Experiencing The Way of Water

February 5, 2023

The three-hour sequel to Avatar marries stunning visuals with a drawn-out, somewhat trite plotline

Experiencing The Way of Water


eteran director and writer James Cameron is back with his long-awaited Avatar - The Way of Water - the sequel to 2009`s Avatar which is now the sixth film in history to cross the coveted $2 billion mark. Cameron has directed three of those six. It is now the second-fastest film after Avengers: Endgame to breach the landmark achieving the feat in just 39 days.

On the face of it, this seems like a massive achievement. However, production cost of this movie is over $350 million with an additional budget of tens of millions of dollars for marketing and promotion making it one of the most expensive movies ever produced. No wonder, Cameron said that it needed to be “the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” for it to break even.

Avatar - The Way of Water picks up the storyline several years after the events of the war from part one. We are back in the distant world of Pandora where Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a native now after shedding his human skin and is busy raising a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña).

His family consists of two sons, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and a daughter named Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). They are also guardians of Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), the offspring of the kind Dr Grace Augustine (also played by Sigourney Weaver). Like her mother, Kiri has a mystical connection to the trees and flowers of Pandora.

Jake is also the leader of the Na’vi people. Their lives are disrupted by the return of ‘sky people’ led by an avatar Na’vi version of Col Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who led humans in the last war before succumbing to death. He is back to wreak vengeance o Jake and company for the death of his human form.

He is accompanied by a group of former-human-now-Na’vi mercenaries who have the full support of a large high-tech well-equipped army of soldiers, scientists and hunters. All of them have their agendas which can only be achieved through the destruction of Na`vi.

As the war intensifies, Jake and his family are left with no option but to leave their homes and move to the far-flung archipelagos where the water Na`vi tribes live. The Metkayina tribe, led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his partner, Ronal (Kate Winslet), agree to host the Sullys as they adapt the new ways of living - from learning the language of the seas to befriending tulkun, a huge whale-like creature who, as expected, plays a key role towards the end.

The war eventually reaches their shore as well and Sully, along with their new friends, takes on the ‘sky people’ resulting in a long ending sequence full of passion, emotions, bravery and loss.

In short, the movie is more reliant on special effects than a good script and dialogues. Take off your 3D glasses and look beyond the sales numbers and a lot of illusions are gone.  

Cameron has always envisioned this franchise as an evolving and expanding world. In this part, the story introduces several new ones, setting the ground for three more movies.

Cameron is considered one of the industry’s most innovative filmmakers regularly pushing the boundaries of cinematic capability with his use of novel technologies. He has once again achieved technological advancements resulting in some amazing aquatic visuals and sequences, 3D tech and amped-up frame rates. It’s a leap beyond what he pulled off with the first film and gives us a fully immersive and, at times, mesmerising experience.

He has shown us what new technology and creativity are capable of bringing to the big screen when you dare to dream big. He plans to base this franchise on four main elements (earth, water, air and fire). With two of these already addressed, he plans to highlight fire in the next part with a glimpse into the evil side of Na`vi.

Unfortunately, this has also resulted in a three-hour movie. It`s simply too long. I would cut an hour of this movie and believe that it would not affect the story too much. It does take us to a visual adventure but the predictable story moves at a snail’s pace.

It`s the same old plot. The villains are after the precious resources of Pandora. Last time it was Unobtanium, this time they are after golden liquid from huge whales. The last time Jake fought with the ‘forest people’, this time he is leading the ‘water people’. But it’s again Na`vi on beautiful aquatic creatures versus humans on their ships with guns.

Similarly, bringing back the same villain in a different form, now focused more on a personal vendetta than the larger scheme of things, seems like a drag. We also don’t get to know what happened to the original Na`vi tribe and whether Sully`s migration helped their cause. In short, the movie is more reliant on special effects than a good script and dialogues. Take off your 3D glasses and look beyond the sales numbers and a lot of illusions are gone.

Avatar - The Way of Water is scheduled to be released on Disney+ sometime this year. It took 13 years for Cameron to release the second part. The good news is that there won`t be such a long wait for the next one.

Avatar 3 has already been completed and is scheduled for December 2024. Some of Avatar 4 along with Avatar 5 has been already written and Cameron hinted that the final battle between these two species could be fought on earth. Whether things will improve throughout subsequent movies remains to be seen.

As of right now, I am not convinced.

The writer is a digital communication expert and consultant currently working in the public sector. He is the mastermind behind the digital platforms, Sukhan, Mani’s Cricket Myths and Over The Line

Experiencing The Way of Water