Avatar: The Way of Water

Whale worth the wait

Avatar: The Way of Water Trailer

A decade on, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has made his home on Pandora, where he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) supervise a brood of Na’vi offspring, adopted kids and even a human boy left behind by the invaders in the 2009 flick who has gone native. The conflict begins when the “Sky People” (us humans) return, led by an avatar of the original villain (Stephen Lang) to finish their greedy mining and terraforming mission. Jake and the family escape a hit squad and make an uneasy alliance with the planet’s other race (led by Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet), this one water-dwelling. Natant Na’vi. After an initial period of hostility, the two tribes learn from each other, etc., and join forces (including some very imaginative marine beasts) for the inevitable enemy attack.

Okay, the story is not all that original, but the film has an energy that’s rare in recent blockbusters (listening, MCU?) and even at three-plus hours never sags. There’s a lot going on here, with dozens of characters and locations in a fully realized world, mixed in with indictments of climate damage and military colonialism. The sheer amount of data in every frame is so overwhelming that it occurred to me that James Cameron’s most impressive skill on display here is maintaining a coherent (if not terribly complex) narrative throughout. Biggest screen possible, please, and spring for the 3D.

Streaming in cinemas now. (192 min)