Avatar: The Way Of Water Reviews – Film Critics Can't Agree On James Cameron's Sequel

The blockbuster has been hailed as "dazzling" and "exceptional"... and blasted as a "damp squib" and a "trillion-dollar screensaver".

The first reviews for the new Avatar film The Way Of Water have been unveiled, and they’re very much a mixed bag.

James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel has been 13 years in the making, during which time it’s been hit with repeated delays to both its production and release schedule.

Over a decade on from the release of the record-breaking first Avatar film, the question is… has it all been worth the wait?

Well, the general consensus seems to be that The Way Of Water is beautiful to look at, although the plot is a little on the simple, trope-heavy side. The thing the reviews can’t seem to agree on is whether or not that matters.

Here’s a selection of what the first critics have had to say about the new film, beginning with the most glowing…

Avatar: The Way Of Water hits cinemas later this month
Avatar: The Way Of Water hits cinemas later this month

Empire (5/5)

“Avatar: The Way Of Water, is so dazzling to behold that adjectives like ‘dazzling’ seem too anaemic to apply [...] something impossible is happening on-screen at almost every moment. It’s a lot to process. And a timely reminder of what cinema is capable of when it dares to dream big.”

There are stretches in the film perhaps present simply for the beauty of what the filmmakers created, but they seem justified in this instance not only as a showcase for what can be achieved, albeit at the expense of a great deal of money and time, but as an exceptional representation of the wonders of the natural world. There is beauty everywhere you look.”

“The effects work is unbelievable; I still haven’t entirely wrapped my head around the fact that none of this stuff actually exists, that it’s all a meticulously rendered digital environment. But, more important, Cameron hasn’t lost the ability to convey his dorky-sweet enthusiasm to the audience. It’s hard not to lose oneself amid the gentle, flowing cadences of this exquisitely created undersea universe.”

“At 192 minutes, the runtime is almost certainly too long. It’s strange, maybe, or at least wildly uncritical, to say that none of that really matters in the end. The Way of Water has already created its own whole-cloth reality, a meticulous world-building as astonishing and enveloping as anything we’ve ever seen on screen.

The new Avatar sequel has been 13 years in the making
The new Avatar sequel has been 13 years in the making
20th Century Studios/Disney via PA Media

“This sequel is tremendous fun, even bigger and better than the original, but by golly it will test your bladder.”

“The Way of Water melts away any skepticism that it might be too late or too long in its return to Pandora. For a franchise that popularised the line ‘I see you,’ the director has created a sequel that truly deserves to be seen, not from the comfort of the couch, but on the biggest screen you can find.”

In terms of narrative sophistication and even more so dialogue, this $350 million sequel is almost as basic as its predecessor, even feeble at times. But the expanded, bio-diverse world-building pulls you in, the visual spectacle keeps you mesmerised, the passion for environmental awareness is stirring and the warfare is as visceral and exciting as any multiplex audience could desire.”

“Plot-wise, this movie is treading water. But that’s fine, because the water’s lovely.”

It’s frequently breathtaking and truly immersive, unrivalled this year as a cinematic experience. [...] As astonishing as the visuals are, your tolerance of the meandering middle act will depend on how much you love being in that world.”

The sequel introduces a new generation of Na'vi
The sequel introduces a new generation of Na'vi
20th Century Studios/Disney via PA Media

“If Cameron’s wordbuilding is exhausting, it also has an epic sincerity far from the lazy cash grab of most sequels. Lazy Cameron is not. Every scene has been sweated over. […] he seems to want more than mere awe in response. He wants us to enjoy it.”

Watching The Way of Water, one rolls their eyes only to realise they’re welling with tears. One stretches and shifts in their seat before accepting, with a resigned and happy plop, that they could watch yet another hour of Cameron’s preservationist epic.”

At its height, it feels exhilarating. But not all the way through. Cameron, in The Way Of Water, remains a fleet and exacting classical popcorn storyteller, but oh, the story he’s telling! The script he has co-written is a string of serviceable clichés that give the film the domestic adventure-thriller spine it needs, but not anything more than that.”

I can’t say that I cared all that much about its story, its themes, or its characters, but its unimpeachable effects work made it feel like I’d locked eyes with the future [...] The plot, if anything, is an inconvenient distraction from the real pleasure of looking and guffawing.”

“It’s like watching a tidal wave start miles in the distance as a tiny bump in the ocean. By the time it crests, whatever the film’s many other flaws may be, we are invested, and we are ultimately rewarded with a truly spectacular, awe-inspiring finale. All’s well that ends well, I guess. Even if all was a pretty mixed bag beforehand.”

Kate Winslet joins returning stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver in this new sequel
Kate Winslet joins returning stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver in this new sequel
20th Century Studios/Disney via PA Media

“From the moment you stick those 3D glasses back on, you’ll be wowed by a cinematic experience unlike any other. Visually, at least. Because the story’s a seen-it, been-there snore.”

BBC (2/5)

“The stage is set for a rip-roaring adventure, a space opera sprinkled with debates on the ethics of colonialism and assimilation. But then Cameron takes the film in a new direction – and The Way of Water becomes a damp squib.”

Cameron’s undersea world is like a trillion-dollar screensaver [...] Frankly, there isn’t a single interesting visual image and the whole thing has the non-briny smell of a MacBook Pro. Finding Nemo was more vivid.”

The Times (2/5)

“James Cameron has done it again. No, really, he has. He has slavishly remade his 2009 box office-smashing sci-fi Avatar and called it Avatar: The Way of Water [...] Everything here is retread, restate, regurgitate.”

“This decade-in-the-making sequel [has] almost no plot whatsoever to speak of, original or otherwise. ‘The Way of Water has no beginning and no end,’ two characters solemnly proclaim at separate points. They’re absolutely right, but then it doesn’t have much of a middle either.”

Avatar: The Way Of Water hits cinemas on Friday 16 December.


What's Hot