James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is clobbering the box office, and with good reason: it’s an absolute blast from start to finish, full of emotion, drama, and rip-roaring action. I honestly had no idea what to expect from the sequel, but now I cannot wait to see what the King of the World comes up with for his third, fourth, and fifth adventures on Pandora — which is crazy.
Anyway, having enjoyed several trips already to theaters of The Way of Water (with more to come), I wanted to kick off a discussion detailing the film’s best moments. I’ve listed my favorite six moments below, but I’d like to see which parts of this 3+ hour epic were your favorites as well.
Avatar: The Way of Water delivers some truly breathtaking action sequences. From the thrilling train attack to the climactic third act, Cameron continually ratchets the violence without losing sight of the characters or story.
We get a taste of the action via an early gun battle set near the link shack where Jack, Neytiri, and Quaritch fought at the end of the original film. During the bit, Quaritch (resurrected as a Na’vi) uses Jake’s children as bait to draw him out, resulting in a fierce, rain-drenched firefight that looks astounding (especially in 3D). The fierce battle sets up the conflict between the Sullys and Quaritch’s team, serves as the catalyst that moves our heroes away from the forest and to the water, and separates Spider from his friends so that he can bond with Quaritch. Great stuff!
There’s a bit in The Way of Water in which Jake’s son, Lo’ak, befriends a tulkun space whale named Payakan. The pair swim together, leap in the air, and communicate via sign language … at one point, the whale thingy even unfolds its flipper and holds hands with Lo’ak.
Writing that makes me realize how insane this plot point is, but somehow Cameron makes it all work. Yeah, it’s a tad cheesy, but thanks to powerful visuals, strong acting, an enchanting score, and crisp direction, we buy this sea-faring storyline right down to the moment Payakan leaps from the water to save his buddy from cruel humans — an incredible payoff in a film chock full of crowd-pleasing moments.
Speaking of the tulkun, Avatar: The Way of Water takes a dramatic turn when a group of Sky People (led by Quaritch) hunt a herd of the beasts and wind up killing a mother and her calf. Expertly filmed and gorgeously realized, the sequence is both thrilling and harrowing.
Cameron shows off an assortment of high-tech gadgetry — including those nifty, fist-bumping crab walkers — that all serve a purpose in hunting, killing, and eventually collecting the water beasts.
The bit also thrusts us into the incredible final hour, where Cameron lets loose with the spectacle.
Jake v Quaritch: Part II
We knew Jake would take on Quaritch at some point, but somehow the pair’s second battle (or third, if you count their earlier fight while on skimwing and banshee) proves more exciting than the first.
Following an intense standoff between the pair, during which Neytiri threatens to kill Spider, Quaritch threatens Jake with the ole “I’m never gonna stop coming after your family” bit. Our blue boy turns on his heel, eyes Quaritch, and says, “Then let’s get it done.” The two Na’vi soldiers engage in a knife fight atop a sinking ship that’s as intense as any sequence from Cameron’s filmography.
Meanwhile, Neytiri and Tuktirey get sucked into the vessel, and Spider and Kiri scramble to rescue their companions.
Composer Simon Franglen does his best James Horner impersonation during this sequence, borrowing cues from the likes of Aliens and Titanic to create one of the most exhilarating moments in the entire film.
Neytiri takes a backseat for much of The Way of Water but somehow manages to steal the show with some incredible moves late in the picture. Following her elder son’s death, our Na’vi warrior goes full-on Sarah Connor and wipes the floor with dozens of RDA soldiers. At one point, she shoots one of her massive arrows through the corpse of a man, inducing oohs and aahs from the audience.
While not necessarily a heroic moment — she’s genuinely out of her mind during the scene — it was fantastic to see our blue warrior pull out all the stops and demonstrate a natural propensity for violence. It’ll be interesting to see if her actions carry ramifications in future adventures.
The Way of Water
For all its violence and chaos, The Way of Water works best when our characters are lounging about in Pandora’s beautiful waters. It takes a lot of time for the Sullys to dive into the ocean. Still, when they do, the movie truly comes to life and delivers the type of colorful, vibrant imagery typically reserved for the Discovery Channel.
As much as I enjoy the third act, I’m always giddy to see our characters learn the ways of the reef people. Each viewing reveals a new creature or incredibly rendered piece of scenery — I imagine one could see The Way of Water dozens of times and still find some hidden treasure lurking on the periphery.
This is movie magic at its finest — I can’t wait to see it again.