Avatar: The Way of Water has been hailed as a “monumental film achievement” in early response from critics and influencers alike.
The highly anticipated sci-fi sequel, which hits theaters worldwide on Dec. 16, had its world premiere in London last night (Dec. 6). And once the credits rolled for Avatar: The Way of Water, journalists and other attendees were quick to cast their minds on James Cameron’s latest epic theatrical release.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of first impressions of the sci-fi film have been hugely positive, with many heaping the highest praise on 2009’s Avatar sequel.
Uproxx’s Mike Ryan was one of the first to praise Cameron’s latest film, telling people “never bet against James Cameron” before praising the visuals by humorously saying “sometimes I miss plot points because I’m staring at a Pandora fish”:
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER: Yeah, never bet against James Cameron. I’m trying to avoid exaggeration, but I’ve never seen anything like it from a technical, visual standpoint. It’s overwhelming. Maybe too overwhelming. Sometimes I missed plot points because I was staring at a Pandora fishDecember 6, 2022
Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes writer Erik Davis concurred, calling Avatar 2 “visually phenomenal” before adding “this is moviemaking and storytelling at its best”:
Happy to say that #AvatarTheWayOfWater is phenomenal! Bigger, better and more emotional than #Avatar, the movie is visually stunning, visceral and incredibly compelling. The story, the spectacle, the spirituality, the beauty – this is filmmaking and storytelling at its best. pic.twitter.com/RicnpDghrxDecember 6, 2022
Many others felt the same way about the film’s awe-inspiring 3D visuals and aesthetic. Brandon Davis of Phase Zero (opens in new tab) said “it cannot be overstated how visually impressive” and “beautiful” it looks in Dolby 3D, while Kevin McCarthy of ReelBlend (opens in new tab) suggested that its “48fps 3D experience offers some of the most breathtaking immersion I’ve ever seen”.
Collider’s Perri Nemiroff claimed she’d always trusted Cameron to deliver a visual feast, but admitted she wasn’t ready for how “stunning” it is and that “the engineering feats are always at the service of character and world building”:
#AvatarTheWayOfWater is pretty incredible. I was confident that James Cameron would raise the bar with the effects, but these images are stunning. One beautiful frame after another. But what I’ve dug into the most is how the tech feats always feel in the service of character and world-building. pic.twitter.com/MXeN3z8BnPDecember 6, 2022
There were even some comments that hailed Avatar 2 in some pretty funny ways. David Sims of the Atlantic (opens in new tab) said it “definitely owns bones,” while David Ehrlich of IndieWire (opens in new tab) said drolly “imagine being stupid enough to bet against James Cameron. Or the teenage alien Sigourney Weaver. Or giant whales subtitled in papyrus”.
Others were quick to praise how The Way of Water’s builds on (and is arguably better than) the original. Germain Lussier from Gizmodo (opens in new tab) called it “emotionally overwhelming” before praising each performance “especially from all the kids”. Kevin Lee of Film Inquiry (opens in new tab) added, saying that Avatar 2’s story is “the beating heart. It’s more personal, more complicated, [and] emotional”.
Finally, Bilge Ebiri of Vulture called it Cameron’s “sweetest, softest, most personal film. Perhaps his most emotional … he loves his family. By the end, so did I”:
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is perhaps James Cameron’s sweetest, softest and most personal film. Perhaps his most emotional. It returns to all of his greatest hits, but it’s always completely sincere. He never leaves Pandora. He loves this family. I eventually did.December 7, 2022
However, not every review was as glowing as the one above. Former Access Hollywood correspondent Scott Mantz (opens in new tab) suggested that the story “is weaker than the first” and that the film’s run of over three hours “feels drawn out”. Additionally, Matt Neglia from the next best movie (opens in new tab) said “Cameron’s dialogue is still struggling”, suggesting some awkwardness with what the characters are saying in the film.
Despite praising everything else about the movie, Total Film’s Jack Shepherd (opens in new tab) said some of the new characters are “underused”. At Digital Spy, Ian Sandwell also commented on the film’s struggle to balance the plot and stacked cast of characters, even though it is a “visual masterpiece”:
Unsurprisingly, #AvatarTheWayOfWater is a visual masterpiece with rich use of 3D and breathtaking vistas. It suffers from a thin story and too many characters to juggle, but James Cameron pulls it together for an extraordinary closing act full of emotion and suspenseful action. pic.twitter.com/opr6CRyOwkDecember 6, 2022
If you’re still hesitating to see Avatar: The Way of Water, former Variety writer Kris Tapley probably sums it up best. In short, go and see for yourself:
I was lucky enough to see and listen to #AvatarTheWayOfWater this morning, whatever that ticket ends up costing you, it’s worth every penny. I could have watched it all day.December 6, 2022
Best Product will be bringing you more Avatar 2 content leading up to its release, including if (and possibly when) it lands on Disney Plus. Join us again from December 12th for our full thoughts and more.
In the meantime, check out our picks for the best Disney Plus movies, including 2009’s Avatar, and the best Disney Plus shows. You can also read why we think Avatar 2’s latest trailer proves it will be the best movie of 2022, or find out what’s worth knowing about Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, an upcoming video game based on Cameron’s latest hit movie franchise.