Review: Avatar: The Way of Water
Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel, is an enchanting, emotional rollercoaster, writes Madi Wharmby
Having watched the first Avatar movie when I was too young to appreciate its brilliance, I came into the cinema with expectations of having a 3-hour nap in my chair while struggling to follow a plotline I wasn’t particularly invested in. I’d been dragged along by my family while protesting it wasn’t really ‘my kind of’ film, but, to my surprise, I spent the next three hours unable to tear my eyes away from the screen, immersed in this incredible fantasy world created by James Cameron.
Avatar: The Way of Water follows Jake Sully as a loving partner, father, and chief of the Omatikaya tribe. His loyalties lie with the Na’vi; he has become fully immersed in their world. In The Way of Water, Jake must fight to save the family he loves from harm while being chased by Colonel Miles Quaritch, Jake’s former colleague, whose thirst for revenge forces the Sully family to flee to the Metikayina. This Na’vi tribe’s vastly different life on the ocean provides several challenges for the Sullys, who must attempt to adapt to their new life while constantly keeping an eye out for the danger that follows them.
the Na’vi are characterised as intelligent, sentient and moral beings deserving of respect and value, and whose rituals, lifestyle and skills are displayed with pride and admiration.
The film handles snippets of real-life environmental and social issues with deep thoughtfulness and care. The humans’ hunting of a Tulkun for just one vial of anti-aging serum feels remarkably similar to the hunting of elephants for the ivory in their tusks. The depiction of indigenous peoples in the film is also to be applauded; the Na’vi are characterised as intelligent, sentient and moral beings deserving of respect and value, and whose rituals, lifestyle and skills are displayed with pride and admiration.
The film has incredible cinematography and visual effects; watching it in 3D only made this experience even more immersive and I’d recommend anyone watching it to go for 3D if you can. It’s visually stimulating, full of bright colours, soaring landscapes and rich details which all drive the plot forward in some way; for example, the different appearances of the Omatikaya and Metkayina, which is interesting in itself but also has a narrative purpose. The amazing camera work helps to feel part of the film’s action; I flew Ikran over the forests with Jake and Neytiri, learnt to swim with Lo’ak and cried alongside the Metkayina as their home was set alight.
The film runs at a good pace; it doesn’t drag along or feel rushed. Despite the advanced plot which the film manages to cover in three hours, The Way of Water invests screen time into developing its characters. At the end of the film, I felt like I knew them personally. The characterisation of Spider is particularly brilliant and I loved his story; his loyalty to the Na’vi is immense and when his life becomes threatened, I felt real fear.
There wasn’t a moment during Avatar: The Way of Water that I was bored. I felt exhilarating joy, terror, grief and relief, all within the space of three hours. It is impossible to watch this film without going on an emotional rollercoaster, but it is one which is truly worth the ride.