Avatar: The Way of Water has finally arrived. It hit the big screens on December 16th and it has been a huge success ever since. In just 4 weeks the movie has made more than $1.7 Billion dollars and it’s currently the seventh- highest grossing film in history. So the big question is: was it worth it? Was it worth spending billions of dollars and waiting for more than a decade to see this film? Has James Cameroon succeeded once again? Fantasy Warden says yes and no – take a look at our spoiler-free breakdown of this movie.
Avatar: The Way of Water worldbuilding
Our faith in James Cameron has paid off when it comes to the visual worldbuilding aspect of Avatar: The Way of Water. Pandora looks astonishing, even more beautiful than in the original movie. Landscapes are well presented and Na-vi, domestic folks living in Pandora, fit perfectly in this strange world. CGI has a whole new level in this movie, it’s so good that you actually don’t know which parts are done in front of the green screen and which scenes are completely CGI-made. This heavy use of CGI is one of the reasons why it took so long for this movie to come out – basically, it features over 2 hours of pure CGI that’s done marvelously.
Unfortunettly, when it comes to the story aspect of worldbuilding in Avatar: The Way of Water, things do not look so great there. In the first movie, we had this awesome story of a new planet, a new way of life, an extraterrestrial race, and sci-fi technology that humans utilize to exploit the resources of this distant world. In this movie, we pretty much get the same thing. The only difference is that we get to meet the marine part of Pandora and the culture of Na-vi living there.
The plot has not moved forward one inch when it comes to the worldbuilding aspect – we just get more shoots and more CGI. We also don’t get any kind of reference about the Earth and what has happened there except that “Our planet is dying“. Maybe this is something that will be done in the upcoming movies, but it still feels a bit disappointing that in three hours nothing could have been done in the story worldbuilding aspect of Avatar 2.
Worldbuilding score: ★★★★★★★✰✰✰
Character development in Avatar 2
Probably the weakest part of Avatar: The Way of Water is its character development part. Even though I watched the movie yesterday, I still had to google the names of the characters because they are so forgettable. What we get are old characters (Jake, Neytiri, and Quaritch) and a bunch of their kids doing kids’ stuff. Unlike the first movie, the main character Jake has no arc – what he starts with, he also ends up with. It’s a bit different with Quaritch but not much; we won’t get into details because of potential spoilers here. Jake and Neytiri kids are fun to watch sometimes but it’s just that they take so much of the screen time that you get numb to the family drama in an alien world.
There are some good things though, such as the fact that Jake and Neytiri are both presented as loving parents just wanting to protect their family. Nothing new to this concept one would say but still, having so many movies nowadays with weird social bonds, portraying father-children relationships in a way that the father almost seems villainous, how Jake was portrayed in Avatar 2 seems like a nice change.
Character development score: ★★★★✰✰✰✰✰✰
Avatar: The Way of Water plot
Avatar: The Way of Water starts out well. In the first half an hour we get some action and the plot moves forward a bit. However, after that, for more than one hour, the plot doesn’t move at all. This movie feels like it could have been done in 90 minutes or less when it comes to the plot aspect. Another bad thing is the fact that the plot is basically good guys fighting the bad guys. Sure, there are some great plot visuals and environmental-protection messaging involved in all that but it still feels a bit empty. It feels like all plot spoilers could fit into three sentences.
Other than that, I would say that the visuals actually serve as the plot in this movie – for at least half of the movie, you have a feeling of watching a documentary instead of a sci-fi movie. This is the main reason why there are many negative reviews of Avatar: The Way of Water in my opinion – some people came to see a sci-fi movie filled with action and ended up watching the family drama with a discovery channel vibe to it.
However, if we don’t look at the plot in a traditional way, Avatar: The Way of Water has a lot of new things to offer. James Cameron managed to send a message about the importance of saving the oceans in a very subtle way. The one message that he pushes during the entire movie and that feels outdated is about the importance of stopping whale hunting. It’s just that it feels like the message is nothing new and the audience pretty much knows in 2023 that it’s not good to slaughter whales for sport.
Plot score: ★★★★★✰✰✰✰✰
Overall impression of Avatar: The Way of Water
Avatar: The Way of Water is a good movie. It will keep your attention pinned to the screen although it lacks many elements of a good sci-fi movie. It’s not the most interesting movie out there and for sure it’s not something that hasn’t been seen in the original Avatar but it is worth your time. If this movie was released 10 years ago we would say that the movie is one of the best ones out there. However, considering the long wait and the insane budget that this movie had, I feel like it could have been better in the script and character development aspects, or at least it could have been shorter. Nevertheless, I do not feel sorry for buying a ticket and I am sure that maybe in a year or two, I will happily rewatch this film. While we wait for more avatar movies, I suggest you check out our list of fantasy TV shows to watch. Have a good one!
Overall Avatar: The Way of Water score: ★★★★★★✰✰✰✰