The first press reactions to Avatar: The Way of Water are in, and the response is largely gushing.
The long-awaited sequel to director James Cameron’s fantasy epic is being called better than the 2009 original in both its story and its cutting-edge visual effects.
While some chided Cameron for the film’s length (it is more than three hours) or took issue with its myriad of characters and storylines, most seemed impressed—even overwhelmed—by the film’s underwater visuals.
Here is a sample of reactions now that the film’s social media embargo has lifted for journalists who saw screenings of the film, as well as from those attending Tuesday’s London premiere (full critic reviews will be posted Dec. 13):
mike ryan of uproxx: “Yeah never bet against James Cameron. Trying to spare hyperbole, but I’ve never seen anything like this from a technical, visual standpoint. It’s overwhelming. Maybe too overwhelming. Sometimes I’d miss plot points because I’m staring at a Pandora fish. Also, I rewatched the first AVATAR over the weekend and basically settled on ‘that was fine.’ The sequel has much better and deeper character development.”
Perry Nemiroff of Collider: “#AvatarTheWayOfWater It’s pretty incredible. I had faith James Cameron would raise the bar w/ the effects but these visuals are mind-blowing. 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.”
Ian Sandwell of Digital Spy: “Unsurprisingly, #AvatarTheWayOfWater is a visual masterpiece with rich use of 3D and breathtaking views. It does suffer from a thin story and too many characters to juggle, yet James Cameron pulls it together for an extraordinary final act full of emotion and thrilling action.”
Yolanda Machado of ew: “James Cameron is a technology master… and his direction is at its most precise here. The film as a whole, while a technological marvel with a breathtaking world, is just…. Dances with Wolves and Free Willy for Gen Z! Pee beforehand.”
Jeff Nelson of CheatSheet: “#Avatar/#AvatarTheWayOfTheWater is a visual marvel with mesmerizing beauty in every frame. James Cameron’s sequel thrives when it explores new terrain, crafting bigger and better emotional stakes. The definition of epic.”
david sims of The Atlantic: “AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER absolutely owns bones. I was slapping my seat, hooting, screaming for the Na’vi to take out every last one of those dang sky people…it’s an Avatar movie: slow start, big build, incredibly involving second act with a ton of world building and cool creatures that blisses you way out, then an hour of screamingly good crystal clear emotionally trenchant action to send you home full and happy.”
david erlich of IndieWire: “Avatar The Way of Water: lol imagine being dumb enough to bet against James Cameron. or teen alien Sigourney Weaver. or giant whales subtitled in papyrus. light years better than the first & easily one of the best theatrical experiences in ages. streaming found dead in a ditch. I was, uh, not exactly champing at the bit for an avatar 2 (even if ‘James Cameron + wet’ tends to work out pretty well). now I can’t *wait* to see avatar 3. that’s basically all I wanted out of this and it delivered in a big way.”
Kara Warner of People: “As yet Avatar Stan, I had high hopes for #AvatarTheWayofWater and for me it totally delivers. Sure it’s a little long, but worth it for the gorgeous visuals, wonderful new characters. Total thrill.”
scott mantz, Producer: “AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is breathtakingly beautiful with the most incredible VFX I have ever seen (I saw it in 3D); the story itself is weaker than the first and feels drawn out at 3 hours & 10 minutes, but it’s always great to look at & the last hour is amazing.”
Amon Warmann of Empire: Yeah, #AvatarTheWayOfWater: “Liked it, didn’t love it. The good news is that 3D is good again (yay!), and the action is pretty incredible (especially in the final act). But many of the storylines feel like they have to stop and start, and the high frame rate was hit & miss for me.”
Erik Davis of Fandango: “Happy to say #AvatarTheWayOfWater is phenomenal! Bigger, better & more emotional than #Avatar, the film is visually breathtaking, visceral & incredibly engrossing. The story, the spectacle, the spirituality, the beauty – this is moviemaking & storytelling at its absolute finest.”
drew taylor of The Wrap: “Have now seen #Avatar twice and am overwhelmed by both its technical mastery and unexpectedly intimate emotional scope. Yes the world is expanded and sequels teased but the characters are most important. Cameron is in top form, especially in final act. Good to have him back.”
Cameron has already filmed avatar 3 and part of the fourth installation. “I want to tell an epic story over a number of films. Let’s paint on a bigger canvas. Let’s plan it that way. let’s do The Lord of the Rings,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent cover story. “Of course, they had the books. I had to write the book first, which isn’t a book, it’s a script.”
Avatar: The Way of Water opens Dec. 16.