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Avatar: The Way of Water Review
Should you watch Avatar: The Way of Water? What is it about? Let's talk about James Cameron's sequel to the highest-grossing movie ever.
Author's note: This article will contain Avatar: The Way of Water spoilers.
If you know me well enough, you know I'm a sucker for a good escapism experience. And this movie was just that.
Avatar: The Way of Water is a fantastic way to escape our world into an adventure while teaching us about the dark side of capitalism, keeping our planet safe, and being kinder.
I loved this movie and wept in some of the scenes. It's a lengthy one at about 3ish hours, and I watched it twice at the theatre and bought a digital copy on Apple TV.
Let's talk about it in-depth.
The Shattered Life of Jake Sully
The movie begins with a montage about how Jake and Neytiri had some years of peace after the humans left at the end of the first Avatar movie.
Jake was no longer a stranger to Pandora. He learned the language, which "sounded like English" as time passed - a convenient way to bring us more into the story through Jake's perspective.
Jake now has children and has become the leader of a Na'vi clan. It all ends during date night with Neytiri when Jake sees the lights in the sky and realizes the humans are coming back. Things will never be the same again, and it was time to bring back those fighter senses.
It's the perfect catalyst event for a Hero's journey type of story. You can never go back now, and the story must propel forward to resolve the conflict - the human's comeback.
The Humans Made an Obvious Comeback
When the humans come back to Pandora, they come back with reinforcements. In the first movie, it seemed like the humans were much less widespread than in this one.
In the 2009 movie, Jake arrives through the ship to an already established base, but it seems that was the only base on Pandora at the time. They mined unobtainium and sent it home to Earth, and that's it.
When the humans arrived back on Pandora, they launched a full-scale invasion with multiple ships building actual cities on Pandora to resettle it instead of Earth - which is dying.
Let's talk about what that means for a second.
Things Don't Look Too Good for Earth
In the first movie, things were already looking bad for Earth. Air contamination, no resources, and overpopulation. One day we will get to that point too. Humans keep on being born every day.
Every day, around 385,000 babies are born on Earth, according to the UN, and we're projected to reach 10 billion by 2056. Unless we cull each other with wars, famine, and pandemics.
Imagine how Earth is doing by the time of this movie. Global warming is an actual thing. Even if you don't believe the science that proves the effects already, you gotta admit that the seasons are not what they used to be if you're old enough to remember like me. When I was a kid here in Israel, it drizzled in September, and from October onwards, we had rain until February, sometimes March.
In the winter of late 2022, I could count the times I experienced rain on the one hand, and September has become part of the summer - it's sunny, and no signs of autumn are showing up. It's insane, and you can't tell me that's not because of us building more factories and polluting the air more and more.
Don't get me started on plastic in the ocean, either.
That's why I believe each of us doing our little bit to keep the planet safe could still amount to something. If that's the situation in 2023, imagine what it's like in the 22nd century when the Avatar series is set.
I Cried During This Movie
I cried when Neytiri and Jake lost everything and needed to run away. When Jake was afraid to risk his family now that he had one and decided to run away to hide among the sea people, I cried too. I felt seen when Jake's kids got bullied by the water teenagers.
But there was also positive weeping. The friendship that Jake's son made with the outcast Tulkun Payakan was an emotional one too. Every time Jake's little daughter spoke, I also felt joy. Tuk is so darn cute!
Someone Had to Die
And it was Neteyam.
I felt this would happen since Neteyam was mainly the "good boy" during this movie and did not have as much screen time as Jake's older kids. He died when he helped Lo'ak and Spider run away from the sinking ship where Quaritch's reincarnation and Jake were about to face off.
Neteyam was probably the character with the most minor connection we, as an audience, had. We saw him only when the family gathered together or alongside other characters in different scenes, but he did not have a story unfolding for him like Lo'ak or Kiri had. But he was Jake's firstborn, and that's why it hurts seeing him die and how it affects his parents and family.
I think this movie had a lot to say about family.
This Movie is About Family
The Way of Water begins with Jake's montage about his family over the 16 years since the first movie. And we see another family relationship introduced in this movie - Quaritch's Na'vi reincarnation and Quaritch's son - Spider - who got left behind all those years ago because he was too young to be put in Cryo.
We are also introduced to the family ties between the sea people and their Tulkun brothers and sisters.
All of those ties come together to exist in a world threatened by capitalism and the need to gain more and more. The thought that Tulkuns die for an anti-aging product that "stops" aging is heartbreaking.
Imagine back on Earth, a few lucky fucks with the money needed to buy this thing wake up in the morning to put on some anti-aging cream and not even know that it was the brain liquid of a sentient being who had family and wrote songs and poetry.
I don't know what today's anti-aging creams are made of, as I'm not using any. But if you are, maybe do yourself a favor and look for the bunny icon that shows the product was not tested on animals. You wouldn't want your dog or cat subjected to those tests, so why let some monkeys who are emotionally closer to us than dogs and cats go through those things?
Aside from being a fantastic cinematic experience, The Way of Water is also a reminder and reflection of the negative parts of our society. The parts we don't usually see.
You don't need to be vegan to know that the food industry is cruel to the animals we eat. You don't need to be a scientist to understand the pharmaceutical products we use are tested on animals unless specified otherwise. And you don't need to be an environmental activist to realize we are killing forests and the environment through our daily expansion and pollution.
We already know all of those things. We just feel powerless to stop them. And that's not true - but that's a discussion for a different article.
The Way of Water is also a reminder to build your own family. If your blood family does not fit or is gone, like Jake's family back on Earth - go out there and make a family. Find the people you want to surround yourself with and stick with them.
Overall, I loved this movie and will keep watching it at least a few more times until the next one comes out in 2025. I can't believe I'll be in my late forties when the last one comes out.
What did you think about the movie? What parts of it resonated with you most? Let's talk about it in the comments below!