in countless scenes. It doesn’t only start with a human boy living with the Na’vi. And it doesn’t stop with refugees setting out to find a new home. In addition, related creatures are strangers to each other and see first the little differences than the many similarities. These topics are not only highly explosive in the reality of the year 2022.
TIME FOR BEAUTY
James Cameron sought The Way of Water and found a way to fuse real-world themes with a fictional story and scenery that consciously or unconsciously makes us think. Probably nobody stays cold with the beautiful water pictures.
This is also the reason for the long runtime of AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER. Because Cameron leaves a lot of space for the pictures in which the beauty of the world plays the leading role.
But we also saw the epitome of real beauty at the premieres. Whether in London, Korea, Los Angeles… Zoe Saldaña, as always, knew how to take the audience’s breath away with her wonderful appearance. But the young actors, too, from Trinity and Bailey to Jack, Jamie, Britain, and Duane, enchanted the audience.
Nevertheless, one star, in particular, showed how beautiful a woman can really be if she accepts her age with dignity. Sigourney Weaver wowed the world with her looks, grace, and personality. And in Avatar, too, the now 73-year-old knows how to make our hearts melt as 14-year-old teenager Kiri.
KEEP OUR OCEANS AMAZING
On the one hand, AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER is a consistently exciting and entertaining sci-fi adventure that impresses with grandiose, unprecedented special effects. On the other hand, the film is a message to all of us. He reminds us that we must not only face life’s own problems but protect the basis of all life, namely the oceans, nature, and its inhabitants.
The “Keep Our Oceans Amazing” campaign initiated by Disney is also an honest and beautiful addition to the latest in-house blockbuster.
THE AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER EVALUATION
So, if we now have to give an evaluation, we must give 11 out of the actual 10 points. But not only because AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER is a genius masterpiece. But because James Cameron kept the child in his heart and his great love for cinema.
He’s the greatest storyteller of our time, delighting us with blockbusters for almost 40 years, from the Terminator to Titanic and of course AVATAR. His love for cinema and the AVATAR story can be seen and felt in every second of the film. And so we have to give that extra point because you don’t just see such a special film. No, you experience it!
Therefore, now it’s not just I See You!, but We See AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER.
Text: Marco Kokkot
Images: 20th Century Studios