‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ First Reactions: ‘A Never-Ending Visual Spectacle’

Many left the film’s London premiere calling it a return to form for director James Cameron

Avatar: The Way of Water 2022 Film Still
Walt Disney Studios

Critics are praising “Avatar: The Way of Water” after its London World Premiere, with many celebrating its visual effects and its emotional payoff and calling it a return to form for director James Cameron.

Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell wrote that the long-in-the-making sequel is “unsurprisingly” a “visual masterpiece with rich use of 3D and breathtaking vistas,” though he calls the story thin with too many characters. “James Cameron pulls it together for an extraordinary final act full of emotion and thrilling action,” he added.

“Never bet against @JimCameron,” CinemaBlend’s Sean O’Connell wrote. “His #AvatarTheWayOfWater surpasses the original on every level. Incredible visuals, but a much more emotional connection to the characters and story. The final hour is Cameron flexing every muscle, reminding blockbuster filmmakers how it’s done.”

“I had faith James Cameron would raise the bar w/ the effects but these visuals are mind-blowing,” wrote Perri Nemiroff of Collider. “One stunning frame after the next. But the thing I dug most is how the technical feats always feel in service of character & world-building.”

Premiering 13 years after Cameron’s original “Avatar” broke most box office records in the book, “The Way of Water” takes place “more than a decade after the events of the first film” and “begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure,” per an official release from 20th Century.

Returning actors behind the iconic Na’vi include stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. Na’vi newcomers include Kate Winslet, Jack Champion, Jamie Flatters, Bailey Bass and Trinity Bliss. 

Directed by Cameron and produced by him and Jon Landau, the Lightstorm Entertainment Production features a screenplay by Cameron, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Its story comes from Cameron, Jaffa, Silver, Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno. David Valdes and Richard Baneham are attached as executive producers.

It wasn’t just those at the premiere Monday night premiere in Leicester Square; Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro tweeted his praise of the second Pandora-set installment way before the premiere, describing Cameron as “A master at the peak of his powers.”

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