James Cameron's Avatar challenged the standards of computer-generated animation in cinema following its blockbuster 2009 release that solidified it as one of the highest-grossing films of all time. The impact of the fictional planet Pandora and its people was so unpredictably strong that moviegoers reported themselves feeling blue as Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome began to spike. Cameron promised Avatar would spin itself into a saga, and the return to his cinematic universe slowly yet indeed arrived. Avatar: The Way of Water's arrival may feel overdue, yet box office earnings are a reminder that the franchise's sabbatical doesn't equate to a loss in interest.
With the time set aside for Cameron to craft his sequel, it's surprising that there isn't much originality to be found in Avatar: The Way of Water. Perhaps Cameron is undermining the memory of his original audience or hopes that he can reintroduce the pilot film of his series to new moviegoers without having to invest in a story arc. The paper-thin plot has no narrative support or memorable characters that have the ability to save a bloated 3-hour and 12-minute runtime. Fantasy fares at its best when there is a purpose behind it when sharing a message that is beyond the surface level. Unfortunately, the only surface level that Avatar: The Way of Water dives beyond is the surface of the water itself. This action spectacle doubles as a hollow allegory.
For what Avatar: The Way of Water fails to conjure up through core story beats or structure, it repents for in visual effects. The sequel is a triumph of cinematic animation and champions the art of special effects. Cameron's second entry into his cinematic universe proves itself as an immersive experience, proudly operating as a display of technical strength on an incredibly impressive level. The beauty of Pandora is a dazzling distraction that draws away that there isn't much else happening on-screen. It indulges in its time spent on a paradise planet drenched in breathtaking vibrancy while capturing the feeling of a video game's playtime. Avatar: The Way of Water is more of an attraction than the movie itself - magnificent technology is swapped for dialogue deprived of meaning.
Avatar: The Way of Water may make a splash at the box office, yet turns the tides on quality and expectations for Avatars yet to come. 5/10.