‘Avatar: The Way of Water’: A Must-See This Holiday Season


Avatar: The Way of Water (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Disney)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


For the longest time, “Avatar” (2009) has not only been the highest-grossing movie ever and lauded for its incredible CGI and captivating world-building, but instrumental in changing Hollywood for the following decade.

Now, 13 years later, with the sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water,” can Director James Cameron make lightning strike twice?

Return to Pandora

Pandora in “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Disney)

“The Way of Water” picks up almost exactly where its predecessor ended. Quickly, the film transitions the audience to where the sequel is headed. The Resource Development Administration (RAD) is back to harvest Pandora’s natural resources at the cost of its environment and people.

Smartly, “The Way of Water” introduces a slew of young characters to act as audience surrogates to the new locations and cultures of Pandora being explored. It’s an achievement that each kid has a distinct personality, and all play off of each other well.

The story itself is rather simple when taken at face value. It’s a classic Hollywood underdog story with a science fiction twist. As the old adage goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s evocative of real-world injustices that Indigenous people have faced at the hands of colonizers, only handled in a less heavy-handed manner than in the original.

The scope of the conflict for this movie specifically is smaller when compared to the first since it focuses on a more refined group of characters. Yet, this is actually one of the movie’s strengths, as the drama feels more personal. 

Still, the movie does set up future plot points and a much larger fight that, especially after having watched the sequel, could certainly carry Cameron’s proposed five-film series.

Blue People Everywhere

The cast of “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Disney)

As the lead and audience POV character from the first movie, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) retains a substantial role in “The Way of Water” after establishing himself as a high-ranking commander. However, he largely serves as more of an authority figure for the franchise’s newcomers. 

Despite being one of the most important characters in the first movie, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) has a significantly smaller role in the sequel. Mainly, she is regulated to reacting to what other characters do, rather than being a proactive character herself. To be fair, this does lead her to take action near the movie’s climax, but it does not produce a discernible character arc.

Now, in the proverbial shoes of his enemy, Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) returns as the main antagonist and is far more interesting now as a Na’vi Avatar than he ever was as a hardened military archetype. Lang is able to demonstrate more facets of Col. Quaritch and actually round him out as a believable character.

One of the most interesting characters is Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) a bright and eccentric teenager who seemingly has only just begun her journey in unlocking her full potential. The 73-year-old Weaver has the unique acting challenge of not just portraying a Na’vi, but a teenager as well. She pulls both off wonderfully and is sure to delight audiences.

Other cast standouts include Miles “Spider” Socorro (Jack Champion), the human boy raised as a Na’vi who never looks out of place in the fully CGI environments. Brothers Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Neteyem (Jamie Flatters) play off of each other well and both get individual story arcs that fill the films second act. Special mention to Ronal (Kate Winslet) as the queen of clan Metkayina.

If you’re wondering why no human characters other than Spider made the list, it’s because there really aren’t any besides side characters and antagonists. It’s a testament to the strength of the movie as a whole that whenever a human character appears, they seem like the aliens to the audience since the majority of the three-hour runtime is spent with Na’vi.

Down to Business

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Disney)

This holiday season there is scarce fare to be found at theaters, leaving the floodgates open for a great and deserved box office performance for “The Way of Water.” It earned $53 million opening day and is estimated to earn $130 to $150 million for the weekend.

At this point, it’s a meme that no one can quite pinpoint why Avatar was the highest-grossing movie of all time. Many couldn’t remember what even happened in the first film, amongst other wisecrack observations.

If you can catch “Avatar: The Way of Water” in theaters, see it on the biggest and best screen you can and in 3D if possible. It may be a cliche to say this, but whenever one of Pandora’s colorful flora and fauna appears it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch it. The technology used to bring this world to life is used to its fullest potential.

With a 78% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1 critical rating on IMDB, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is undoubtedly a must-see for cinema-goers this Christmas.


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