Na'vi teen and tulkun whale swim together

5 Thoughts on Avatar: The Way of Water


1 . It was worth the wait.

It has been 13 years since Avatar was released. You can find no shortage of writing about how the world has changed since we last left Pandora, so I won’t do that here. I will say that this movie is better than Avatar. And I was happy to see it finally finished and released. It is a remarkable film on a technical level, a pretty good family drama, an incredible action film, and a great 3D theatrical experience. It is everything that you’d hope and much more.


2 . The digital imagery might as well be magic or alchemy at this point.

This movie will break your brain if you try to figure out which parts are real-world things and people, what is completely computer-generated, and what is real but digitally rendered. The result is completely seamless. I’ve never encountered this type of filmmaking done to this precise a level before. It has left the realm of “that looked cool but is clearly fake” and gone into the realm of “I have no idea if that is a real thing or pixels.”


3 . A water world that puts Waterworld to shame.

I’m a Waterworld (1995) apologist. I feel like the real-world sets, the real-world boats, the real-world stunts, all of that earnest and complex filmmaking more than makes up for the gaps in story logic and Costner’s emotionally subdued performance.

Avatar 2 has so many incredible water elements that stretch the possibilities of an ocean adventure. The creatures are fascinating, the whaling ship is amazing, the subs and crab mechs… there is so much to love here, and it is portrayed so beautifully.


4 . The Sully family are a great cast of characters.

Since the last film, Jake and Neytiri have had three kids biologically and have added up two orphans too. The kids are given more of the screentime than the parents in this film. I expected to hate that decision, as I didn’t want to watch a bunch of kids’ antics in a movie this long. But most of the kids are well-developed characters, and they are given interesting things to do. And the story may hit some obvious tropes (new kid in town struggling to make friends, etc.) but they still work because the world is so fantastical.

I must shout out Sigourney Weaver’s performance as the adopted daughter Kiri. She is the most mysterious of the Sully kids and Weaver gives a fun performance as a child totally overwhelmed by the wonder of the world around her.


5 . The movie doesn’t feel 3 hours, 12 minutes long… until it does.

The only thing I didn’t like about the movie is how laborious the ending action sequence becomes. It starts out exhilerating but gets into tired superhero territory as the characters fight in a setting that is simultaneously burning, sinking, and exploding. The movie doesn’t stay there long, but that was the only sequence of the entire film which overstayed its welcome. And the movie absolutely flew by before and after that sequence, so it could have been much worse.