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What Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Are Saying About Avatar: The Way Of Water

After a 13-year-long wait, "Avatar: The Way of Water," the first of several planned follow-ups to James Cameron's 2009 megahit "Avatar," is nearly here. The original film was not only one of the biggest box office success stories ever, but it was also a pioneering accomplishment in visual effects and 3D filmmaking (per Popular Mechanics). The early social media reactions to the hotly-anticipated sequel offered some glowing praise of Cameron's latest visual feat, but now that the official review embargo has lifted, what are critics on Rotten Tomatoes saying about "The Way of Water"? 

After all, the cinematic landscape has changed quite a bit since the first "Avatar" was released, and 2009 almost seems like another era entirely. Entries from franchises like Marvel and DC have been dominating the blockbuster movie landscape, which may leave many curious about how Cameron's original vision will fare. But based on the reviews that have come in thus far, it seems as if those who were blown away by their first trip to Pandora over a decade ago will be more than happy with where this long-awaited sequel takes them. 

Many critics were blown away by the visual effects and worldbuilding of Avatar: The Way of Water

As of the time of writing, "Avatar: The Way of Water" boasts a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score of 85%. While that might indicate that the movie isn't necessarily a runaway sensation with film critics, that still puts it on track to be a certifiable critical success (and, as of now, the sequel boasts a better critical reception than the original "Avatar," which has an 82% critics score). 

For many reviewers, the sense of wonder and awe felt in the first film is very much present in its sequel. According to The Atlantic's David Simms, "For 'The Way of Water,' the decadence is more than enough — for cinemas that have been starved of authentic spectacle, finally, here's a gorgeous three-course meal of it." The feature's epic scope and non-stop visual splendor have been mentioned in several glowing reviews of the movie.

Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt also pointed out the grandeur of the film by writing, "A meticulous world-building as astonishing and enveloping as anything we've ever seen on screen — until that crown is passed, inevitably, in December 2024, the projected release date for Avatar 3." Similarly, in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper declared, "'Avatar: The Way of Water' is such a screen-popping visual feast it earns the 3-hour, 12-minute running time ..." Roeper even went on to add that "Pandora remains one of the most amazing worlds we've ever seen on the big screen."

While many reviewers' assessments have been positive, there are some middling critical takes amongst the praise.

Some critics have pointed out flaws within the sequel's story and characters

When "Avatar" was released, not all film reviewers were over the moon with praise for what would become a planned saga about Pandora. And the response to "Avatar: The Way of Water" is no different. While many reviewers were transported by the grandiose visual worldbuilding, others were left cold by the plot and characters. 

Kyle Anderson of The Nerdist said of the film, "It's a gorgeous visual treat, a testament to the artistry and attention to detail of Cameron and his effects crew, but if you're looking for anything else from it, you'll be left sorely disappointed." Meanwhile, Mashable's Kristy Puchko noted that the thinly written characters didn't live up to the technology used to bring the actors' performances to life. While Puchko had praise for certain aspects of the film, she ultimately concluded, "Cameron loses track of his characters, snarls his story, squanders his star power, and then dizzies 3D audiences with so much whiz-bang that they might feel attacked in lieu of awed." 

For some critics like The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, the film's narrative details simply did not come together in a satisfying way. He observed, "The floatingly bland plot is like a children's story without the humour; a YA story without the emotional wound; an action thriller without the hard edge of real excitement." 

Still, even with these middling to negative reviews taken into account, the overall assessment from critics appears to be that "Avatar: The Way of Water" is a worthy successor to the original and another stunning visual accomplishment from James Cameron.