Director James Cameron
Screenplay James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, Edie Falco, Jack Champion

The first of several planned sequels to the 2009 blockbuster of all blockbusters, Avatar: The Way of Water manages to improve immensely on the first story while introducing a slew of characters and briinging back a few key ones. The returning characters don’t come back the way we left them.

Worthington and Saldaña’s Jake and Neytiri Sully have grown a clan of children, and adopted a young human. Things are good. Time has moved on. The Na’vi took over Hell’s Gate and worked with some of the good humans left behind. Then the humans come back to Pandora, lead by General Ardmore (Falco) who is here to help colonize the planet since Earth is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, Because in a movie like Avatar, the humans are always destroying.

The first act of this 192 minute film shows such a swath of destruction, it’s hard to fathom how beautiful the film will become. A change of scenery many miles away from the new human base of Bridgehead City sees the Sully clan settle in with distant relatives the Metkayina clan. Once there, they live in relative peace. For a while, at least.

The 3D effects of this sequel released nealry a decade and a half after the first are so good, it makes the first film seem quaint. The sound, along with the simple things like bouncing on terrain give gravity to images we’re not used to sensing in a film with so much digital scenery.

The story told in the second film is a lot less threadbare than that movie’s gone native plot. We don’t see much character development from the two leads. The characters taking the reigns, including Champion’s Spider, Dalton’s Lo’ak and Weaver’s Kiri, have more than enough interesting developments to give the tale a needed boost.

In short, Cameron has improved some of the shortcomings of the first film by giving this new effort more questions than obvious answers. There are a few scenarios that seem obvious from the get go, but considerably fewer than the first film. At the end of Avatar: The Way of Water, we have a definite stopping point, but we also have an understanding of the possibilities of future sequels. And this is something to which this viewer looks forward.

(****1/2 out of *****)

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