Avatar: The Way of Water review: Finding strength as a family

The James Cameron film rides on its famly values and the breathtaking aquatic creations.

Rating: 3 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

13 years ago, he left the world in a daze with his out of the world cinema. Avatar [2009] – the epic sci-fi tale was based on the simple premise of ecological balance that is tilted heavily in favour of humans. The impact on us Indians was such that many, like this reviewer, started writing and pronouncing the Sanskrit word Avatara or avtaar like the Americans.

Just as the first film, creator-director James Cameron has taken over a decade to come up with the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water [2022]. Conceived in 2010, Cameron and his writers – Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver – took adequate time to pen the screenplay. The principal photography began in September 2017, with the film wrapping up in 2020. Enhanced technology has only elevated the visual experience, but it’s the vision that separates Cameron’s films from the rest.

The journey resumes a decade after the epic fight against ‘Sky people’ [humans] in Pandora – exoplanetary moon. Avatar-turned-Na’vi Jake Sully [Sam Worthington], Neytiri [Zoe Saldana] encounter a familiar foe and are compelled to take refuge in a reef in the island of Metkayina. Not one to back down down from a fight, Jake chooses to leave the forest for the safety of his family, that now comprises of three biological kids and an adopted daughter Kiri. The new aquatic world brings its own charm, challenges, adventure before the family battles formidable foes.

The sci-fi, other world creation is fine, but it amazes how a Canadian filmmaker has questioned human greed, colonial mindset and military aggression. Though a universal malaise, Pandora is a reflection of the Wild west era, where the white supremacy displaced the natives and captured their lands. The larger message though is unabashedly exposing the human hand in disturbing the balance of nature. It was forest exploitation in Avatar [2009]. The Way of Water [2022] exposes the human threat to marine life and its resources. A simple thought but told through an exotic, unique vision.

Sigourney Weaver as Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water [2022]

The conflict zone shifts from the Pandora forest to the turquoise waters of Metkayina, but the screenplay evokes a sense of deja vu. Speaking about it would be too much of a reveal. However, we can’t help but draw parallel between the journey of Jake Sully and Kiri, born out of the late Dr. Grace’s [Sigourney Weaver] avatar but who is the father? Like Jake in Avatar [2009], Kiri, too, has a struggle to fit into her new adopted home. She has to go through her moment of self-discovery, spiritual awakening. It’s remarkable how the 73-year-old Weaver played a 14-year-old character, and in a sweet, young unrecognizable tone.

As for Jake, the protective father takes over in The Way of Water, much to the chagrin of his wife, who isn’t comfortable that the family ran away from Pandora. The feisty Na’vis take a decisive stand, but this film is more about the children – Neteyam [Jamie Flatters], Lo’ak [Britain Dalton], Kiri and young Tuktirey aka Tuk [Trinity Jo-Li Bliss] carrying the Jake and Neytiri legacy. Little Trinity has a blissful presence as the 8-year Tuk isn’t afraid to stare in the face of danger.

Kate Winslet reunites with her mentor [Cameron] 25 years after Titanic [1997]. And it’s back to the seas again, but there’s no sinking feeling this time. In fact, she reportedly set a record for holding her breath under water for a good seven minutes. Ronal [Winslet] welcomes Jake and co to Metkayina family with open arms.

We’re in a bind as to why and who would invest billions of dollars to revive a principal antagonist? All because s/he could have his/her revenge? The larger design though is the complete annexation of Pandora and make it the new human habitat.

In addition to a familiar foe, The Way of Water also unleashes Captain Mick Scoresby [Brendan Cowell], a oil thirsty head of a private sector marine hunting vessel on Pandora.

13 years later, enhanced technology will naturally result in a more immersive visual experience. We can’t even comprehend on the out of the world production design, special effects, especially the bioluminous creations. One is intrigued though at the communication skills between Na’vi, Metkayina and their revered gigantic mammals.

Cameron has produced a visual marvel, but it doesn’t quite have that emotional connect like Avatar [2009]. May be, the early experience was novel. It had this element of mystery, the excitement and also the fear of being in a new planet. Make no bones about it, the aquatic adventure is equally immersive, but this feels more like being in an exotic island on earth, as opposed to exploring the waters of Pandora.

The 192 minutes length is no drag as the aquatic marvel and the ‘family’ show drives the film. Water is the essence of all life. Not all life lives like a family. Not all life, fights as a family. Land, forest or water. Human, Na’vi or Metkayinas, James Cameron’s Avatar prides in its family strength. Earlier, it was flying together to save the forest. Now, it is a story of the family that sails together, stays together.


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