Set 10 years after "Avatar," Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) must move his family to a new Na'vi Clan to protect them from a familiar threat. The long-awaited sequel to one of the biggest movies is finally here after 13 years. While I was excited about this one, I had my doubts, mainly because "Avatar" is not that good. It is visually incredible but shallow in its message, story and characters. "Avatar: The Way of Water," however, surpasses its predecessor in almost every way possible, making it one of the most fun and entertaining films of the year.
While I love this film, I want to get a couple of complaints out of the way. Even with no glaring flaws, it is not perfect. The biggest complaint is that it tackles similar themes to "Avatar": Imperialism is wrong, humans should not mess with nature and you can find your own family. Unfortunately, some are still not subtle and left me rolling my eyes at their absurdity. Secondly, the screenplay by writer/director James Cameron struggles at times, specifically the dialogue. It is never egregiously bad, but there are times when it is a little stagnant.
Thankfully those are the only complaints I have, as I found the entirety of the sequel to be a blast. Despite its 190-minute runtime, I was never bored. "Avatar" struggled with pacing and relied on the film's visuals, but "The Way of the Water" is paced excellently due to its characters. Given that we spend so much time with Sully's family, I grew attached to them and felt the tension whenever there was danger nearby. The family dynamic was one of my favorite aspects because it felt natural and relatable. In addition, we see real growth with almost all of the characters, specifically from Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), who I found to be perhaps the most engaging and compelling character.
The pacing also works well due to how well the character-building scenes mesh with the entertaining action sequences and visually immersive world. Action films these days feel very stale, but each "The Way of Water" action scene felt fresh and exciting, partly because of an attachment to the characters and the brutality of some of the kills. I was constantly on the edge of my seat. It also should not surprise anyone that the film is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I was in awe of how beautiful the film looked, especially whenever there were luminescent colors. The water scenes were mind-blowing at times, and I genuinely do not know how Cameron pulled off some of them.
"Avatar: The Way of Water" has a lot of pressure to succeed because Cameron has been building this film and its three sequels for the past 13 years, and I honestly did not think he could do it. But this film proved me wrong more than any other film I have ever seen. The incredible world-building and immersive visuals were awe-inspiring and left me wanting more, even after three hours that felt more like two. There is rarely a blockbuster that has the emotional depth that this one has. While "Avatar" was a must-see for its groundbreaking visuals, "The Way of Water" is excellent for its storytelling and gorgeous world. I cannot wait to see where this franchise goes next, as there are many opportunities for future films.