Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

Director: James Cameron   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 3h 12m

Studio: 20th Century Studios   Screenwriters: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder

After 13 years, director James Cameron finally released the second (of five planned) Avatar films. With Avatar: The Way of Water, what viewers get is catfished. 

Unlike the first film, there is no new CGI or motion capture technology to prop itself on this time. With a beaten-dead horse of a plot and story, there is nothing impressive about Avatar 2. This particular trailer is all the exciting bits of a three-hour film compressed into a two-minute trailer. That should tell you all you need to know!

Worthington and Saldaña’s performances as Jake Sully and Neytiri were not as strong in this movie, with Saldaña’s taking more of a backseat to her kid’s characters. I’ll talk about this a bit, but despite what I’m about to say, it’s not a spoiler for the film. One of Sully’s “kids” is played by Sigourney Weaver, whose original character, Grace, died in the first film. But Weaver’s new character, Kiri, is derived from the same logic of the Virgin Mary or Shmi Skywalker that a baby (Kiri) grew out of nowhere in Grace’s dead Avatar body. If you’ve seen the first film, it’s not a leap to connect ideas in your head. You still might go WTF, and who wouldn’t? Yet, there’s nothing about that in this movie. You can speculate how she came to be, but it’s an unimportant point now to the writers. It certainly would have added needed depth to the story. Still, perhaps in another decade or two, Cameron might enlighten us. 

Sigourney Weaver as Kiri in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ from 20th Century Studios via BBC.com

Cameron’s desire to show off his take on underwater shots as realistic after the shade he threw at Aquaman director James Wan is laughable. It’s all fictional; all of it relies on CGI. Yet Aquaman is watchable and entertaining as a sci-fi film. Avatar 2 is a pointless snooze fest that comes across for the first half of the film as a National Geographic reject. As non-fiction, a NatGeo special is more entertaining. At least I don’t want to leave those 45 minutes in, unlike Avatar 2, which I thought about. I must be a masochist because I stuck it out, despite checking my watch often and the headache I endured for hours. 

The first Avatar plot was a mashup of Pocahontas and Ferngully The Last Rainforest blended with colonizers. Or, basically, what English settlers did to America but on an alien planet. That was tenable for viewers because the CGI held the movie up for them. There is nothing redeemable about Avatar 2. Its plot, if you can call it that, is a resurrected Col. Quaritch (Lang) seeking revenge for killing him. You read that right. The universe forbid the writers come up with a new, compelling villain/foe for this film.

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ from 20th Century Studios via Polygon.com

Quaritch hunts down the Sully clan, so when fleeing, they end up near a version of the Na’vi who live in the water. But who wants to help them? They’re danger magnets and half-breed demons. Sound like something you’ve watched before? 

James Cameron took 13 years to craft a sequel full to the brim of overused tropes and plot devices, various levels of stereotypes, and the use of indigenous mannerisms with little to no symbolic references. Where the glass that holds it all in is uber-greedy white capitalists. If you’re going to borrow from all these things, at least make it interesting. Try to give it an original take. But he can’t. Instead, he uses a skelton frame from Terminator 2 to drive one ideal (revenge), with a bit of Titanic for the hell of it. They are in the water, so why not…

Kate Winslet & Cliff Curtis in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ from 20th Century Studios via Slatemagazine.com

I cannot fathom how someone at the studio said, ‘yeah, this is good, release it!’ It’s a terrible, joyless excuse for cinema, with a ridiculous budget, that earned a ridiculous amount over that! Catfished. Movies should have a solid plot and compelling attributes to move the story. Develop characters well, and (in a series) leave you wanting more. As a filmmaker, you fail when a film is so lackluster in every regard that viewers fall asleep, leave, would rather have a three-hour root canal, get another vasectomy, or watch fire ants engulf them.

No one is more to blame than James Cameron’s ego and the studio that paid him. Avatar: The Way of Water is an insult to cinema and never belongs on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

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