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REVIEW: 'Avatar: The Way of The Water' shows different shades of Pandora blue

By Jerald Uy Published Dec 14, 2022 9:10 pm

Millennials who grew up watching Avatar (2009) are most likely starting their own families or are parents themselves by the time its sequel, Avatar: The Way of The Water comes out this week.

Fittingly enough, the passing of time is reflected on the extrasolar moon of Pandora with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) raising four children while a villain (Stephen Lang) whose motivations are still stuck in the past returns to disrupt the balance of the Na'vis. 

The militaristic antagonist, Colonel Miles Quaritch, comes back in an Avatar body carrying the brain patterns of his deceased human counterpart. It’s one of the most creative ways to bring back Lang, whose performance in the original film won him accolades in the Saturn Awards and Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. After Avatar, Lang’s most notable performance is the blind man in home invasion thriller Don’t Breathe (2018).

As the movie shows, recasting Lang as a villain for the Avatar sequel does not go to waste. This cloned iteration’s military background proves a match to Jake who is also tactically leading a resistance against new human invaders exploiting their forests. The situation changes when Jake’s children are caught in the crossfire, leading them to the decision to join the reef people in hiding. 

It’s not only Lang who returns to the franchise. Sigourney Weaver is likewise back. Her character, exobiologist and head of the Avatar Program Dr. Grace Augustine, died in the first movie amid efforts to transfer her essence into her Avatar body.

She now portrays her daughter Kiri, who may have powers to tap into Eywa, the Great Mother—or the planet’s neural system, depending on who you are talking to. Kiri is adopted by the Sully’s, which shows a reversal of roles between the actors from the first movie. 

With a 73-year-old voicing a teenager, Weaver’s casting could almost ruin the film’s believability. Though a talk between Avatar nerds after watching the movie would suggest that her septuagenarian intonation is aligned with the transfer of Grace’s essence into her Avatar body. The movie’s runtime of 3 hours and 13 minutes might also help viewers get used to her awkwardly sounding character. 

Completing the Sully family are Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), and Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). Dalton’s character journey as the second child who always falls short compared to his oldest brother Neteyam pulls the movie together.

Tuk, the youngest daughter, provides comic relief. A recurring subplot is that the children always get taken as hostages, which could turn off some viewers.

Director James Cameron, who helmed Titanic (1997), might have recycled some ideas in the last act situated in a capsizing battleship. Perhaps another nod is the casting of Kate Winslett, who portrays the nonsensical free diver Ronal. 

Still, Avatar: The Way of The Water is an epic sequel that shows different shades of blue. One is the literal blue, the oceans that need to be protected from human greed. Much like in the first movie, there are karmic scenes in the sequel that is satisfying to watch but might not be good for kids. Avatar: The Way of The Water also makes Cameron's case against whale hunting without being preachy.

It’s also good to see nature fight back but after the movie, we realize that the enemies are us—the human race. Greed is not only killing the mountains and the forests; it is also destroying the planet’s aquatic life. Technically, Pandora is a moon, but you get the drift.

The second blue is technical. Cameron’s long-awaited sequel will leave you in awe. Avatar: The Way of The Water is a visual spectacle meant to be seen on the biggest screens.

I highly recommend it to watch in an IMAX Theater to likewise experience the superb sound design. The underwater motion capture is the best I have seen on-screen. While the sea creatures and environment you will see are alien-like, the scenes are inspired by real-life underwater biosystems.

The third blue is metaphorical. As Jake Sully and Neytiri face a family tragedy, their faith is tested as parents and as a couple. The movie ends with a somber tone and changes the dynamics of the Sully’s.

Apart from Cameron’s flair for spectacle, he also brings an emotional weight into Avatar: The Way of The Water, leaving viewers crushed and affected. 

Avatar: The Way of The Water is now showing in the Philippines.