"Avatar: The Way of Water" Source: 20th Century Studios

Review: 'Avatar: The Way of Water' Transports Us Once Again

JC Alvarez READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Director James Cameron has long been identified as the filmmaker most likely to task himself with the most challenging of cinematic endeavors – he refuses to just make simple films, and is always pushing the envelope on what "blockbuster" really means.

Cameron got his start in Hollywood during the fervor caused by George Lucas' "Star Wars." He was convinced that special effects technology and cinematography, together with inspired storytelling, would revolutionize the industry. He wasn't mistaken. "The Terminator" became a landmark, and "Aliens" solidified his stake as a major player. Blockbusters became his trademark.

By 2009, James Cameron had left no territory uncharted, so he went back to the stars and visited the faraway world of Pandora in "Avatar." That film redefined "epic." Using advanced performance capture graphics and 3D technology, James Cameron put the audience into the action. Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Land, and reuniting with Sigourney Weaver, the film was far more than just a science-fiction/fantasy film; It had a message and was inspired by Cameron's dedication to protecting the planet, respect of indigenous life, and the preservation of wildlife – even though it was set in a rainforest of an alien world, Pandora.

"Avatar" introduced audiences to the Na'vi, who live in communion with their surroundings. Every aspect of their lives centered on nature and respecting the balance of the planet, but when their planet becomes the target of greedy industrialist offworlders looking to mine its resources, conflict ensues. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a wheelchair-bound marine who inhabits an avatar – an artificially grown Na'vi body.
Although his intention is to report to his superiors, Sully becomes engaged in the lives of the Na'vi and their culture. He becomes romantically involved with Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, the daughter of the ruling family of the Na'vi. When the Na'vi way of life becomes threatened, Jake must choose a side, and with the support of Grace (Sigourney Weaver), he braces his role as a true Na'vi warrior and assists in leading the rebellion to liberate Pandora from the Earth invaders. Their battle comes with a huge price, but ultimately Jake is successful in convincing the humans to leave Pandora.
It's inevitable, though, that one day the invaders will return!

A considerable amount of time has passed when "Avatar: The Way of Water" begins. Jake and Neytiri are now regarded as the center of their tribe and have begun a family that quickly grows. They have two boys and two girls, one of whom is an adopted child and has a unique connection with the planet. Jake and Neytiri raise their family to respect the Na'vi tradition, and also experience their dual nature, as hybrids born of Neytiri and Jake, who was once human. Their lives are turned upside down when the corporate exploiters return.

The invaders from Earth are led by General Ardmore (Edie Falco), a bad-ass no-nonsense veteran who is determined to eradicate the indigenous life and unleash an old enemy on the Na'vi. She has a personal grudge against Jake and Neytiri. Knowing that they are being targeted and present a danger to their people, Jake and his family must leave the safety of their tribe. They become fugitives and seek refuge in the coastal islands with another tribe of Na'vi who have adapted to living in the oceans. Jake and his family must learn the ways of this new tribe and, eventually, work together when the war comes to these new shores.

The first film may have been released more than a decade ago, but it feels like you never left Pandora. The 3D technology has only gotten better, and the story takes you onto the shores and under the sea, expanding Pandora in almost limitless ways. The motion-capture animation and photo-realistic movements make these characters as real as possible.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" may be an allegory for what we're facing with our own greed and consumerism, and the world climate crisis, but it is a reminder that in order to survive we must remind ourselves of our role as stewards of our own planet. The film's underlying message of respect for one another is strengthened in a carefully executed narrative that hits on every level. Cameron's skill as a scriptwriter has improved, as this film features much more articulate interactions with heart and humor.

The scope of "Avatar: The Way of Water" is without parallel, and far exceeds – certainly, visually – every expectation an audience may have. The story stays true to form and is clearly setting up a narrative that will undoubtedly expand in the planned sequels.
This film is why audiences buy tickets to go to the theater, and "Avatar: The Way of Water" must be experienced in full 3D for maximum exposure. It's time to return to Pandora, and if this is only the beginning of what's next, the journey was worth the wait.

20th Century Studios "Avatar: The Way of Water" opens in theaters on December 16, 2022.

by JC Alvarez

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".

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