When the first Avatar came out, it was an experience like no other. Becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time with over $2 billion worldwide in ticket sales, dethroning director James Cameron’s 1997 juggernaut Titanic from the top. Over 13 years later, and it is time to return to Pandora with The Way of Water, the second in a planned franchise. While it may not be as groundbreaking as the first Avatar with its visually-arresting atmosphere, The Way of Water is an intense ride once again worth seeing just for the experience, if not for the 3-D. I went with my fiancee and her mom for Christmas and, as expected, they loved it. While I was just along for the ride, just sitting, trying to take in the world I never thought that we would come back to.
There is no denying that The Way of Water is a spectacle, as shown through Russell Carpenter’s cinematography, and visual effects courtesy of Weta FX. Much like the first Avatar, The Way of Water takes you into a world that looks and feels real. It helps to see in 3-D as certain visuals feel like they are popping right out at the screen, assaulting the senses. Yet, the result is more or less of the same quality. What was once groundbreaking in 2009 does not have that same effect of awe and wonder today. You could argue that the visuals are still just as good as they were 13 years ago, and I would not disagree. It is clear that a lot of hard work and dedication had been put into The Way of Water since production began. Knowing how much passion Cameron has for Avatar, the effort is impeccable. Throughout The Way of Water, Cameron invites us to b, ask in its splendor and keeps us there for almost three-and-a-half hours. A lot of it is spent on an ocean in Pandora, as Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington), now in Na’vi form, his mate, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, whose back must be breaking by carrying the weight of both Avatar and the MCU franchises), and their children, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), and adopted daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who has a connection with Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine, have to learn the titular way of water from the inhabitants led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his pregnant wife, Ronal (Kate Winslet), while preparing to face a new threat with the return of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who had his memories preserved in a Na’vi avatar.
There is a lot to take in, both visually and story-wise. Yet in terms of story, a lot is to be desired as there really is not much of one. Instead, it is a series of set pieces building up to a major battle, with environmentalist messages under its surface. The first Avatar was about preserving the rain-forests, while The Way of Water is about saving our oceans and those that dwell in them, which could be grounds for accusations of heavy-handedness. If anything is for certain, The Way of Water is mainly about family and sacrifice, as each character is faced with choices and self-reflection, leading to some thought-provoking themes. As with Avatar, Cameron is not so much focused on making fresh dialogue and a great story, as much as he is focused on what he believes is a perfect film that audiences will flock to see, even going as far as having his actors do motion-capture underwater for lengths at a time; an impressive feat in itself, being that they also had to hold their breaths. While not as perfect as it tried to be in terms of awe and wonder, The Way of Water is an experience that is equally impressive.