Arts & Entertainment

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has a predictable plot but stunning visuals

The long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s “Avatar” is here— and it seems James Cameron has pulled it off once again.

In 2009, audiences were in awe of “Avatar”’s groundbreaking CGI and use of performance capture. Now in 2022, with the second installment things are no different. Director James Cameron’s (also known for “Titanic” and “The Terminator”) ambitious film series is in full swing now, and seems unlikely to falter despite some criticisms.  

“Avatar: The Way of Water” returns to the moon Pandora and its blue alien inhabitants. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his partner Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have four children while all living happily on Pandora, but when the mercenaries who threatened Pandora and the Na’vi in the first film return for vengeance, their peaceful life is upturned. Sully and his family must then abandon their home and turn to an ocean clan for help. 

The “Avatar” films are an experience and a spectacle. There is nothing quite like sitting in a theater and viewing one of the films for the first time. Cameron’s dedication to the films and the care put into the CGI is apparent, and every frame of the film is an artful masterpiece. If one decides to see the film in the theaters in IMAX and/or 3D, some scenes might be disorienting, so viewer discretion is advised. Once the film has a home release, this should not be an issue.

The plot itself leaves much to be desired. Cameron’s full-force approach to action set pieces makes this complaint fade to the background. Many seeds are planted for future installments, so this film on its own leaves a lot of threads untouched. Once the third installment is announced, viewers will hopefully gain some clarity on those loose ends. 

While the plot is improved in terms of originality from the first film, it is still not particularly inventive. The dialogue was often awkward, but aside from the clumsy narration in the beginning, it becomes easy to ignore. The details in the ocean creatures are incredible, and the characters’ interactions are believable and drive the story. The highlights come with new animal species and new characters who bring a youthful touch to the series. Every sequence in the ocean is breathtaking and the introduction of an intelligent whale species provides more emotional depth to the film with their relationship to the main characters and the world. 

Zoe Saldana is incredible in her role as Neytiri, and it is a shame she isn’t more prominent in this film compared to the first. Sam Worthington, still struggling with an American accent, does well reprising his role, bringing new layers to Jake Sully as a character. The children put in impressive performances that add more stakes to the film. Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis are a welcome addition to the cast as the leaders of the ocean clan. 

The film has already brought on many negative opinions. Some even argue this film and the first film have ignorant undertones when it comes to the allegories, citing similarities to other white savior stories like “Dances With Wolves.” It seems clear that those who disliked the first film will probably not like this sequel, and those who enjoyed the first film will probably like the new one. One thing is generally decided on: The special effects are wonderful and making the ocean a setting creates an engaging viewing experience. All in all, the film was personally enjoyable to watch and that is the most important thing. Though “Avatar” is known for its visuals, the first film is often brushed aside in terms of longevity and influence. Whether or not this film will endure in pop culture is something only time can tell. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is currently playing in theaters. 

4/5 Stars