As “Top Gun: Maverick” proved earlier this yr, so long as a sequel is sensible, well-written, superbly solid and stylishly executed, it could actually take on a regular basis it wants getting right here. “The Method of Water” doesn’t essentially test all these bins, however what it does proper will supply spectators moments of awe, full-body immersion and real magnificence. Cameron, co-writing right here with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, from a narrative he collaborated on with Jaffa, Silver, Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno, has by no means been recognized for his delicate narrative or subtle dialogue: “The Method of Water” is steadily clunky and ham-handed in its storytelling, and the phrases spoken by its characters — human, humanoid and in between — aren’t significantly memorable. However there’s no denying the facility of pictures that may solely be described as transporting — actually and figuratively.
“The Method of Water” catches up with “Avatar’s” protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a decade after he’s determined to retire from service with the Marines and take up residence on Pandora (the planet he was despatched to colonize), turn into a member of the native Na’vi tribe and marry Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). As “The Method of Water” opens, we’re launched to Jake and Neytiri’s spirited kids: sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), in addition to a little bit woman named Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). They’ve additionally adopted Kiri, a delicate adolescent whose mom, Grace Augustine, was performed by Sigourney Weaver within the first “Avatar.” Right here, by the use of each digital wizardry and her personal vocal presents, Weaver delivers an impressively convincing portrayal of her youthful self as a curious, tuned-in woman with profound powers to attach with the universe.
Kiri is without doubt one of the totally realized characters in “The Method of Water,” which facilities on Jake’s efforts to avoid wasting his household when rapacious forces as soon as once more threaten the peaceful kingdom of Pandora. The gung-ho chief of that hegemonic mission is one other acquainted face: Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake’s ally turned nemesis who was vanquished however has been reconstituted to resemble the towering blue-skinned ectomorphs who inhabit Pandora.
For the primary 45 minutes or so, “The Method of Water” busies itself with introducing, reintroducing, explaining and establishing — and likewise establishing the idyllic household life Jake is attempting to laborious to protect. As soon as he’s compelled to flee the forest, the Sullys take refuge with the Metkayina individuals, whose seaside redoubt resembles the Maldives with far more fantastical natural world.
It’s at this level that the visible wonders of “The Method of Water” come totally into body, with Cameron and his visible results group creating attractive underwater vistas of corals, undulating filaments, neon-colored plants and creatures that float, soar, lunge and balletically breach. Essentially the most exhilarating moments of the movie come by the use of Kiri’s explorations of her new habitat and the adventures of her siblings, who befriend equally feisty however finned and green-skinned Metkayina youngsters (their mother and father are performed by Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet). “Discovering Nemo” has nothing on the world that Cameron builds undersea, with a much more vibrant shade palette and arresting element than he evinced within the first installment.
The irony of “The Method of Water” is that, for all its kid-centric motion, it’s almost certainly far too intense for anybody beneath 10. Whereas the Sullys discover ways to maintain their breath and Lo’ak befriends a whalelike leviathan who’s simply as misunderstood as he’s, Quaritch is on their path, leaving nothing however struggling and destruction in his wake. As soon as he colludes with a grasping boat captain, performed with sleazy relish by Brendan Cowell, the dual evils of militarism and capitalism create a thrashing, deeply disquieting tableau of ugly cruelty and carnage — violence that reaches its peak in a loud, protracted battle sequence that varieties the film’s cacophonous climax.
If wanton destruction punctuated by moments of psychedelic visible splendor and New Age-y philosophizing is your bag, “The Method of Water” offers loads of worth. However so far as the computer-generated strategies have come within the intervening years, there are sequences which can be shockingly unattractive, particularly live-action scenes whose excessive body fee provides them the tacky, motion-smoothed look of a foul cleaning soap opera.
The motion in “The Method of Water” is in the end overwhelming, betraying an uncomfortable reality about Cameron: He may preach environmentalism and stability, calling on Indigenous peoples for his or her light worldviews and materials tradition. However at coronary heart, he’s simply as aggressive and all-commanding because the dangerous guys he portrays with such oorah swagger. Because the annihilation reached its punishingly fevered pitch at a latest screening, the crashes and rumbles and explosions weren’t simply deafening, they have been palpable to the purpose that I puzzled who was kicking my seat. Then I spotted: It was James Cameron all alongside.
PG-13. At space theaters. Comprises sequences of robust violence and intense motion, partial nudity, and a few robust language. 192 minutes.