Avatar: The Way of the Water

Review by Lila Funge

25 years after Titanic (1997), James Cameron finally returns to the sea for his most recent work Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)…and it is pretty magnificent. 

With Cameron inventing new underwater motion capture cameras solely for this project, The Way of Water is unabashedly about its spectacle – not its story. The plot is basic and exactly like the last: Sam Worthington and Zoë Saldana reprise their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri respectively, to fight against the ‘sky people’ and protect Pandora from colonisation. In the process Jake and Neytiri’s family of six (including Kiri, a de-aged Sigourney Weaver) are driven from their forest tribe and must seek shelter with the Metkayina Clan, a group of water Na’vi. The Metkayina are led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), actor newcomers to the world of Pandora. Although the Sully family clashes with the Metkayina, they ultimately learn the “way of the water” and uncover parts of themselves they had no idea existed. 

The Way of Water team clearly put thought and detail into its entire production. The tribal cultures and evolutionary developments of the water Na’vi are carefully crafted. The introduction of new life on Pandora, particularly the armoured whales called tulkun, is nothing short of dazzling. The underwater world Cameron takes us to is worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find. However, one would assume that with 13 years in development they would have had time to write better dialogue. While plenty of lines may have been delivered poorly, even by the veteran actors, it is to no fault of their own. It is hard to judge the quality of the acting considering the rough script and the motion capture techniques used, which so remove actors from the environment they are meant to be in. This feels reflective of Avatar (2009) which has an interesting mystery to it; top-grossing movie of all time yet lacking in any cultural impact. Avatar: The Way of Water manages to fall short in a similar way to its predecessor, none of the characters are unique enough to be culturally memorable, no line is quite worth quoting. This film is a must- see but expect to be blown away by the visuals, not the story. 

Whether the 3.5 hour run time and 13 year wait was deserved is for you to decide. All I know is I can’t wait to dive into whatever world Cameron takes us to next.

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