Avatar 2 Reviews: Critics Share Strong Reactions to Sequel

By Klein Felt Updated:
Avatar Way of the Water poster

Critics have shared their strong first reactions after attending the world premiere of James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water

The upcoming Avatar 2 has been a long time coming. Director James Cameron has been vocal that he needed technology to catch up to his vision for the sequel, and now the time has finally come to see the results of that work.

Fans will soon get the chance to return to Pandora for the first time since 2009, as Cameron debuts to the world this next installment in his "generational family saga."

Now with The Way of Water only mere days away from global release, critics have offered their first reactions to Cameron's latest sci-fi epic. 

Avatar 2 First Reactions Make Their Way Online

Avatar: The Way of Water

Following the world premiere of Avatar: The Way of Water, in London, England, critics shared strong first reactions to James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water

Comicbook.com's Brandon Davis called the film both "fulfilling and indulgent," noting that overall he "liked it:"

"'Avatar: The Way of Water', being more than 3 hours long, is both fulfilling and indulgent. It still ends wanting you to know a third is coming. Constantly a visual feast, creative plays with frame rate, and never boring despite. Overall, I liked it."

Davis followed his initial thoughts up by saying "It’s a better, more complex story than the first:"

"'Avatar: The Way of Water' is a never-ending visual spectacle.
It’s a better, more complex story than the first with solid emotion but the characters could grow a bit more. It’s definitely long, running on incredible visuals & techniques which are 3D’s best."

Writer Jesse Hawken joked that The Way of Water "bears more than a passing resemblance" to the original film, riffing off the widespread complaints of Avatar being a carbon copy of movies like Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves: 

"I don’t know who needs to hear this, but 'Avatar: The Way of Water' bears more than a passing resemblance to a movie from 2009 called 'Avatar'"

What's on Disney Plus called James Cameron's latest "the most beautiful film [they've] ever seen" and "Easily [their] favorite film of the year:"

"Avatar: The Way of Water is the most beautiful film I've ever seen. It is an experience that needs to be seen on the big screen & in 3D. I absolutely loved it & I can't wait to watch it again. It's a masterpiece in terms of technical wizardry.  Easily my favourite film of the year."

Collider's Perri Nemiroff praised the film for its "mind-blowing" visuals, pointing out how the effects "always feel in service of character & world-building:"

"Avatar: The Way of Water is 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."

On the story, Nemiroff labeled the movie an "effective exploration of community & family dynamics," praising "Britain Dalton as Lo'ak:"

"As for the story, it's A LOT of movie & I'm eager for a 2nd viewing to revisit some details, but on 1st watch, it's a mighty effective exploration of community & family dynamics. Returning cast is great, but the newcomers are major standouts, particularly Britain Dalton as Lo'ak."

He closed his thoughts out by saying, "yes, this did make me want to see more #Avatar movies:"

"And yes, this did make me want to see more Avatar movies. I would also like a whole lot more of Cliff Curtis' Tonowari in those movies, please."

Nikki Novak from Fandango, remarked that she has "never experienced anything like it," commenting it is "easily" better than the first film:

"I saw you Avatar: The Way of Water - if you think you've seen #Avatar think again. Only repeat from the OG is that 'never experienced anything like it' awe. Better than 1st? Easily. The 3D water world & creatures are so surreal it is downright moving. There's a major Titanic homage."

"Visual masterpiece" was a superlative thrown around by DigitalSpy Movies Editor Ian Sandwell, calling out the "thin story" that James Cameron pulls together for "an extraordinary final act:"

"Unsurprisingly, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual masterpiece with rich use of 3D and breathtaking vistas. 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."

According to Cinemablend's Sean O'Connell, the Avatar sequel "surpasses the original," also calling out the final hour of the film, writing the third act is "Cameron flexing every muscle:"

"Never bet against James Cameron. His Avatar: The Way of Water 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."

Josh Horowitz from MTV News was similarly positive, Tweeting that "Avatar: The Way of Water is how you do epic blockbuster-ing:"

"James Cameron once again shows filmmakers how it’s done. I’ve said it a thousand times. Never doubt him. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is how you do epic blockbuster-ing. Emotional, visceral, and as big as movies get."

Fox's Amanda Salas, shared in the excitement, opining that the film is a "cinematic masterpiece:"

Feliz NA’VIdad indeed! Avatar: The Way of Water is a cinematic masterpiece! I enjoyed it even more than the first one! It conquers stunning visuals on-screen & taps into the heart reminding us of what truly matters in life. Family, home, nature & survival. My top film of the year!"

Writer Tom Beasley said he was "blown away" by The Way of Water:

"I was blown away by the sheer scale of Avatar: The Way of Water, which fulfils every mad promise its creators have made about cinematic innovation. Underwater stuff, especially, is mind-blowing. But it's also huge, epic filmmaking of the kind that has become Cameron's trademark."

Beasley noted that despite being an "Avatar skeptic," he was "thoroughly won over:"

"So you get all of the visual splendour, but it's also big-hearted, resonant on the subject of family and staunchly environmentalist. This Avatar sceptic was thoroughly won over."

So How Good Is Avatar 2 Really?

Right now, it seems like the cool thing to do is to laud Avatar, its sequels, and James Cameron as a filmmaker. However, it seems the Canadian director may have struck gold again with The Way of Water

These first reactions are glowing nearly across the board. The film's visuals in particular are a point of emphasis seen in almost every initial review. 

But this movie was always going to be beautiful. That has been evident in every second of the movie shown so far. Cameron has made a career of pushing the very visual boundaries of the medium. What is encouraging to hear is that the film's story works as well.

The word "thin" was used a couple of times in relation to the sequel's story, but never is it called outright bad, boring, or derivative. And most that complained about the narrative made it a point to mention the "emotional" and "extraordinary" final act found in the film. 

Narrative depth has never been Cameron's strong suit. With a few exceptions, he has been a blockbuster filmmaker who has thrived on spectacle. This eye-candy approach has yielded stunning results though, as Cameron looks to have crafted yet another hit with Avatar 2

Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16.  

- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.