By Bradley Lane
It has been 13 years since Avatar was released in theaters and became the most successful film of all time. In the time between then and now a lot has changed in the film industry and how people consume movies. In 2009, streaming was just starting to gain traction, and Disney was far from the industry dominating juggernaut it is now. However, James Cameron has seemingly ignored these trends, instead opting to keep his head down over the last decade to deliver a sequel that doubles down on the theatrical distribution method, to awe-inspiring results.
Set over a decade after the events of the first film, Jake Sully returns to the forests of Pandora to protect the Na’vi from human invasion and destruction of their natural habitat. However, now with a family of his own to protect, he is forced to flee their tribe to seek refuge amongst the island dwelling Metkayina tribe. Shifting the narrative focus from Jake Sully to his children, the majority of the film is built around exploring the oceans of Pandora and protecting the wonders they discover along the way.
There is no film that looks like The Way of Water. The amount of visual clarity and detail to every single shot of this film is staggering. It puts most other modern CGI-heavy blockbusters to shame, with how slapped together they seem by comparison. The time and effort Cameron and his team put into inventing new technology pays off in stunning fashion. It must be seen to be believed. What makes the film truly special though, is that the visuals serve the story in a profoundly moving way.
Cameron spends a lot of runtime dedicated to conveying the beauty and profundity of the natural world of Pandora. This alien beauty serves as a way to reintroduce its audience with the natural beauty of our own world and make regular people consider their environment more thoughtfully. This effect is also helped by the fact that the environmentalist messaging in Avatar 2 is comparatively much sharper and more interesting than it was in the first film.
If there is anything to take away from my thoughts on Avatar: The Way of Water, it’s that you should take the time to see it in a movie theater. This is a film specifically crafted to be seen in that context and it would be a disservice to yourself to wait to see this at home when it eventually ends up on Disney+. Avatar: The Way of Water is exclusively showing in theaters. -4.5/5 stars