Return to Pandora: Avatar The Way of Water review


Marina Martinez

While the first Avatar remains the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar:The Way Of Water has achieved being the seventh highest grossing film of all time shortly after its release. The beginning of the movie starts with a shot of Neytiri’s eyes, similar to when she first appeared in Avatar.

James Cameron’s “Avatar”: The highest grossing film of all time that revolutionized 3D technology. Fantastical world building and visuals that were unbelievable in 2009. After 13 years, it’s back.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” takes place years after the events of the first movie, where Jake and Neytiri have their own family with four kids: Neteyam, Lo’ak, Kiri and Tuktirey. Unfortunately, humans have returned to Pandora to make use of its resources and eventually engineer the planet to sustain human life. With returning villain Quaritch and his soldiers, whose memories were put into avatar bodies, revenge against Jake Sully is their first order of business. Jake, trying to desperately keep his family safe, disowns his leadership position as chief of the Omaticaya clan and takes his family far to the reef tribes of Pandora.

This was a long-awaited sequel that finally came out on Dec. 16, 2022 due to many setbacks. With new technology in CGI and motion tracking, it was a major success. The only issues it had were plot-based issues in the story and its characters.

All children of the Sully family think of Spider as a brother, with Kiri relating to him more as they are both orphans. Kiri’s nickname for Spider is ‘Monkey Boy’ which she usually uses jokingly. (Ella Sotiriades)

Kiri, the adopted daughter of the Sully family and born from Grace’s avatar, is a major character in this movie whose role will undoubtedly become larger as the franchise grows. At some points she is shown to guide the movements of certain creatures or have some kind of powers connecting her very deeply to Pandora. One issue people may have is that Kiri, who is 14 years old, is played by 73 year old Sigourney Weaver. While I admit it was a very interesting choice, many think it’s weird to have a teenager with the voice of a senior citizen. I personally don’t hear her voice sound out of place, but it’s different for everyone. Sigourney Weaver did such an amazing performance that I genuinely thought she was a teenager the first time watching.

The main villain is once again Quaritch, but different. His memories were downloaded and put into an avatar who would eventually take over if the human Quaritch died, which he did. While it may be tiring seeing the same villain from the first movie, I found him to be a much more entertaining villain to watch than the original. In the first “Avatar,” Quartitch was the leader of the military forces on Pandora. He followed orders with a delight to destroy anything native. In this sequel, he is more focused on his personal vendetta against Jake than anything else. It is his utmost priority to either kill Jake or ruin his life by killing his children. While it is a very basic villain wanting revenge, things change when another factor is added in: Spider.

The Ilu have been seen in the ride Flight Of Passage in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora, 5 years before this movie’s release. They are ridden similar to the direhorses only in water instead of land. (Helen Beebe)

Miles, or more commonly known as Spider, is the son of Quaritch and a very close friend to Kiri, though Neytiri isn’t very fond of him. He thinks of her as a sister. In the beginning of the movie, he is kidnapped by Quaritch and his crew, eventually spending most of the movie with them. Through this, while not having any connections with Spider in this body, Quaritch becomes fond of him, especially his fighting spirit. Now, while Spider is nothing more than a plot point, his involvement with Quaritch is something I hope to see become extremely important in future sequels, as it could change Quaritch’s character as we currently know him. Maybe he will start shifting his focus to his son instead of Jake.

Jake cares about his family very much. It’s what takes up most of his attention as he wants to keep them safe in these harsh conditions. It’s shown he takes his duty as a father very important, being very strict with his children calling him “sir.” There isn’t anything wrong with this, as it is common in most military households, and Jake is an ex-marine. However, his strict parenting through this war takes a special toll on his second son, Lo’ak.

I found many of the children and teenagers in this movie very realistic and relatable, like making choices they thought were right instead of thinking them through. The character I found most relatable was Lo’ak. Unlike his older brother Neteyam, he made decisions throughout the course of the movie that put himself at risk. But it’s understandable, at least by me. Living in the shadow of your brother and your father, with your family not understanding you and always feeling alone or like an outcast is relatable. This is similar to how Kiri feels different because of her more intense connection with the world. Lo’ak wants his father to be proud of him without having to become him.

Ronal, the spiritual leader of the Metkayina clan, is played by star of The Titanic, Kate Winslet. During diving practice, Winslet apparently broke a world record for breath hold, lasting 7 minutes and 14 seconds. (Marina Martinez)

Overall, I found the family dynamics of the Sully family to be very realistic. My parents laughed in the theaters multiple times, relating to Jake and Neytiri’s parenting and married life. The characters are all wonderfully played, and with the new technology, their acting was displayed at a much higher quality than the last movie.

With updated motion capture technology, actors’ performances are improved visually with a wider range for capturing emotions. The actors’ faces can be recognized even with the added features CGI applies, which is extremely impressive. You can clearly tell a difference between how the Na’vi looked in the first movie compared to the second.

The Ikran(Banshees), along with the other native animals of Pandora look very visually appealing and seem like real, living animals. While the first movie focused on the animals of the forest, this movie focused on the ones of the sea. With similar characteristics to animals like dolphins, whales and one shark. With them being in water instead of land, their manifestations were awe-inspiring.

The performance underwater was amazing to watch and the most intriguing part of the movie. The ambience and beautiful sea-life were wonderful, and it’s almost hard to believe it’s all made and rendered on a computer. Differences between the forest Na’vi and the reef Na’vi were very interesting to see. You could tell how the Metkayina blended more into the water; they had transparent inner eyelids to see underwater, with stronger muscles and tails to swim and a noticeable difference in lung size. It was fantastic to finally get a look at other clans of the Na’vi, and I can’t wait to see more in the future.

The main focus of this movie, besides the family journey, was nature. While the first movie focused on the takeover of the forest, this one focused more on the ocean. There were creatures similar to whales that were being hunted. More similar to shark finning than whaling though, as they would only kill them for a small substance they contained in their brain, then continue to sink the dead body. It was a very sad moment to see on screen, and I think it left a bigger impact, as even my parents started to tear up.

The movie was breathtaking, and I definitely recommend it as the visuals are definitely outstanding. If you’re someone who cries for movies, this one is a definite tear-jerker. While watching though, you probably won’t even realize it’s three hours long; it certainly didn’t feel like it.

It will eventually be streamed on Disney+, with the date currently being July 8. Future sequels are confirmed to be coming out every two years, with the last one coming out in 2028.