After a 13-year wait, James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water is here. Having lost his human body, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is now a renowned Na'vi warrior and father, whose family—including mate Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and a human orphan—is forced from the Pandoran forest by Marine Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the villain of the first film who's gained a Na-vi body of his own, and must learn to adapt to life in water. The film, more than three hours long, currently has an 80% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. (Audiences have it at 94%.) Here's what critics are saying:
- It's "proof that cinematic wonder still exists," writes David Sims at the Atlantic, noting "the film's sumptuous marine environments are as bedazzling as the first one’s floating mountains and gargantuan trees." Though the sequel "has the same basic structure as its predecessor," it doesn't feel repetitive. And after a slow start, Sims certainly wasn't bored. Indeed, "I was shockingly invested in the emotional complications of the Sully family."
- It's "a deeply immersive, utterly enchanting three-hour escape that can't be compared with anything except its 2009 predecessor" and reaffirms Cameron "as the blockbuster director of his generation." But it's "far from" a great movie and "lacks heart," writes Kyle Smith at the Wall Street Journal, adding that might not matter in the end. After all, "would you criticize your week in the Caribbean for not having much narrative drive, or for being populated by thinly realized and interchangeable characters?"
- Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post gives the film two stars out of four, calling it "a sometimes-beautiful bore." Despite "moments of awe," the film "is frequently clunky and ham-handed in its storytelling" and lacks a memorable script, Hornaday writes. She does, however, applaud Sigourney Weaver for her turn as Sully and Neytiri's adopted teenage daughter Kiri. She "delivers an impressively convincing portrayal of her younger self as a curious, tuned-in girl with profound powers to connect with the universe."
- Meanwhile, Justin Chang predicts the film "will stun most of [Cameron's] naysayers into silence." He "pulls you down so deep, and sets you so gently adrift, that at times you don’t feel like you're watching a movie so much as floating in one," he writes at the Los Angeles Times. "The level of computer-generated artifice on display in every landscape and seascape is cumulatively staggering, in ways to which even the first movie … didn't aspire," he adds.
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