As Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) says in the first Avatar, “You’re not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen.” In the first film, former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is recruited for a mission on Pandora, a distant moon where a United States corporation is mining a rare mineral called “unobtainium” that is key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. To exist on Pandora, Jake (who is wheelchair-bound) must be reborn as an avatar. An avatar is a remotely controlled biological body that can survive in the lethal air. These bodies are grown from human DNA mixed with the DNA of the natives. Each avatar is perfectly synced with its driver.
Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), a female member of the Na’vi, the indigenous clan he was sent to infiltrate, saves Jake’s life. After that, he finds himself drawn to the Na’vi’s ways. Soon, Jake becomes caught in the middle between his duty and his love for the forest and its people. It all comes to a head when Jake chooses to be one of the Na’vi. In fact, Eywa (their deity) chose him and approves of him. The first movie ends with Sully leading the Na’vi as Toruk Makto in their war against the humans who tried to ruin their environment and displace them. He syncs his mind to his Na’vi avatar to be with Neytiri.
13 years after its original release, director James Cameron did it again — with even better visuals than the first. “Do I want to invite lightning to come and strike the same place again? Of course, my final answer was go big or go home,” Cameron told ABC News. Watching the film in a Dolby 3-D Cinema made the viewing experience that much more vivid. As most of the sequel takes place underwater and in the ocean, it almost felt like watching a nature documentary but one unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The sequel picks up Neytiri and Jake’s love story 15 years later and their new challenges from the relentless Sky People — including the ghost from Quaritch’s past. The protagonists are joined by a whole slew of new Na’vi characters such as Neteyam, Lo’ak and Tuk, Jake and Neytiri’s sons and daughter. Neteyam is the eldest, the perfect son. Lo’ak, the younger of the two boys, is always stirring up trouble. While little Tuk is a sweet little angel. Sigourney Weaver, who played Dr. Grace Augustine and died in the first film, portrays her character’s miracle daughter, Kiri. The Sullys meet the Metkayina Clan where they meet Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). Ronal gives Neytiri a run for her money as tsahìk and her over-protectiveness of her family.
Because the Sullys are forest people, they don’t adapt to their new terrain quickly. Their arms are thin and their tails are weak — not to mention that they can’t hold their breaths underwater for very long. The Metkayina Clan even have their own sign language underwater to communicate with each other and the mighty powerful beasts, tulkun (their version of whales).
Underneath all of the science fiction, the overarching theme is once again family and connecting with the world around them. All in all, Avatar: The Way of Water gave us everything we wanted and more. Watching the film reawakens your childlike sense of wonder and puts in perspective how our environment should be appreciated. There were times when the acting and accents were a little off, but for a PG-13 movie that you would see with the family, it isn’t something that took away from the film as a whole. Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters today, Friday, December 16. And we won’t have to wait another sequel for more installments: Avatar 3 is expected to come out in 2024, Avatar 4 in 2026.