Oscars Roundup: “Avatar: The Way of Water” presents amazing visuals and subpar storytelling


Hannah Owens Pierre and Lilly Jaeger

Zephyrus writers Hannah Owens Pierre and Lilly Jaeger examine each Oscar Best Picture nominee in a countdown to the awards ceremony on March 12

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is the long awaited sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time, “Avatar,” which came out thirteen years prior. Interestingly, director James Cameron shot the third “Avatar” film, which is set to release in 2024, at the same time as the second to maintain the youth of the child actors. The sequel, however, has upgraded the design of the original with much more realistic CGI. “The Way of Water” is about Jake Sully and Neytiri’s family and their struggle against threats of colonization on Pandora.  

High quality CGI is undeniably the best part of the movie. It’s hard to believe that the lush forest landscapes of Pandora are entirely created by a computer. The texture and appearance of the Na’vi is immaculate. “Avatar” is truly a technological feat. 

However, looks can only sustain a movie for so long. And “The Way of Water” doesn’t have much else to offer. 

The beginning of the film is thrilling. It gets you hooked into the story instantly and does a great job of catching up those who haven’t seen its predecessor. The allure of understanding Na’vi culture sustains the audience’s attention. If I could redo my moviegoing experience, I would leave after the first hour or so. It’s not only the best part of the movie but also the only part that is consistently entertaining and intriguing. 

“The Way of Water” suffers from a fractured, disjointed plot. The movie simultaneously wants to build up the threat of its villains and explore the family dynamic of the Sullys, but it can’t seem to strike a balance between the two. The middle act of the movie spends almost the entire time focusing on the Sully family, making you forget about the threat of military invasion entirely. Specifically, the film spends the majority of its run time creating a relationship between Sully’s younger son Lo’ak and a Tulkun, an intelligent whale species. Though the plotline may be necessary for a scene at the end, it is much too long and boring. 

Additionally, one of the most pivotal characters in the movie is the most poorly written. The character Spider is the human son of the late villain Colonel Miles Quaritch who is adopted by the Sully family and learns the way of the Na’vi. Jack Champion, who plays him, gives a terrible performance. He turns a character who the audience is supposed to support and sympathize with most into an annoying, whining child. Spider’s motivations are inexplicable: He ends up switching sides four times during the course of the run time. It’s a shame that early reports indicate Spider is about to get an even bigger role in future “Avatar” films. 

However, the worst part of “The Way of Water” is the ending. It’s a thrilling, suspenseful action scene For the first ten minutes. Then it gets dragged on, and on, and on until the result is an extremely repetitive, irritating battle that can never seem to end. The scene is so long that many characters begin to disappear from the action inexplicably. 

Ultimately, there is not enough substance in the storyline of “Avatar” to justify sitting through a three-hour and 12-minute movie. It feels like Cameron was intent on getting a three-hour run time at all costs and was willing to repeat multiple scenes to get there. “The Way of Water” definitely made the Best Pictures list simply to appeal to the average blockbuster-enjoying movie fan. 

Rating: 2/5 Most recognition its getting is an envelope mix-up