Avatar: The Way of Water - A Review of the New James Cameron Masterpeice

The buildup to The Way of Water (TWoW) was weird as their seemed to be a narrative out there that this film would be a disaster and that it could not be financially profitable. The narrative should have been about whether this film would be as good as its predecessor, and it is as good, if not even better. I watched TWoW in IMAX 3D HFR (higher frame rate 48/s vs 24/s), and it was one of the coolest films I have ever seen on IMAX. James Cameron took 13 years to make TWoW, and I have to say he might have made the right decision to not rush the sequel. The movie is a visual feat for the eyes, and while some might find the higher frame rate distracting I thought it added a really amazing look that I had never seen before. There were times during action scenes where the higher frame rate was a little distracting, (the movements appeared to be moving at super speed), but it is still not a common use frame rate so I think those issues will get ironed out. The first Avatar was re-release into IMAX screens in September after James Cameron went back and improved the look of the film for IMAX. The re-released Avatar looked amazing and it increased my excitement for the sequel. I still want to see the film again in IMAX because I found it so amazing to behold, but I wonder if I should see it in another format just to get a better idea of how the film will look not in IMAX. In Toronto, there are only a few theaters with true IMAX screens, so if I were looking to see the movie, I would make sure it is a true IMAX screen. 

The Way of Water sees Jake Sully (played again by Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana) having a family on Pandora that is threatened when the humans return to the planet. I think of the struggles the plot of the film had was that it kind of had to undo the end of the first film. The opening minutes of the film set up the future that Jake and Neytiri started to build, and it also shows how Quaritch (played again by Stephen Lang) is dead but also not dead. The return of the humans to Pandora was cool, and their landing back down on Pandora was heartbreaking in the way it was shot. The issues start with a one-year time jump that seems to show that humans have already started to take over and that Jake is the leader of the rebellion. The beginning of the film feels disjointed as it needs to make sure the story moves to the ocean so everything is rushed to make that happen. I think a simpler solution might have been better, but apart from that issue I thought the plot of the film was incredibly simple but effective. The ocean setting was stunning, and it was obviously more interesting to James Cameron to set the sequel in water. Cameron's story paints humans as being monsters who only care about money and power while giving no care to life on the planet that is not them. Cameron hits the audience over the head with humans being bad, but it is a message that I understand, appreciate and share. 

The movie places Jake and Neytiri's children as the stars of the film, and they are joined by a human boy who grew up on Pandora. The new human boy is named Spider (played by Jack Champion), and he was left behind on Pandora when the humans left because the statis pods were not designed for babies. Spider is very close with his Na'vi family, and while the acting done by Champion was a little over the top but it did not bother me. There were some other humans who supported the Na'vi and they chose to stay on Pandora rather than go back to earth. I am trying to avoid spoilers beyond what was in the trailers, but one thing I think is important is how Quaritch is used in this film. Quaritch and most of his squad were killed in combat at the end of the first movie, but they are resurrected in bodies made by combining Na'vi and human DNA. Quaritch and his team had their brains scanned before the final attack so their memories up until the mission were uploaded into their new bodies. The reason for Jake and Neytiri to go to the ocean does not make a lot of sense, but the film changes tone for the better once they get there. In a lot of ways TWoW is similar to the first film but with a new setting, characters and better visual effects. The oceans of Pandora were looked beautiful, and I think there was moments where the film delivered some truly powerful images. While some can poke fun at James Cameron's obsession with the oceans, but all of those movies set there have been huge money earners and critically admired. 

I am going to give Avatar: The Way of Water a 9/10, and I am going to give the original Avatar film a 9/10 too. Since I saw both films in IMAX 3D in the last couple of months I have total confidence that both films are incredible. I am also sure that not everyone is going to appreciate TWoW like I did, but I judge films on how they connect with me and The Way of Water got to me. I will do a spoiler review for The Way of Water when it releases on Disney Plus, but until then I do not want to ruin anyone's experience with the film. The Way of Water is a film best experienced on an IMAX screen, so I hope you will watch it on the big screen if you have the opportunity. Avatar: The Way of Water is a spectacle; and it continues James Cameron's legacy of blowing audiences away with his films. Avatar is a long film (3 hours and 12 minutes), but I barely noticed the time pass as I was engrossed in the setting. The Way of Water was similar to the first film in that it was not based around action, but the setting and its beauty. James Cameron does a fantastic job at making blockbuster movies on his own schedule and free from studio interference. Cameron takes him time and waits for the technology to catch up with his vision (often with him pushing the technology forward). There is something special about what James Cameron has done with the Avatar franchise; it is not just about the visuals or the action it is about the world he has created. The connection between the Na'vi and Pandora is wonderous, and it makes me wish the people of earth could be appreciative of our planet as the Na'vi are of theirs. Avatar: The Way of Water is easily one of the best films of 2022, and it makes me excited for third film in the series which is 2 years away :(. 

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