Avatar the Way of water is the long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, 2009’s, Avatar. The film took us on an epic journey to a place called Pandora.
Where we meet the Na’vi people. The natives of Pandora this habitable moon rich in a valuable mineral called unobtanium and now even more sort after, an anti-aging chemical found in the brains of the Tulkans. The conflict ensues when human miners of the Resources development administration try to colonize Pandora completely and terraform it for the people of earth’s new home.
Human and paraplegic Jake Sully played by Sam Worthington becomes one of the first 20 known avatar drivers who later falls in love with a native Na’vi, Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldāna.
Jake fights alongside Pandora against the human miners after seeing the brutal treatment of the Na’vi people.
Most of the cast from the original come back, including Sigourney Weaver’s character Doctora Grace Augustine. Sort of. Weaver plays Grace Augustine, but she mainly plays a new character, Kiri. Jake and Neytiri’s adopted daughter. Kiri positioned to play a much more significant role in future sequels? But more on that later.
We learned in the first Avatar that a person’s consciousness can be permanently transferred into an avatar body. This is how Jake became a permanent Na’vi. Likewise, we know in Avatar the Way of water, the main antagonist, Colonel Miles Quaritch, received the same treatment for his return.
The Way of water quickly reminds us of two things. What we have been missing and to never bet against James Cameron. We find that RDA has been benefiting from technological advances.
Newcomer General Ardmore informs us that they have accomplished more in the last 6 months than during the previous 13 years.
Neteyam, Kiri, Lo’ak and Tuk are the children of Jake and Neytiri. We meet them along with adopted brother Spider whose real name is Miles.
If you made the connection, good on you.
With the use of new avatars, the human miners are able to infiltrate Pandora causing a rising threat to the Na’vi tribe. To his surprise, Quaritch encounters the Sully kids for the first time and his son, Spider. Leading up to the first rematch between The Sully’s and Quaritch, we explore more of Pandora and the visuals cinemagical!
The Sully’s fend off the intruders, but Spider is captured. The RDA cannot only get past security measures with its Avatar but now have someone who knows everything as a prisoner. This makes Jake panic and causes him to flee his village, as he suspects Colonel Quaritch is only after him.
Leaving their home searching for a new home, they can find safe passage and lay low. Doing so sets the wheels in motion to introduce us to Great Barrier Reef Metkayina Clan. Metkayina chief Tonowari played by Cliff Curtis, and his wife Ronal, played by Kate Winslet. As well as their daughter Tsireya, and sons Aonung & Rotxo.
The chief allows the Sully’s to stay and live amongst them, but Ronal is not fond of the decision as she feels Jake’s war will follow him and they are not too kind to the idea of these demon blooded half breeds.
The movie then does an exceptional job of allowing the characters to feel lived in. A 3-hour film is an advantage, but they did not try to fill the time with just a bunch of action sequences. We had a chance to live with the family as they struggled to adapt and learn the Way of water. Neteyam is the oldest of the children and does well in honoring his parents. He does the right thing and is a solid warrior, much like his parents. Lo’ak is the middle boy who feels like an outcast.
A rebel who struggles with being impulsive and defiant. Kiri is adopted and has a connection with Eywa that needs to be fully explained but sets her up as a real power player and maybe even a greater target for the enemies. Tuk is the baby and her character gives us the point of view of a child with their eyes wide open. Sort of how we feel watching this lavish parade of a world Cameron continues to build upon.
Though Lo’ak, we meet the Tulkun. Native to the oceans of Pandora and highly intelligent. We find out that they are like distant relatives to the water tribe people. They have a deep connection with them. Even as much as ceremonial gatherings for when children are born.
One of the Tulkun, Payakan, is an outcast of his clan. The trauma bond moment with the whale-like creature and Lo’ak is a vital moment that also executes the task of deepening the lure while moving the plot forward. It served as a tree being rooted deeply and branching forward simultaneously.
This is no easy feat as they also continue to show the rising threat and coming conflict headed for a head-on collision.
As much as this film is about exploration and world-building, it is hinged on family. This beautiful duality throughout the film demonstrates that family is more than skin deep and thicker than blood. The family you choose is equally as important as the family you’re born into.
Not only is family a primary beat in this cinematic symphony, but fathers. This film shows the vulnerability, mistakes, and heart of a father who loves their children. When get to see 3 fathers, all tasked with hard decisions and all respond out of love.
Where the film lacks story, it over-delivers on heart, stakes, performances, and breathtaking fēng shuī of a film tapestry.
Major Spoilers AHEAD!!!!!
One of those family ties is between Lo’ka and Payakan, who he identifies as his brother and risks his life to warn him of pending danger. Had he not, the Tulkan being hunted would have been left defenseless. Another is Lo’ka and his blood brother Neteyam. Neteyam loves his brother and takes on the responsibility of protecting him at all costs. Even to his death. Neteyam is shot after rescuing his siblings. They go back for Spider, and right before they are clear of harm, he is shot and dies of his wounds in his parent’s arms.
Earlier in the film, Neteyam demonstrated his love for his brother again in a fight against the water Na’vi sons’. Who, to his father’s liking, left their opponents looking worst after the fight.
Another interesting family dynamic is that of Spider, who is convinced he is a Na’vi but is human, the son of Colonel Quaritch. Though not this version technically. However, this version has all his memories and emotions of the Quaritch that was killed in the original.
Quaritch displays sympathy for his son during an intense interrogation that almost leads to his death. However, Spider’s feelings grow fonder throughout the film, teaching him the language of the Na’vi people.
This relationship would continue to go through strenuous moments, culminating in experiencing defining moments that could have real implications for the future.
After losing her son, Neytiri holds a knife to Spider’s throat, as Quaritch holds his own to Kiri.
Quaritch says he has no feelings for Spider, but his bluff is called. Right before Neytiri delivered the blow, Quaritch yielded. Proving his love for his son and giving us very Darth Vader arc vibes.
With the kids safe, Jake and Quaritch have some unfinished business. With a ship hemorrhaging water and going down fast, Jake gets the upper hand and chokes him unconscious, leaving him to die in the flooding.
In the last attempt at survival with Jake weakened, Kiri and Lo’ak find and rescue their family from the flooded ship. Spider comes across his father’s body in the water, mistaking him for Jake has a moment where he considers saving him and decides against it. He begins to swim away and has a change of heart. He saves him, pulling him to shore. When Quaritch comes to, he asks Spider to come with him. Spider snares at him and goes back to find the family he chose.
Together, the Sully’s get above water and embrace those they have while mourning their loss.
Back with the water tribe, a beautiful ceremony takes place to send Jakes and Neytiri’s son to be one with the Tree of Souls. The sober but inspiring moment saw Jake and Neytiri connect to the tree to share their memories with Neteyam.
Jake with a heavy heart, tells Chief Tonowari that he and his family will be leaving. But Tonowari makes another call. Deciding because their son lies with their ancestors, and they are family now. Tonowari chooses this as his family.
This Avatar lived in moments makes it a must-watch with visuals that continue to justify you seeing this in 3D. I rate Avatar: The Way of water an 80. It’s more an experience than it is simply a film. See it in theaters.