James Cameron exceeds very high expectations with his new sequel AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Jaw dropping at every turn and powered by the best hour of pure adrenaline Cameron excitement since the final hour of “Aliens” back in 1986, this is my favorite film of 2022.
Spread over a fast paced 192 minutes, Cameron delivers both an action-packed thriller and a heartfelt family drama with high stakes at every turn.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is fully Na’vi now, having left his human form behind a decade ago. He and his bride Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) are raising their two sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) along with adopted daughter Kiri.
Kiri was mysteriously born from scientist Grace Augustine’s comatose Na’vi avatar. Sigourney Weaver is back in flashbacks as Grace and with a motion-capture performance as Kiri. She matches the young stars in energy throughout.
The young human son of mega military bad-ass Colonel Quartich is now a teenager and is part of Jake’s family as well. Nicknamed Spider, and engagingly played by Jack Champion, he’s a feral staple on Pandora and mostly unaware of his past.
The Sully family’s peace is shattered when humans return to Pandora, destroying forests and ravishing the countryside in a blatant land grab to colonize the planet and prepare for a migration from a dying Earth.
Even though our villain Quaritch (Stephen Lang) died in the original film, every bit of him has been downloaded into a Na’vi avatar better suited to beat Sully this time around.
Battles ensue, the Sully’s are uprooted to a new water-based land and the middle third of the film details the family adapting to a new culture and way of life, with all the conflict and challenges that entails.
We meet the leader of the Metkayina clan Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his powerful wife Ronal (Kate Winslet). Cameron creates a completely new look and culture for the water tribe, as he did the forest-based Navi that we met in the first film. The sea creatures are creative & stunning and the environment that Cameron and his team invent is nothing short of a game changer.
I remember Cameron doing things with miniatures and back screening in “The Terminator” and “Aliens” that pushed the limits of film. He repeated that with the incredible CGI of ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and then practically invented modern cinema digital effects again with the original “Avatar” in 2009.
Cameron has done it again. The high-res, photo realistic special effects of Pandora are better than ever. An early sequence detailing a Na’vi attack on a human encampment supply train is a stunner, earning an in-the-moment, out loud “Wow” from me in the theatre. Repeat that wow and add in a couple “Holy sh….” from me in the underwater sequences.
Cameron shot all those underwater scenes with live actors in a custom-built water tank. Those are not CGI people on screen, they are the actors in motion capture gear, holding their breath for incredible amounts of time in deep, free dives. Winslet held her breath for 6 minutes and 50 seconds after six months of training by Navy Seals experts.
Cameron saves the best for last with a final 60 minutes that never takes a breath. There is no confusion or lack of clarity in that final hour. Unlike every Transformer movie ever made and most Marvel films of the last few years, the action is clear. Every shot moves you forward, and you never get lost in visual noise. There are deaths of consequence and heartfelt loss. There are moments of courage and redemption that hit home with power.
Cameron’s first sequel since “T2: Judgement Day” back in 1991, it’s a $350 million budgeted powerhouse that grabs you and never lets go. I saw it in Dolby Cinema 3D on its 12th day of release, the same day it passed $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide.
In 3D and a big screen, this isn’t a movie, it’s an unrelenting thrill ride.
It’s the most fun I’ve had in a theatre in 2022, my favorite film of the year and an absolute blast that earns an A+
See it on the biggest 3D screen you can find and buckle up.
James Cameron has done it again.