“Avatar: The Way of Water” (2022)- Movie Review

Writer/Director: James Cameron

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

                                                                                                      ‘Spectacular Sequel’

America has built an image of being a country that refuses to acknowledge environment damage. Unlike the fantastical world of Pandora, America is a nation driven by political agenda that regards its environment with stigma. The United States has infrequently taken efforts to educate citizens about climate change which has become a topic of unfortunate debate. Failure to cultivate sustainable futures is the fault of the country’s leaders. Like star-crossed lovers boarding Titanic ships destined toward disasters, American politicians ignore environmental dangers. Discussing global warming is as challenging as transporting precious rings. Negative perceptions towards the environment are evident in entertainment. Due toward ignorance, there is a limited audience for movies about climate change in a country which has denied clear evidence proving its existence. In fairness, raising awareness about the environment is scarcely the greatest priority of the entertainment business. Simply put, movies represent a medium of escapism rather than environmentalism. However, in 2009 everything changed when James Cameron’s “Avatar” hit theaters. Recalling sci-fi classics set a long time ago in galaxies far far away, it transformed the ways in which blockbusters become manufactured today. Although “Avatar’s” visual effects attracted box-office earnings, the blockbuster attracted criticisms for its environmentalism meaning. Nevertheless, its success opened doors for a sequel to address global warming. Could a sequel made to educate moviegoers about climate be worth the wait?

Now, the wait is over and it’s safe to say that James Cameron’s “Avatar: the Way of Water” is an awe-inspiring achievement offering entertainment honoring the environment. Action-packed, thrilling and riveting, it proves filmmaking successfully showcases global warming. Cameron battles climate change denial. Boasting stunning visuals, sharp storytelling and phenomenal performances, it’s a superb sequel. Although “The Way of Water” is engrossing, it isn’t flawless. It’s overlong, building conventional conclusions. Nevertheless, it offers exhilarating entertainment for sci-fi fans.

Set 15 years after “Avatar”, “The Way of Water” follows Na’vi warriors that strive to build sustainable futures. Sam Worthington personifies Jake Sully, the resourceful Na’vi leader raising family on Pandora. However, Jake’s dreams are threatened when his planet is destroyed. Forced to evacuate home, Jake discovers shelter upon an island following way of water environments. Stumbling across environmentalism catastrophes, Jake becomes concerned regarding his homeland’s destiny.

James Cameron has commonly demonstrated fascination with terminator machines causing environment destruction. Following 1984’s “The Terminator”, Cameron has become a fantastic filmmaker. His blockbusters are characterized by doomed love stories, stunning special effects and sustainability themes.  With “The Way of Water”, however, Cameron creates an environment blockbuster. It’s the filmmaker’s attempt employing spectacle to showcase global warming, but he succeeds. Through spellbinding cinematography, Cameron captures the Na’vi warriors’ journey to learn ways of water. Whereas “Avatar” captured rainforests destruction, the sequel emphasizes oceans. Evoking “Titanic”, the director uses water tanks to capture oceans. Recalling Jack & Rose’s survival aboard Titanic ships doomed disasters, Jake Sully and his family learn how to breathe underwater. Shooting movies in water-tanks is risky. As “The Abyss” demonstrated, diving into oceans’ abyss doesn’t commonly create entertaining movie-going. Nevertheless, it succeeds. Accompanied by cinematographer Russell Carpenter, Cameron commemorates oceans. Cameron constructs a film that deserves big-screen viewing.

If environmental disasters don’t attract you to theaters, however, there’s several reasons to see “The Way of Water”. One area where the film surpasses its predecessor is motion-capture. If “Avatar” was criticized for using motion-capture as spectacle, the sequel evokes emotions through visuals. Accompanied by VFX supervisor Brian Adler, Cameron uses mo-cap to convey the Na’vi tribe’s emotions. For instance, motion-capture demonstrates emotions during the whale death sequence. During this heartbreaking sequence, the Na’vi warriors mourn whales’ deaths. One acknowledges effects demonstrating emotions in ape-mazing styles reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”. Like King Kong’s death leaving the world grieving, whales’ passings cause mourning. Furthermore, Simon Franglen’s score’s praiseworthy. Evoking John Williams’ “Star Wars”, it demonstrates adventure. Through production-design, Cameron celebrates environment.

