By: Kate Gruetter
On Dec. 16, 2022, 20th Century Studios released Avatar: The Way of Water, a sequel to the 2009 hit movie Avatar. The film follows fierce warriors Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) as they navigate their newest challenge, family life. The return of an old foe only exacerbates this challenge, as threat after threat tests the family’s bond. Eventually, Sully makes the decision to move his family to Pandora’s reefs, where they hope to stay with the Metkayina tribe. The move is not easy, and each family member faces hardships in the new environment.
Captivating computer generated imagery (CGI) elevates the film’s plot to the next level, transforming a fairly simple story into a beautifully tragic masterpiece. Depicting vast forests and turbulent seas, producer James Cameron uses the film as an opportunity to perfect the world of Pandora, introducing new tribes and environments on the planet. Specifically, the movie’s illustration of Pandora’s ocean is enthralling. As characters discover unique species and unearth the secrets of their new home, audiences feel as if they are right next to the characters, embarking on a journey with them. Cameron’s attention to detail in creating this underwater realm makes the movie magical; allowing any audience member to instantly feel drawn into the world of Pandora.
The sequel’s characters are almost as intriguing as its cinematography — each individual contends with their change in environment but ultimately finds themselves along the way. The eldest Sully sibling, Neteyam, struggles to control his brother, Lo’ak, and audiences watch as Neteyam grapples with his father’s expectations and his brother’s recklessness. Lo’ak faces a similar battle, constantly finding himself disappointing his dad. However, as the film progresses, Lo’ak and Neteyam realize that despite their differences and disputes, they will be there to protect and support each other, no matter what. Kiri is the Sully’s adopted daughter, the result of late Doctor Grace Augustine’s mysterious pregnancy. Throughout the movie, Kiri wrestles with her self worth; she often feels separated from her peers and struggles to come to terms with her individuality. However, by the end of the film Kiri finds acceptance and appreciation for her differences, sending viewers an inspiring message about self love and coming-of-age.
The film also makes powerful statements about wasting natural resources, the cruelty of poaching, and the harm that hunting for sport does to ecosystems. Yet, audiences questioned the movie’s progressive takes on animal cruelty and environmentalism after its Tokyo premiere featured a show using a captive dolphin for entertainment. “I would love to see James Cameron pledge to never attend a dolphin show ever again and to denounce the cruel capture and slaughter of dolphins happening in Taiji, [Japan],” activist Bailey Mason announced in an Instagram post.
Despite controversy, the movie has still earned over one billion dollars internationally, surpassing Frozen II and Top Gun: Maverick.
(Sources: IMDB, The New York Post)