I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve always really liked the original 2009 Avatar film. As an artist and animator myself, the film was a momentous achievement of visual effects that still stands the test of time today. It’s a solid story that is straightforward and executed incredibly well. However, it’s a strangely divisive film when you consider that it holds the world box office record at nearly $3 billion worldwide.
Either way, I was unironically excited to watch Avatar: The Way of Water, if not just to get back into the beautiful alien world of Pandora again and lose myself in a theater seat for a few hours.
13 years after the original film, the story of Way of the Water has us returning to Pandora a seemingly real-equivalent of years later to find our Marine buddy Jake Sully in full dad-mode with 3 blue kids of his own, now happily settled down with Neytiri. They live in relative peace until the sky people return to pillage and seek revenge against Jake. Jake flees the jungle with his family, taking them to safety in a faraway sea-fairing tribe of aqua-marine people. Here, Jake and his family must learn The Way of Water and fit in with their new life abroad.
To be blunt about my opinion on the movie: Avatar: The Way of Water is one of the best movies I’ve seen in many years. It is a meticulous marriage of filmmaking craft that nearly doesn’t exist anymore. Visuals, sound, music, story, acting all come together to create a cohesive product that seamlessly blends the imaginative and the real in a way that has never been done before.
Fittingly for an older filmmaker like James Cameron, in many ways it feels like a throwback film to the 80’s and 90’s, when action and adventure movies were complex and complete. When filmmakers dared to push the boundaries of special effects and craft, and not just settle for whatever works. When writers didn’t care about hitting Save The Cat beats on the script, and just built worlds and characters that you care about.
The 3 hour runtime might seem daunting at first, but it is put to good use. Cameron gives us ample time on Pandora and with each character, making us actually care about them and their journey. When things happen, you actually give a shit, because these people actually matter and feel real, despite the fact that they are most-definitely computer animated.
For the first time in film history, Avatar: The Way of Water actually delivers on the promise of bringing real characters to life using computer animation. VFX shots are no longer VFX shots–they are the film itself. It is hard to even describe the feeling of watching this movie, it’s one of those things you need to experience for yourself.
Catch it while it’s still in the theater.