“Avatar: The Way of Water” defies expectations


Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

“Avatar: The Way of Water” exceeds expectations following its release 13 years after the first film.

Bryce West, Assistant News Editor

*This review contains spoilers*

“Avatar: The Way of Water” had a high bar to reach after the success of 2009’s “Avatar.” The first film became a sensation at the time of release and eventually became the highest-grossing film of all time, making around $2.9 billion after multiple releases.

Many avid movie watchers, including myself, were doubtful that “The Way of Water” could live up to its predecessor. $2 billion later, it seems like the naysayers were proven wrong.

While the first “Avatar” film was about an expedition with environmentalist themes , “The Way of Water” leans more into family.

“The Way of Water” is set around 15 years after the events of the first film and follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri’s (Zoë Saldana) kids. Since the first film, they have had three children: Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Tuk (Trinity Bliss). Jake and Neytiri also adopted another Na’vi child they named Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). Kiri is the mysterious daughter of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who died in the first film.

Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) bonds with a tulkun creature. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Another major character featured in the film is Spider (Jack Champion), the son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who attacked the Na’vi 15 years ago. Spider befriends Sully’s kids and resents his father. The Colonel returns as the villain in this film after his memories were put into an Avatar body as a contingency plan following his attack on Pandora.

This creates one of the most interesting dynamics in the film through Spider and the Colonel’s father-son relationship. The Colonel recognizes Spider as his son; however, he is constantly reminded of the fact that Spider isn’t really his son since he is just the memories of Quaritch put into an Avatar body.

Although Spider holds a grudge against his father for what he did to the Na’vi, he grows sympathy for the Colonel throughout the film, which may impact the events of “Avatar’s” upcoming sequels.

The family dynamic between the Sullys was also one of the best parts of the film, with Kiri being the most intriguing addition to the cast.

Kiri is the daughter of Grace Augustine. In the first film, Augustine was the scientist in charge of the Avatar program. She died during the battle between the Na’vi and the humans after they tried to transfer her human conscience to her Avatar body through the means of Eywa, the biological sentient deity of Pandora and the Na’vi.

Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) is one of the standout characters in “Avatar: The Way of Water.” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

After the events of the “Avatar” Kiri was mysteriously born and was adopted by Jake and Neytiri. One of my favorite parts of the film was the reveal of Kiri’s connection with Eywa. “The Way of Water” doesn’t reveal much when it comes to this connection, but it raises a lot of questions for the upcoming sequels.

Jake and Neytiri’s second son, Lo’ak, is the second most important character introduced in this film, as a lot of the story is centered around him. In some parts of the film, Lo’ak can be pretty annoying, especially when he constantly gets himself into trouble and doesn’t seem to learn much from it. However, I think this will serve as a benefit to the character in the future as it leaves a lot of room for him to grow.

The other kids, Netayam and Tuk, don’t do much in this film, but they were still welcome additions to the cast. Neytayam is the oldest of the Sully kids, so naturally, he falls into the big brother role, guiding his younger siblings. He also has a major impact towards the end of the film. Tuk is the youngest, so she spends most of the film just hanging around the others and not doing as much as the other characters. I am interested to see how both characters will impact future installments.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) rides a skimwing into battle. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Seeing Jake and Neytiri as parents in “The Way of Water” was a really cool piece of character development from when we last saw them in “Avatar.” Worthington and Saldana deliver strong performances and handle their updated roles really well. Jake is probably the most changed character from the previous film since the last time we saw him, he was still a human being transferred into an Avatar body. In “The Way of Water,” he has been a Na’vi for approximately 15 years and is fully ingrained into their society.

Without getting into deep spoilers, one of the things I didn’t like was how Jake and Neytiri pretty much abandon the Omatikaya Clan for the Metkayina Clan. A major point of the first film was defending your home and never abandoning your family. In “The Way of Water,” Jake and Neytiri left their Omatikaya Clan family, justifying their departure by saying they were protecting their immediate family. Overall, it doesn’t really make sense. It just feels like a quick explanation to get the main characters to the water village so director James Cameron could get all of those good underwater shots.

“The Way of Water” is probably the most beautiful film I have ever seen, largely due to the underwater scenes. When you are watching this film, the special effects are so good you forget the world of “Avatar” isn’t real. Considering the Na’vi are big blue people, they feel believable even when they are interacting with humans.

Sam Worthington and Zoë Saldana deliver strong performances as Jake Sully and Neytiri years after their initial appearances. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

One of the greatest technological achievements seen in the film was Weaver as Kiri. Weaver previously portrayed Kiri’s mother in the first film, and she played Kiri as a teenage girl in this film. While I do think it’s pretty weird to have a 73-year-old woman play a 15-year-old girl, Weaver’s performance and the technology to make her look young makes you forget it is Weaver playing the part.

Another one of the film’s strongest aspects is that it sets up sequels while still feeling like its own self-contained story. There are a lot of storylines that “The Way of Water” sets up for future installments; however, the film does a good job of telling its own story without feeling like it exists solely to set up the rest of the franchise.

I also appreciated how this film didn’t feel the need to constantly call back to the original. Of course, it does make references when necessary, but it doesn’t feel like it depends on these connections. “The Way of Water” is its own film, and that is what makes it extraordinary.

Overall, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is an incredibly strong addition to the “Avatar” franchise and has proven its longevity in the film industry. I rate this film a nine out of 10. This film is an incredible sequel that expands on the first film and is only faulted by minor character issues

Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) rides a tulkun creature. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)