Is Avatar the Way of Water too long?

The Biggest Sequel Of The Decade // After the giant success that was James Cameron’s Avatar, the announcement of its sequel The Way of Water thirteen years later had fans buzzing with excitement. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Duarte)

Avatar: A tale that can’t be timed

by Sienna Nicholson

Avatar was a groundbreaking film, directed by James Cameron, that shattered box offices in 2009 with a profit of $2.922 billion. This film was beloved in the 2000s because of its storyline and astounding CGI and special effects for its time period.

So, with the announcement of its sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, fans were ecstatic to see more of the Avatar world.

However, one grievance many fans share is the length of the film. While the first movie was already known for being long with a runtime of two hours and thirty-five minutes, Avatar: The Way of Water breaks the record for Cameron’s longest movie with a runtime of three hours and twelve minutes. However, one could argue that time doesn’t detract from the story, but expand it.

Many famous tales need to take their time to unfold. It’s why famous novels such as The Lord of the Rings series is a thousand pages long or beloved plays such as Angels in America take nearly eight hours to perform.

The Way of Water takes its time to fully expand on the story that’s developing before us. Jake, the main character and narrator of the film, carefully explains what’s occurred since the end of Avatar. Not only is the audience given a thorough and natural description of what’s going on, they receive time to understand the new characters that are introduced in the film.

In any new story, bringing in a large cast of characters at once can be risky. Many times characters that don’t directly revolve around the plotline are left dull and two-dimensional. The audience is forced to forget them, wondering why the character had to be there at all. 

 While The Way of Water does fall victim to this with some of its characters, the majority escape the trap of lackluster characterization as they are given plenty of screen time to express their character in full detail. 

For example, Lo’ak,  – one of Jake’s children – has several scenes exploring his place in the family and how he reflects on that. He’s given the chance to breathe life into his character and the audience can connect with his emotions, even when no words are spoken.

A huge factor of the Avatar duology is how emotions can settle into scenes through simple expressions and environments. Several shots taken in the landscape paired with composer Simon Franglen’s beautiful score allows the audience to fall in love with the world that is presented. Through the time given, the pauses between dialogue, and the moments of wordless expression, viewers are able to be immersed in the narrative magic of The Way of Water.

It’s understandable to not enjoy sitting still for three hours, but for those who decide to take in the story and truly let themselves get lost in the world before them, time seems to pass in a blink of an eye.





Avatar: Way Too Long

by Melissa Duarte

Thirteen years ago, fans were given the film Avatar. A movie following the lush alien species living in Pandora, known as the Na’vi. Jake Sully, a paralyzed former marine, becomes mobile again through technological advancement allowing his mind to be transported into an Avatar body. After being captivated by Pandora and the experiences it offered, he fell in love with a Na’vi woman. As the bond between them grew he was drawn into a battle for the survival of her world. It was a two hour forty-two minute movie that created an entirely new world that no one could have ever imagined. 

Then, the unexpected happened on December 16, 2022, Avatar: Way of the Water dropped in theaters. It was a three hour and twelve minute movie that followed Jake Sully and Neytiri’s family struggles, including the conflict of leaving their home and exploring the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans. 

With all that said, the movie was, to say the least, WAY too long. The scenes were unnecessarily elongated, repetitive, and lacking in details. 

First, the lack of character development. Jake Sully’s two oldest sons, Neteyam and Lo’ak, were struggling to create a friendship between the sons of the leader of the Metkayina Clan. The clan was fond of the water, and relied on those in the sea to give them peace. Every scene with Neteyam and Lo’ak and the sons of the Metkayina Clan was the same thing. Sully’s sons were too trusting, and the sons of the Metkayina Clan were deceitful. It would’ve been a nice detail to see the Sully boys be more confident and speak up against things that happened that were wrong. For being a three hour movie, it would’ve been nice to have a scene where the boys actually stood their ground.

Furthermore, Jake Sully’s daughter, Kiri, was exposed to having epilepsy. It was brought up in the first half of the movie then let go. It would have been an interesting side plot to understand the life of an Avatar with heightened senses and a mental disorder from the “human realm”. 

Jake and his family submitted to being under other’s control instead of finding balance between the two clans. The movie could’ve been a soar to watch if one could see different Avatars learning to work together instead of having a movie of two Avatars drifting apart. Kiri was the quickest to connect with the Metkayina Clan, and had little to no screen time. The movie could’ve moved the limits of what Avatars truly are by showing Sully’s family facing struggles head on, instead of running away.

At the end of the movie, Neteyam is shot in battle and dies from his injuries. Neytiri, his mother, wasn’t given the screen time to grieve the loss of one of her sons. She went to vengeance immediately. The Na’vi take family and ancestry as a high priority, so it was disappointing to see Neytiri not being allowed to truly cry. She loved her family more than anything, and yet wasn’t given a break. A moment to feel in the loss of her oldest son. 

 The movie is unfulfilling, and details are scarce. It hides the best thing about Pandora, and the Avatar realm, which is how beautiful it can be when you take a closer look at what’s going on.