“Avatar: The Way of Water” Makes a Splash


“Avatar: The Way of Water” thrusts viewers back into the luscious world of Pandora for an even more wild story. (Canva/Creative Commons)

On what planet is the follow up to a 2009 film about blue humanoids at war hit?

Earth, apparently.

The Avatar sequel just arrived in over 4,000 theaters nationwide on December 16 and immediately blew all its competition out of the water. The film gained $134 million domestically over its opening weekend, the third largest post-pandemic opening ever, trailing only behind two Marvel smash hits: Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The second most popular film of the weekend, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, brought in just over $5.3 million despite its fairly recent release a little over a month ago.

Additionally, The Way of Water has an “A” rating from early viewers polled by Cinemascore. The film currently holds a 93% audience score and is Certified Fresh by critics on Rotten Tomatoes as well.

So, why were moviegoers both young and old eager for a 3 hour long return to Pandora?

Simple: Avatar: The Way of Water amps every aspect of the first film up to 10, making it an essential watch this winter.

Neytiri (Saldana) and Jake Sully (Worthington) must protect themselves and their children from a rising threat. (Creative Commons/Flickr)

Unlike its predecessor, Avatar: The Way of Water ventures beyond the forest and takes to the ocean. When an unexpected threat returns in search of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), he decides to flee his Na’vi tribe with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their four children to retreat to Pandora’s islands. The trip is more than a simple banshee ride away, for the Sullys find themselves embarking on an anxiety-inducing journey and immediately clash with the “reef people” due to Jake’s human bloodline.

New additions to the cast set The Way of Water apart as well. Academy Award winner Kate Winslet reunites with director James Cameron 25 years after Titanic for another water set tale. This time; however, she is not blue because she lost the love of her life. Winslet dons a motion capture suit to play Ronal, the wife of Chief Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and mother to Tsireya “Reya” (newcomer Bailey Bass). Bass also delivers an excellent performance as the pacifist teen, whose character does share some interesting parallels with Neytiri, too. 

Most importantly, though, the cinematography and VFX truly are out of this world (some reports estimate the film carries up to a $400 million price tag). A particularly captivating sequence sees one of Jake’s sons, Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) bonding with a whale-like creature known as a tulkun. Water has never looked this realistic on a movie screen before, especially when seen in 3D.

Finally, no good movie is complete without a thrilling climax and satisfying finale. The penultimate battle sequence leaves viewers on the edge of their seats and makes them forget that over two hours have passed and just under an hour still remains. More importantly, the touching final scene perfectly sets the stage for Avatar 3, Avatar 4, and yes, even Avatar 5

Movies like Avatar: The Way of Water are simply why people enjoy the movie-going experience. Not every film has to be a tear jerking Great Depression biopic or lavish 19th century period piece. Sometimes innovative stories set over 100 years in the future with 10 foot tall aliens make for the best entertainment.

Rating: 4.5/5 unobtanium stars