Stephen Lang also reprises his role from the 2009 original as Colonel Miles Quaritch, somewhat interestingly, as Quaritch was killed in the climactic battle of Avatar. His resurrection (and some other plot mechanics) are part of what makes The Way of Water feel like a reset, a gathering of all the elements Cameron wants to re-establish for this new era of the franchise he’s come to love. Unlike its predecessor, this is not a solely self-contained story, and sets up a number of threads that will undoubtedly be resolved (or, at the very least, addressed) in the already-in-production sequel, due for release this time in 2024.
It would be hearsay to claim that Avatar: The Way of Water is not incredibly beautiful to look at. Every frame is rendered meticulously, and because most of what we’re seeing on-screen is composed entirely of visual effects, it’s unequivocally awe-inspiring. I also had the opportunity to see it in 3D, a medium I’m not always the biggest fan of — in fact, I was worried about subjecting myself to it for the three and a half hours this movie runs — but it seemed effortless more than anything else, like the 3D is a natural part of the world that Cameron has created.
The biggest letdown was an issue that plagued the first Avatar as well: I couldn’t, for the life of me, care about most of these characters. They’re not developed nearly well enough, despite the inordinate amount of time we spend with them. For example, Jake Sully and Neytiri’s children are a major focal point of the film, and I couldn’t tell you any of their names without looking it up. The Way of Water’s story, by itself, is very interesting, but the characters are still not compelling enough to merit my investment. You’d think that after a cumulative six hours with them, I would have more of a stake in this world, but the sad truth is that the more there are, the harder it is to care.
Another MVP is Sigourney Weaver, who does not reprise her role from the original but instead plays her character’s 14-year-old daughter, the biological origins of whom are as yet unknown. It’s sometimes hard to tell that Weaver’s even there under layers of CGI, but her performance shines through, and it’s good to know that she’s still a part of the franchise even after her death in the original.
However you feel about The Way of Water, there’s more Avatar on the way. The third film is in post-production, with two more ready to begin filming, and another two already in development. I’d advise Mr. Cameron to slow down, but it seems he’s trying to make up for lost time by overcompensating on a franchise that’s close to his heart, and that (he believes) is beloved in the hearts of many others. I’m leaving my mind open to the possibilities, while being cautiously optimistic in Cameron’s plan.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters.
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