Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Avatar: The Way of Water (Film Review)

3 min read


It's been 13 years since 's was released and became the highest grossing film of all time. The cultural impact of this film- the biggest film of all time- has been rather muted with most audiences struggling to remember much about the film beyond blue people and the fact that it was in 3D. Ever since Avatar, Cameron's been working away on his sequel Avatar: , and after a long wait, it's finally here. But is it worth the 13-year wait? Yes and no.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual spectacle that looks gorgeous on the big screen, and it manages to be an improvement on the first film. However, beyond the wonderful visuals, everything about The Way of Water feels like it's right out of the ‘how to do a sequel' textbook.

It's clear that a lot of time and love has gone into making this film look as beautiful as it does. All of the effects and CGI looks impeccable and the stunning views of Pandora feel like you could be watching a nature documentary. There were times in The Way of Water when a David Attenborough voiceover would not have been out of place or unwelcome at all.


The film picks up with Jake Sully now a father and he must protect his family from a new threat and to do so, they depart the jungle and seek refuge with an oceanic clan of Na'vi. It's a welcome change of scene with the water providing far greater visuals than the forest ever could. Additionally, seeing the film in 3D is quite enjoyable too. After you get over the initial annoyance of wearing the glasses, the level of depth provided really makes the world and these characters stand out much more, even if it is a little headache-inducing.

The other piece of technology Cameron employs in The Way of Water is that of a higher frame rate. Most films are shown at 24 frames per second, however Avatar: The Way of Water, along with other films such as Gemini Man and The Hobbit trilogy, utilises 48 frames per second. This high frame rate (HFR) is intended to make the film look smoother and even better when viewed in 3D. But as a result, it just looks like a video game cut scene. In the scenes that utilise HFR, which is most of the underwater sequences plus many more, the film doesn't look how a film should. It looks too smooth, and it feels like you're watching a video game which really takes you out of the film. Cameron took a swing with HFR, and he missed here.


Talking of misses, the story, the characters and the content of the film is all one big miss. As a sequel, the film never justifies its existence beyond Cameron showing off what modern technology can do. Much like the first film, there is not a single memorable character or plot point in The Way of Water. It's very much a case of ‘sequelitis'. Contrived return of the first film's villain, check. A new generation of protagonists, check. A new tribe of Na'vi to expand the worldbuilding and offer little more, check. A complete re-tread of the first film, check.

Other than the visuals, as a film, The Way of Water is very basic and nothing of note at all. It cuts down the number of human characters with the result being the audience's lack of interest in the characters. And all of the interesting character beats and plot points that the beginning of the film sets up, or that were even established in the first film, never come to fruition, forcing you to wait for Avatar 3 for some meaningful character moments.

Avatar: The Way of Water is an improvement on the first film and Cameron has meticulously crafted a spectacular visual achievement. It's great to watch, the action scenes are mesmerising but when it comes to such fundamental pieces of filmmaking as story and character, The Way of Water completely falls flat. It's a technical achievement (bar the rather shoddy HFR that quite frankly should never be used in film again), and it's glorious to watch in a cinema but as a film, it leaves you totally uninvested and uninterested in the world that Cameron has painstakingly created.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas from Friday 16th December.