Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in a still
  • Release Date: 16/12/2022
  • Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney, Weaver, Stephen Lang
  • Director: James Cameron

Dazzling visuals, monumental action and stunning character animation makes up for the lack of everything else

— Ambar Chatterjee

Avatar: The Way of Water begins right after the events of the first film. The Na’vi have successfully driven the humans out of Omaticaya. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), has settled down into a peaceful marriage with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is soon blessed with four children. Sadly, their peace and happiness are short-lived as the humans return with a vengeance and bring back with them an adversary who has a long history with Jake and Neytiri. Jake and his family are driven out of Omaticaya and are forced to take refuge in the reef clan of Metkayina where the family must learn the way of the water to survive and also prepare for the imminent danger that is coming their way.

I loved the first Avatar film. It not only worked for me in terms of visual wizardry but also impressed me with its emotional depth, inspiring characters, and engrossing drama. The animated characters were so rich in human emotions and were rendered with such organic beauty that I never felt that I was watching Computer Generated Images and not real characters. This elevated the overall impact of the film for me even though it had a very simplistic story with numerous plot holes and inconsistencies.

Lack of a meaty story and investing screenplay: –

I had a very similar experience with Avatar: The Way of Water. The film has one of the most generic plots that one could envision for a sequel to a film that made over 2 billion dollars worldwide. The story of the film reminded me of the 1980s Bollywood potboilers and its runtime was also in strong keeping with those films. I also noticed that Avatar: The Way of Water borrowed many of its elements from its predecessor and James Cameron never tried to hide or even camouflage these influences. Thus, it felt like a very familiar film and this resulted in some portions of the film feeling dragged beyond welcome. The film also lacked any inspiring moments that made some of the scenes of its predecessor goosebump-inducing (eg. The “Taruk Makto” speech before the final battle).

Poor antagonists who are hardly fearsome: –

The antagonists in the film and their inspiration to go after Jake and his family felt very flimsy and unnecessarily dramatic. While the primary antagonist has an axe to grind with Jake, a multimillion-dollar company would definitely think of smarter ways to deal with the threat of the Omaticaya than just sending in more of what had failed previously even though they were in the bodies of the Na’vis. We see right at the beginning of the film how fearsome the firepower of the humans got from the first film. Interestingly, they never use that ever again in the film to disarm the Na’vis.

The marines who are sent after Jake and his family get involved in laughable side quests like learning how to ride an Ikran, forging alliances with the whalers of the reef, torturing the reef people for information on Jake and his family, etc. to accomplish their primary goal. While all this looks fine in the film because each of these elements provides for interesting visual representation, they don’t make much sense or result in compelling storytelling and drama. It is also a fact that the villains disappear for large portions of the film which often dilutes their impact.

Stephen Lang in a still

Visual splendor like you have never seen before: –

Having said all that, I am sure very few people will notice these discrepancies in their first viewing of the film because of the sheer magic that it casts on our senses with its breathtaking visuals and resplendent animation. If you loved the world of Pandora in the first film, be prepared to be blown away by new and unique aspects of it here. James Cameron not only builds a totally different world inside a world that we know somewhat but populates it with colorful creatures, unique environments and paints them with so much individuality and character that it blew my mind. This is a film that is nearly 3 hours and 12 minutes long and almost every second of that runtime has some form of animation and visual effects in it. It will not be wrong to say that this is a live-action animation film and yet it packs a considerable punch in its character-driven drama and moments of uncontrollable rage and mayhem.

Spellbinding character animation and how lifelike they feel in dramatic moments: –

This brings me to another aspect of the animation that I was most impressed by. Every character in the film is designed and executed in such a way that you will be able to pick up the nuances and the subtle expressions that we associate only with humans and similar animals. The way the characters look at each other, the way they react to certain moments, and most importantly how these characters are designed to express grief and rage take the animation of the film to a height that hasn’t been reached before. Photorealistic characters have never looked this good and so life-like. It is definitely an improvement over the character design and animation of its predecessor. It was necessary for this film to outrun its predecessor in this department because it depends primarily on its characters and key dramatic moments to build up drama and tension that drives its narrative forward. This would not have worked if the animation was not this good.

Monumental action seqeucnes that will make your jaw drop: –

The action sequences of the film are pure insanity. I don’t want to give any spoilers here about the action sequences as they are some of the only surprises of the film and the audiences will be best served if they experience these set pieces unfold without any previous idea about them. This is how I watched the film and this would be the best way to enjoy these sequences. However, I have to add that the film has a healthy mix of hand-to-hand combat and elaborate action set pieces that are fluid and presented with simplicity and flair.

Pitch-perfect voice acting by the ensemble cast: –

The voice talents of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney, Weaver, Stephen Lang, and a host of other top-notch actors are used to perfection. While it is one aspect of the film that is the easiest to ignore or overlook, it is one of the most important and also one that gives each of the characters a sense of individuality and makes them uniquely distinguishable as characters in terms of living, breathing, thinking and emoting creatures. It is the voice modulations that convey distinct emotions and states of mind of these characters even when they are shown replicating a poker face.

Britain Dalton in a still

Best format to watch this is in 3D: –

Avatar: The Way of Water is best watched in 3D on the largest screen possible with the crispiest sound. I don’t have much love for 3D technology and in most cases, it is a gimmick. However, this is a film that was shot keeping in mind the 3rd dimension. The 3D here doesn’t wear off with the runtime but keeps surprising you at every nook and corner of the narrative. It is a vital element that not only adds a dimension to the visual representation of this imaginative world but also puts the audiences in the exact position in the plane from where they can enjoy the events unfolding in a way that it was meant to be enjoyed. Most of the film unfolds during the day and that makes the 3D rendering of the visuals through the dark glasses that much clearer and crisper.  

Final words: –

Avatar: The Way of Water is one of those unique films that soars so high on its technicalities that it overshadows the lack of an elaborate story, intriguing screenplay, and realism in storytelling. The animation and visual wizardry also make up for the performances and the power that it has to extract emotion and leave an impact adding another laurel to the already sensational visual work. This is a monumental achievement in terms of what technology can do for a story. While everything else takes a back seat, the visual magic is so alluring that the audiences will never complain about its overabundance and the film’s overreliance on it. I will be watching this film a few times more before it makes its way out of the theaters.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.