‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ thrills audiences with a hefty toll


Mishael Gill ’23

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” released Dec. 16, has grossed $134 million in box office profit. Its predecessor, “Avatar” has one of the highest box office evaluations of all time, amassing nearly $3 billion since 2009. Just like the first, the second Avatar is anticipated to have more long-term hype and continue to draw audiences for the next few years.

12 years later, the Avatar fandom rejoices with the next installment of a beloved series. “Avatar: The Way of Water” was released in theaters on Dec. 16, grossing $134 million nationwide. While the cinematography is stunning and the plot is captivating, the film proves quite lengthy and doesn’t provide a sense of closure.

The first Avatar film introduces Pandora, an abundant planet with valuable natural resources. Indigenous to this planet are humanoid creatures known as Na’vi. Humans seek to colonize the Na’vi, and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-marine, is the man chosen for the mission. Through the Avatar Program, Sully is able to live through a Na’vi human hybrid avatar in order to function as a native on Pandora. His mission changes course when he discovers a profound warmth towards the native tribes and a deep connection to Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), a Na’vi princess who saves his life. Now on the run from Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the human leader of the Pandora mission, Sully seeks to help protect the Na’vi from human invasion.

The second movie opens by exhibiting snippets of the family life Sully and Neytiri are leading with their four children in the lush and tranquil forests of Pandora. The peace is interrupted when the Na’vi notice an impending fleet of starships in the atmosphere: the humans have returned. This time, Quaritch is hunting Sully specifically – and this puts Sully’s family at risk. In order to protect his family and the rest of the Na’vi forest clan, the Omaticaya, Sully shifts his family to the Eastern village of Awa’atlu, home to the Metkayina clan. As the family begins to adjust to the aquatic ways of the Metkayina, Quaritch quickly realizes that Sully has fled the forest region. As the hunt intensifies, the plot introduces various perspectives – from Sully’s kids to the royal children of Awa’atlu, the viewer is introduced to their experiences in a thrilling culmination of various storylines.

Keeping with the Avatar series’ underlying connection with nature, The Way of Water is a welcome shift from the forest landscape of the first Avatar film into an aquatic adventure with stunning views. The connection Sully’s children experience with the water emanates the tumultous emotions of youth identity development, something very relevant to today’s post-pandemic generation. In order to capture the dynamic feel of the story, Director James Cameron captured the actors’ performances completely underwater, something unseen before in the history of cinema.

While the first-half of the movie is largely a continuation of where the first Avatar film left off, the latter half is jam-packed with action. The standoff between Quaritch and his human army and Sully backed by the Na’vi is powerfully synthesized in an intense battle that requires each character to consider their loyalty to family, friends and the surrounding theme of nature. However, while action-packed, the film is a lengthy endeavor, spanning just over THREE HOURS.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely struggle to sit through a film that is more than 2 hours without any breaks. Watching The Way of Water, I was getting antsy before the plot even reached the climax. After what felt like an eternity, I finally slithered out of the theater on completely numb legs. I feel that three hours is especially excessive when the plot didn’t truly reach any closure and many of the newly introduced storylines were left unfinished. This may have been intentional, to make room for the upcoming third Avatar film, but it feels like the series is being drawn out unnecessarily.

For both die-hard Avatar fans and newcomers, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a highly thrilling film. On the basis of an exciting plot, I would rate it four out of five stars.

— Mishael Gill ’23

Just beware of the three-hour long journey you’re about to embark on and make sure you have that popcorn refill. Trust me, you’ll need it.