Here’s a (mostly) no-spoiler review of Avatar: The Way of Water. I got to see an advance screening this week. The movie starts Friday, December 16th but if you want to get a jump on that, tickets are available on Thursday night. I purchase my movie tickets through Fandango. It’s paperless, fast, and easy.
See the trailer here.
First things first
If you have not seen the first Avatar movie, stop reading and go watch it. This movie is available to stream on Disney+. If you don’t have Disney+ you can rent it on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy it for $14.99. It had been about five years since I’d seen Avatar and I wish I would have rewatched it before seeing Avatar: The Way of Water.
Can you still enjoy the second movie without seeing the first? If you’re a kid or don’t need to get too deep into the plot lines and back story, probably yes. The special effects and cinematography are so well done. It’s a visual treat and you can get the gist of what’s going on easily enough. However, understanding the relationships and events that happened in the first movie are important. There’s not a “Last time on Avatar” introduction. The story moves fast and it assumes you remember what happened in the original movie that was released in 2009.
This movie is three+ hours long
The full movie, including end credits, is three hours and 10 minutes. There’s no end-credit scene. If you’re not a night owl, see this one early. Also, maybe skip the jumbo soft drink. The one-hour mark is an okay place to go to the bathroom.
Jake and Neytiri and fam
The movie opens with a look back at what Jake and Neytiri Sully have been up to for the past 15 years. They have two sons and two daughters. One of their daughters is adopted. I’m not going to give the adopted daughter’s backstory because I think it’s a major spoiler but she’s an integral part of the plot and will likely play a huge role in the future of the Avatar enterprise. There’s also a human boy who has a sibling-like relationship with the Sully kids.
All of the Sully kids are very likable have distinct personalities. The kids get much more screen time than Jake and Neytiri, which no one should be mad about. The family dynamic is definitely not a perfect one and mimics the types of conflict all families probably experience. Again, no spoilers on the adopted daughter’s backstory (it’s revealed early on in the movie) but I will say that they present adoption in a very realistic and respectful way.
Also, the Na’vi apparently don’t age. Like…at all.
Pandora’s peaceful period comes to an end
Life on Pandora has been pretty darn sweet since the close of the original Avatar but the applecart is upset very early on in the movie. Jake and Neytiri are enjoying a date night when he spies an unusual star, which turns out to be ships entering the atmosphere with a fiery blaze that sets the tone for the re-entry of the star people.
Colonel Miles Quaritch is back as the main villain, although most of the sky people are presented as distasteful. For those of you who are thinking “Wait, didn’t that guy die at the end of the last movie?” Quaritch is back as a unique type of genetically engineered avatar who has Quartich’s memories. And, that’s a much of a spoiler as you’re going to get from me.
Forest people vs. reef people
It becomes necessary for the Sullys and their banshees to flee the rainforest and they fly over water until they spot a beach with other civilization. The Na’vi who live by the water (reef people) are clearly Na’vi but they have a much different look about them and their bodies have clearly evolved to suit their environment. One of the leaders, Ronal, is played by Kate Winslet, which I thought was hard to pick out. Her character doesn’t look physically like Winslet and you’d have to be on the ball in figuring out that was her voice, which I wasn’t. I’d read Winslet has a role in Avatar and I kept waiting for her to appear when it turns out she was part of the story all along.
Plot Lines in Avatar: The Way of Water
There are several plot lines in this movie. The relationship between the reef people and the forest people is one of the main plot lines, as is the fight between good and evil. Another subtler message was an environmental/conservation one. The sky people (AKA earthlings) are interested in developing Pandora because Earth is dying and they need somewhere to set up Earth 2.0. The plundering of resources, including the cruel treatment of wildlife, which has the no doubt intended effect of disgusting and angering the viewer.
Is Avatar: The Way of Water suitable for kids?
The movie is rated PG-13 for intense action scenes and swearing. Avatar: The Way of Water has its share of violence, death, and near-death experiences. There’s one scene where one of the characters gets his arm ripped off and while it’s shown from a distance and not really gory, that one made me wince a little bit.
There are also a couple of scenes that depict extreme cruelty to animals, which I found hard to watch. I think the most disturbing point for me was that it’s easy to see how such a scene would be realistic. There is some mild swearing and I counted one F-bomb.
My twelve-year-olds have not seen the movie but I would have no issues letting them see it. I’d probably allow this movie in a theater for nine or 10 and up, depending on the kid and their interest, but I’ve always been on the more permissive side of what I’ll let my kids watch.
I LOVED this movie. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat although my husband thought some of it was predictable. The special effects were insane and the movie is so, so visually stunning. I loved all the kids and I’m really excited to see how their stories develop and what comes next.
Get your tickets here and see it in 3D if you can!