Another commendable “The Way of Water” component is the screenplay. Cameron’s screenwriting strength is capturing environment destruction’s devastating repercussions through voice-over narration. Science-fiction blockbusters commonly portray global warming as apocalyptic disasters requiring preventative measures. As case-in-point, Christopher Nolan’s anything but stellar “Interstellar” suggested the only way for astronomers to avoid climate disasters is travel Interstellar galaxies far from their estranged daughters. Fortunately, however, “The Way of Water” avoids stereotypes. Evoking Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”, Cameron successfully employs voice-over narration to demonstrate special connections between humans and animals. Recalling Pi’s narration conveying connections with tigers, Jake Sully’s son demonstrates relationships with whales. Voice-over narration represents complicated techniques. Narration is appropriate for documentaries about environmental celebrities (ex. Fisher Stevens’ “Before the Flood”). As Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves” demonstrated, narration appears appropriate for literary adaptations highlighting Indigenous traditions. Nevertheless, it succeeds. Through voice-over storytelling, Cameron commemorates global warming.

One appreciates astonishing performances. 

Sam Worthington delivers a career-defining performance as Jake Sully. In “Avatar”, Worthington proved worthy of portraying technological creations. With sequel, however, Worthington embodies emotional depth. It’s a challenging role requiring the actor to convey emotions beneath motion-capture, but Worthington succeeds. Evoking Andy Serkis in “The Planet of the Apes” franchise, Worthington embodies a leader protecting planet’s landsc-Apes from danger. With riveting expressions, he conveys angst, bravery and resentments of a father shielding family from disaster. It’s a magnificent performance.

The supporting cast demonstrates depth as digital avatars. Zoe Saldana is spectacular, using motion-capture technologies to convey larger-than-life persona of a mother seeking to save children from trauma on Pandora. Sigourney Weaver is stellar, weaving a sensitive teenager grieving loss of her mother. Last, Stephen Lang merits acknowledgements. As a despicable lieutenant, he’s menacing.

Despite phenomenal performances, however, “The Way of Water” can’t recreate awe-inspiring wonder of its superior predecessor. At three hours, the movie suffers from excessive running-time that tests viewers’ patience. Unlike “Avatar” which highlighted Jake Sully’s adventures, the sequel diverts attention towards his children. Therefore, watching Jake’s children learning ways of water isn’t as entertaining as Sully’s adventures. As Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy suggested, extended running times are appropriate for literature adaptations. Moreover, the film suffers from conventional conclusions. It’s an ambiguous ending without satisfying closure. Whereas this cliffhanger elevated Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune”, it clashes with this movie. At worst, it’s marketing techniques to setup sequels. Hence, the sequel falters.

Nevertheless, fans of sci-fi epics will enjoy “The Way of Water” and so will moviegoers seeking meaningful entertainment. An astonishing achievement, it demonstrates entertainment has the abilities to incite awareness about the environment. If Cinema is a medium with power to change perception of the environment in America with acknowledgements in modern era, hopefully visiting the world of Pandora will lead movie-goers to recognize climate change in a country where ecosystems are often handled by leaders with politician agenda rather than institutionalizations that create avatars with charisma.

In the wake of its success hitting the world with the impacts of earthquakes, the film represents a wakeup call for the U.S. to never take for granted its vast lakes that are home to whales that possess long-lasting connection toward humans which are wrongfully taken advantage of by corporations solely depending upon profitability’s sake.

Like Titanic ships destined for destruction sinking to bottom of oceans, it’s high time that the United States reassessed its responsibilities as a nation managed by politicians that have often denied environmental destruction which is the tip of the iceberg of problems threatening its king-of-the-world reputation.

During a troublesome time when climate continues to rise at skyrocketing rates, it’s essential for the United States to get its priorities straight by aiming to educate rather than debate before it’s too late to carry a planet as prosperous as Pandora on the weight of its shoulders away from disastrous fate.

As essential as water used for the Na’vi warriors’ survival, it’s a Pandora-able reminder that America must follow example of avatars to admire mother nature by using renewable resources to build sustainable worlds where no dream on the face of the earth is unattainable.

4/5 stars

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