ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Before the premiere of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” skepticism, and curiosity filled the minds of many, wondering if the sequel would live up to its name. The three-hour and 12-minute film delivers significant themes of family, spirituality, and overcoming differences all while upholding well-written dialogue, strong acting, and the stunning cinematography “Avatar,” is initially known for. As I dive deeper into the story the film portrays, I am happy to write it did not disappoint.

Understanding the entirety of this film is fictional from the set to basically the actors, I remain impressed with how the cast provided an immersive world for the audience. Seasoned and returning “Avatar” actors Sam Worthington (Jake Sully) and Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri) provide an expert performance as we follow them through the world of Pandora. Well-known actress Kate Winslet (Ronal) introduces a new character along with Cliff Curtis (Tonowari) as the audience learns of other clans on the planet. Knowing Winslet was in the film, it took me a second to figure out who she was as she takes her acting to the next level. Sigourney Weaver displays her talent by returning as her former character Dr. Grace Augustine and as new character Kiri.

In efforts to understand how a film like this is created, a HerCampus article by McKinley Franklin explains that the actors are dressed head to toe in equipment allowing their performance to be animated easily. The article also explains that the beautiful depictions of Pandora, in reality, are gray sets with production members holding up stand-in objects. Advancements in CGI and AI allow for a flawless transformation from reality to Na’vi in Pandora. For actors who’ve been in the game for a while and worked with technology like this, a well-done performance is expected. What’s truly remarkable is how young actors Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Britain Dalton (Lo’ak), Trinity Jo-Li Bliss (Tuktirey), Jack Champion (Spider), Bailey Bass (Tsireya), Filip Geljo (Aonung), and Duane Evans Jr. (Rotxo) adapt to this extensive way of filmmaking. The fresh faces make their names known during the sequel as they provide a lifeline for the audience, taking us through the story with first-class acting.  

With great actors, a major budget, and visual effects that the world will marvel at, I wondered if the story and writing could keep up. Cameron’s second installment following the complex world of the Na’vi exhibits an exciting story that resembles our own with the idea of family, religion, dividing forces, overcoming differences, animal intelligence, and a common enemy. Director James Cameron along with seasoned writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, Shane Salerno appeal to the audience’s pathos or emotion as we progress through an adventure with new and old faces touching on all these topics.

The majority of characters are developed thoroughly as we’ve already seen Jake, Neytiri and Dr. Grace Augustine in the first “Avatar,” allowing Cameron to focus the development on new characters. Reaching the middle of the film, you’ll be rooting for the newly introduced and former characters because of the truth they’ve shown to us on screen and the relation to how some of us feel in reality. Dialogue remains an effective tool in this story evolving the characters and their journeys. There are points where the dialogue follows a cliche or expected route but sometimes there’s no other way to say it. The use of narration at the beginning and end of the story rounds out the film, adding to the overall voice of the main character Jake Sully. With narration in the past tense at the beginning, the use of time is prevalent throughout the film. Sully introduces us in the past tense and then moves us into the present. As the story progresses, I wondered what the time frame was supposed to be; are we seeing the obstacles Sully is facing in a matter of days, weeks, or months? Cameron leaves it up to the audience to decide but one can assume it’s a matter of months based on the events that take place.

Having watched the first film, the parallels between “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Avatar” are appreciated and create trust between the audience and the director. Sully and Neytiri remain solid characters presenting the same traits we saw in 2009. Other aspects are paralleled allowing a comfort that we are still in the same Pandora facing some of the same challenges. All points of the film contributed to the whole in some way, leading to minimal or resolved questions and an entertaining watch for all.

According to Deadline, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” will be the sixth movie of all-time passing Spiderman: No Way Home and will gross more than $1.921 billion. Cameron’s artistry is yet another success as “Avatar: The Way of Water” follows “Avatar” and “Titanic” on the all-time worldwide box office ranks. This isn’t surprising with the following the original “Avatar” created in 2009, matched with the effective storytelling. Overall, I found the film to keep my interest throughout the entire three hours which we all know can be a trying task for anyone. Cameron touches on complicated issues taking after our own reality while delivering an entertaining and heartwarming movie for the whole family. 

House Rating: 4/5

If you liked this movie, try these: “Avatar,” “Dune,” “The Martian,” “Ready Player One,” “Alien.” Check out “Avatar: The Way of Water,” still showing at your local theater.