“Avatar: The Way of Water” is lush and immersive: a High Five review

by Matthew Escosia
Avatar The Way of Water
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SEA Wave reviews “Avatar: The Way of Water”, James Cameron’s follow-up to his 2009 hit starring Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña.

Never doubt James Cameron. Going into his latest film “Avatar: The Way of Water”, the long-in-development sequel to the biggest film of all-time “Avatar”, isn’t particularly exciting due to the multiple delays it had to go through during production.

Why wouldn’t we be doubtful? The project is one of those “will it ever get made” films and the whole world may have forgotten about Pandora, the fictional world the franchise takes place. But what’s intact is that everyone still remembers watching the first “Avatar” in 2009. 3D became the talk of the town and people of all ages mouth water on the eye-popping environment of the movie. The actual movie may be polarizing, but the experience of being there in a cinema and letting the movie do its magic is exciting.

World-building

Avatar The Way of Water

Photo from 20th Century Studios

As of writing, “Avatar: The Way of Water” have already crossed over $ 1.4 billion at the global box office and is poised to make more in the following weeks/ months.

Beyond the many formats available to watch this movie (2D, 3D, IMAX 3D, Dolby, 4DX), there’s no denying that a lot of people keep coming back to see it because of the world it introduced. The environment of “Avatar” is rich in layers and there’s always something new to see on every viewing.

Cameron and his team knew the universality of the first movie and they amped it up here. In “Way of the Water”, we spent over an hour touring the other side of Pandora that we never get to explore before. We learn about the water people’s culture and its vibrance akin to a nature documentary. It’s a good chunk that you can easily remove from the movie, but it’s just irresistible to watch the mundane moments unfold on screen.

Taking its time

With its immense world, “The Way of Water” took a lot of its time to further establish its rules. The movie did not hesitate to spend a lot of minutes introducing and resolving narrative points that never really makes sense on the bigger canvas.

Is the 3-hour running time justified? Partly yes, but there were a lot of times when I feel the movie should’ve picked up the pace.

The big screen experience

Avatar The Way of Water

Photo from 20th Century Studios

Its long duration somehow made “The Way of Water” worth the high-priced movie tickets. Seeing it in IMAX 3D with the high-frame-rate was memorable, like peeking through a window of a new place.

Beyond narrative flaws, the film is all about the experience of seeing it. James Cameron has mastered the formula of expanding the mythology and making it better in his sequels (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, “Aliens”).

With everything already set up by its predecessor, the sequel goes for the sensory experience of delving into its world. It helps that the 3D format improved the viewing by focusing more on the depths of Pandora than opting for the gimmicky pop-outs we’re usually accustomed to.

New characters

Avatar The Way of Water

Photo from 20th Century Studios

In contrast to the first movie, “The Way of Water” expands as a family movie. Everyone from the returning cast led by Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri was prominently highlighted but it was the new set of characters that easily made their mark.

Here, Sully and Neytiri gave birth to a new set of children, including an adopted girl (Sigourney Weaver in a role we never expected to see) that may be the central focus of the next “Avatar” movies. A huge portion of the movie is just these kids making unlucky accidents and I fear we’ll get tired of it when “Avatar 3”, “Avatar 4” and maybe “Avatar 5” repeats them.

The motion capture was better this time around, most notably with Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang’s Quaritch giving more nuanced performances.

Verdict

Unfortunately, “Avatar: The Way of Water” will be diminished when we eventually get to see it on a streaming service—on a television screen or small mobile device. But seeing it on the big screen, while we still can, is memorable.

The film is a lush and immersive cinematic experience that proved why James Cameron is still a force not to be reckoned with. The “Avatar” franchise has a long way to go, and who knows what Cameron is trying to prove next in the succeeding films.

 

SEA Wave gives “Avatar: The Way of Water” a 3.5 out of 5 waves.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is now showing in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Studios.

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