The Avatar sequel, The Way of Water, was overall an enjoyable movie experience. If you want three hours of breathtaking CGI along with action packed scenes, you will definitely be entertained.
However, I will say that a majority of the movie’s plot is moved forward by kids not listening to their parents.
[This review is for people who have already seen the movie. So…yes, there will be spoilers.]
Kids not listening to their parents is a common enough trope in television and movies used to move the plot forward or create tension. And if it happened once or twice in The Way of Water, I wouldn’t mind. But it happened at least 9 times!!! Let me walk you through it below. And some plot holes are detailed as well. Don’t take this as me hating on the film. I liked the film. I’m just having a bit of fun riffing on a recurrent plot problem.
- In the beginning of the movie, we’re told that humans now want to colonize Pandora to live there. (Whatever happened to the treaty the humans made in the first movie with the Na’vi to leave the planet? Clearly the humans have violated the treaty, but…this seems to just not get addressed??? At the end of the first movie, did the humans go into cryo, go all the way back to Earth, which probably consumed immense amounts of resources and time, and then just be like…”Wait a minute!”). Anyways, Jake is valiantly leading a guerilla warfare type resistance against the humans. We see him and his people destroying a train and fighting human baddies, who have lots of cool mech armor. However, Jake’s kids are supposed to stay back and function as spotters. Instead, they Leroy Jenkins their way into battle and almost get killed. (My first thought is, if they function as spotters on a regular basis, why did they randomly do that in this battle? Is it because the plot called for it?) Regardless, Jake Sully is now pissed and tells his brood they are grounded from combat for a month.
- After being grounded, Jake’s kids decide that this is a perfect opportunity to go wander off without adult supervision. Off in the woods all by themselves, they happen to spy the resuscitated bad guy from the first movie, Stephen Lang’s character Miles Quaritch, along with his squad. (Is there no one else in the Olo’eyktan Clan patrolling the woods?) Instead of running to safety, the kids stick around for a better look (and of course) get captured.
- After Jake Sully and Neytiri rescue their wayward children, Jake realizes the threat to his family and abandons his post as leader of the Olo’eyktan clan (sorry not sorry Olo’eyktan clan). He decides to go into hiding . He seeks refuge with the Metkayina clan (a Maori like tribe of Na’vi who live in the water). The NUMBER ONE rule Jake tells his kids is to not get into trouble. But of course, when some of the boys in the Metkayina clan bully Kiri (Jake’s adopted daughter), her brothers step in and get into a fist fight.
- After Jake yells at his sons once again for causing trouble, his second eldest son, Lo’ak, decides to smooth things over with the Metkayina boys by going on a excursion with them to…yes…you guessed it…a place they are not allowed to go because it’s dangerous. Lo’ak soon realizes the boys tricked him by leading him to the lair of a giant sea monster (you know, typical harmless teenage pranks, trying to get someone murdered). Lo’ak evades death by being incredibly lucky. He’s rescued by Payakan, a tulkun (a whale-shark looking species revered by the Metkayina).
- Lo’ak’s new friendship with Payakan apparently causes tension with the Metkayina clan, because the other tulkun exiled Payakan. But of course Lo’ak doesn’t listen.
- Meanwhile, Miles Quaritch is tasked with hunting down Jake Sully and killing him. He discovers that Jake is hiding with one of the water tribes. Miles Quaritch decides to draw Jake out by killing tulkun to anger the Metkayina. Jake Sully recognizes that this is a trap, and thus doesn’t take the bait. But of course of course of course his children don’t listen and take matters into their own devious blue hands, and once again they get captured. (I’m starting to feel like this movie should be called The Way of Not Listening To Your Parents).
- When Jake Sully’s kids get captured, he offers to turn himself in. But as he’s making his way to the boat that contains Miles Quaritch, Lo’ak’s tulkun friend, Payakan, attacks the boat. As the humans start fighting against a tulkun, this causes the Metkayina to get angry. They loudly proclaim they are now going to battle the humans and then…valiantly disappear from the movie for the next 45 minutes, leaving Jake and his family to fight against Miles Quaritch’s forces all by themselves. The only reason I can think this happened is that the writers simply forgot that the Metkayina were in the battle.
- Once Jake’s kids get liberated from capture, Jake tells them to go to safety, but of course, of course, OF COURSE, they don’t listen, and then get kidnapped AGAIN for a third freaking time! Is this getting repetitive yet?
- At the end of the movie, the kids end up helping to rescue their parents by ignoring their orders to flee to safety. And then Spider (the feral human child of Miles Quaritch, rescues him in secret, and doesn’t tell anyone). Which of course opens the possibility to a third movie. I included this example with Spider because he’s like a pseudo adopted child for Jake Sully and Neytiri. It’s not so much him not listening to them, but him going against what they were trying to achieve, which is close enough.
If Jake Sully and Neytiri locked up their kids, or at least found a decent babysitter, the movie would have been about ten minutes long.
Now, despite these silly plot issues, I did legitimately enjoy the movie. I loved the environmental message. And I do think the world building was very cool. I definitely encourage people to go out and see the movie so that James Cameron can make his sequels. The Way of Water was neat because it explored a new biome in the Pandora world we didn’t see in the first movie. I would hope in the sequels we see even more diverse Na’vi and biomes. Perhaps a tundra Na’vi, or a desert Na’vi, or even Na’vi that live in caves with biolumenescent fungus. There’s many fun future possibilities to be explored. I would just recommend that Jake Sully and Neytiri get themselves a reliable babysitter before they go on any future adventures.