It took me about an hour into Avatar: The Way of Water to feel the question, "Why the hell am I watching another Avatar movie again?" had been answered. It wasn't like some plot switch was flipped where the story or the characters suddenly became complex -- like the first film, Cameron is more than happy to just glide along with all of the ol' War and Westerns cliches and tropes. It's not really an answer I can pin down to words. (Like the script and its dialogue, hardy har.) No it's more of a feeling -- or perhaps the lack of one. A gleeful numbness. I suppose it just took that first hour for me to stop caring about any of those things and to find myself once again submerged under the spectacular weight of James Cameron's limitless visual imagination. I'll admit upfront I was a sucker for the first movie in 2009; I went to see it three times in the theater because goddamn what an exhilarating ride it was, once that same sensory-overload took over.
Avatar: The Way of Water does it again. Its last two hours fully beat me into giddy dumb submission. Cameron remains the finest director of action scenes alive -- nobody but nobody can cut together a sequence like he can that will have you truly feeling the wind in your hair... or I suppose in this case the water. This sequel feels like Avatar times Titanic times T2 plus a dusting of The Abyss on top for good measure. He wrings immersive beauty over and over and over again from sheer ridiculousness -- nothing about this should work, but we fully doubt James Cameron at our own folly.
I don't feel much need to drown us in plot descriptions, because who cares? Some time has passed, Jake Sully's a dad and Neytiri's his big blue mama bear, and so we've got a raft of kids to get to know -- don't ask me to distinguish them all beyond "Teen Bad Boy" and "The Littlest One" yet, save most importantly the one called Kiri, inexplicably resurrecting Sigourney Weaver into the franchise (her character died and was like turned into a tree in the original right? Don't make me look that up please). Kiri is a waifish teenage horse-girl who dreamily stares into space and starts to discover hidden powers, and Kiri is a delight. One of the twenty Avatar sequels needs to be The Kiri Movie, I demand it. Avatar: Kiri O'Clock or whatever. Cameron makes the moolah, he can name the damn thing. As long as he makes the damn thing.
Point being Avatar: The Way of Water makes even the best MCU movies look like chin dribble. Cameron is so relentlessly efficiently skilled at the busting of blockbusters at this point that I don't know why anybody would even fuss to argue. Do I want other things in my cinema, of course. Will this come anywhere near my favorite film list of the year, of course not. But goddamn it's ruthlessly epic and entertaining and a staggering behemoth of big screen wizardry to behold. So get over yourselves and just behold the thing. Forget four quadrant filmmaking -- this sucker's fifteen wide. It's speaking immersive gibberish to the whales, so blow baby blow.