Personally, I enjoy James Cameron’s Avatar films more than I like to admit. I geek out over the technical achievements, the stunning visuals, the unique combination of motion capture acting and CGI. Most of all, the Avatar movies are incredibly immersive. They’re truly an escape that I don’t mind being three hours long. It’s amazing to witness this film’s reach with my oldest child, whose first introduction to the Avatar franchise was walking into a real life Pandora on Earth at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in early 2022. He was blown away and wanted to ride the Na’vi River Journey all day. Since then, I showed him the original film and took him to see the sequel. He enjoyed seeing both, hung the poster in his room, and I love being able to talk about these big, exciting movies with him.
In Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron moves the story of Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) along about fifteen years. They have children and raise them happily within the Na’vi forest. But danger looms as the Sky People return, once again looking to destroy the beautiful world for profit. This time, Jake’s enemy Quaritch (Stephen Lang) is back, his memories uploaded and reincarnated into a new Na’vi body. He and a band of military buddies, also reincarnated into Na’vi people, make it their mission to hunt down Jake. To protect the Na’vi tribe, Jake and his family flee and seek shelter with a new tribe, the Metkayina, who live off a reef.
But living with the Metkayina brings new challenges for the whole family and could put everyone in danger. The Na’vi are naturally built to climb in the forest, not swim. Their new Metkayina friends have thicker, fin-like tails and other features that help them in their watery home. While Jake and Neytiri learn and work with the leaders of the tribe, their children learn to breathing techniques, swimming and to ride sea creatures with the leader’s children.
It’s refreshing to see so much of this film focusing on the children within this uniquely blended family. The oldest boy, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) feels the weight of responsibility over his siblings and is always there to help his parents. The younger boy, Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), feels stuck in his brother’s shadow, and lashes out to prove himself. His chapters with a tulkun, a whale type creature, are especially cool. Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) was actually born from Dr. Grace’s avatar body and was adopted by Jake and Neytiri. She’s about fourteen, full of curiosity, questions and seems uniquely attuned to Eywa, the all-mother deity. Spider (Jack Champion) is human, somehow Quaritch’s son and left by the Sky People as a baby. And while Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) is only a young child, you can see all the fierceness of her mother boiling inside her.
Avatar: The Way of Water is currently nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film is also nominated for best sound, production design and visual effects.I would be surprised if Avatar does not take home the trophy for best visual effects.
James Cameron made the world wait thirteen years for this sequel, and honestly I did not expect it to be this good. The cynical pessimist in me expected a let down, but I was so happy to be wrong. I genuinely enjoyed the story, the new generation of characters, the gripping action and the aquatic expansion of this beautiful, breathtaking world. For three glorious hours my son and I were transported and immersed back onto Pandora, plunged into the water like never before. Bring on more Avatar sequels, Mr. Cameron. Make your money. Just don’t make us wait so long.
“The way of water has no beginning and no end. Our hearts beat in the womb of the world. The sea is your home, before your birth and after your death. The sea gives and the sea takes. Water connects all things: life to death, darkness to light.”