“Avatar: The Way of Water”
Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10)
As the long-awaited sequel to director James Cameron’s 2009 megahit sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has been one of 2022’s most anticipated releases. And, for the most part, it’s a visually stunning and modestly entertaining piece of cinema. But is it the masterpiece everyone has been anxiously waiting for? Hardly. While the film is long on style (it truly is gorgeous to look at), it comes up short on substance. The script is the main problem here, telling a tale that’s not overly engaging or insightful (certainly much less so than its more compelling predecessor) and full of story threads that either regurgitate material from the original or borrow from a variety of other sources, both narratively and visually. Then there’s the runtime, coming in at a whopping 3:13:00, far, far longer than it needs to be, especially in the overly protracted closing hour. The action sequences become a bit tiresome and gratuitous after a while, and other segments feel like a polished travelogue for the Pandora Chamber of Commerce. What’s more, there are storylines left unresolved, making this a picture that can’t fully live up to being a standalone entity (one of my moviemaking pet peeves). To its credit, though, the picture’s pacing is surprisingly tolerable for a film of this length, and it makes excellent use of its 3D technology (perhaps better than any other movie in which I’ve seen it employed in recent years). Still, for an offering that’s been 13 years in the making, I expected something a little fresher and more inventive than this. But, for those who can’t get enough of this franchise, this installment should satisfy nicely. And, if not, fans can look forward to three more sequels scheduled to be released over the next six years (though I’m not sure how many of them I’ll be seeing).