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Avatar: The Way Of Water Moments That Made Fans Furious

This article contains spoilers for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

For a time, "Avatar" was arguably most famous for its lack of an impression on pop culture. The surprising absence of "Avatar" merchandise, lore, and spin-offs in the years after the first movie's release had led some commenters to describe "Avatar" as, to quote Flickering Myth, the most successful movie with zero cultural impact. According to Forbes, it was only the news of the sequel being perpetually pushed back that kept the world of Pandora fresh in our collective consciousness.

Yet now that the sequel has arrived, it seems like audiences do care enough about "Avatar: The Way of Water" to watch it — and to be disappointed when it's not quite what they hoped. Regardless of how you feel about the sequel, the fact that some fans are upset (and a few are even furious) means that people are at least paying attention. This indicates that the first "Avatar" did indeed leave an impression.

Audience and critical reactions to "Avatar: The Way of Water" vary wildly. Some folks are saying that it doesn't quite have the same spark as the first one, while others are saying it stays true to the first movie but it still shares many of its predecessor's failings. Still, there are a few things that the majority of fans agree made them unhappy, so let's find out what they are.

Seeing Sigourney Weaver play a teenager

The choice to cast Sigourney Weaver as a teenage Na'vi character in "Avatar: The Way of Water" left "Avatar" fans divided, to say the least. Some fans had no problem accepting Weaver in the role of a teenager. On Twitter, @PetuniaKnows wrote, "I honestly love James Cameron for [casting an older woman in the role], we have accepted way too much ageism in Hollywood." 

Yet for many others, the motion capture was only convincing until Kiri opened her mouth. Despite Weaver's best efforts, it's apparently difficult to pass the voice of a 73-year-old woman as a 14-year-old girl. Some fans were not fooled for an instant. "I could really see this was an adult trying to play a child," wrote u/PeterCastiglione on Reddit. Meanwhile, @Nitro-Spidey tweeted, "I'm sorry, Sigourney Weaver is a great actress, but she does not work as the voice of the kid."

The fact that there's a narrative reason behind this casting choice only slightly alleviates the bizarreness of seeing a teenage Sigourney Weaver. Canonically, Kiri has been confirmed to be the daughter of Grace's avatar, so it makes sense that she would sound just like her mother (who is also played by Weaver). And perhaps she's more than just Grace's daughter. Reddit user u/Scambino speculated, "Could Kiri be some kind of reincarnation of Grace facilitated by Eywa?" If so, then the casting choice makes a lot of sense.

Jake and Neytiri being sidelined

Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) were undoubtedly the protagonists of "Avatar," but with the second movie, their role is a little more complicated. Jake is certainly central to the plot: he's the one with the target on his back, and his decisions kick the story into motion. But for a main character, he doesn't get a lot of screen time, nor does Neytiri.

Den of Geek observed, "For much of the middle section of the movie, Jake and Neytiri themselves are strangely passive." Their role in the second act is mostly just to react to what their children have been doing. Jake and Neytiri both take the backseat for most of the film, letting their kids do the driving. The Sully children — especially Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), Kiri, and Spider (Jack Champion) — are main characters in their own right, and they get plenty of wonderful character development. However, many fans still miss Jake and Neytiri.

Some were especially disappointed by Neytiri's limited screen time. Twitter user @JMB1122AZ was furious that Neytiri barely left a dent in the sequel. "She screams and fights," they wrote, "but if her dialogue reached 50 words I'd be surprised." A user named @crusqe agreed, tweeting, "YESSSSSS i felt like [she's] just a bystander in the movie. need more of her rage." Still, fans such as u/Lili_Danube were at least glad that Neytiri absolutely stole the scene when she finally got a chance to shine in the final battle.

Underdeveloped supporting characters

Jake and Neytiri weren't the only characters who got the short end of the stick. The film has a gigantic cast: with two parents and five children, plus several more humans and Metkayina, something was bound to slip through the cracks.

On a Reddit forum about the movie, u/pjtheman complained that, despite all the buzz about Kate Winslet joining the cast as Ronal, her character wasn't given much to do. While the story didn't strictly need more scenes with Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), some fans actually missed his presence. User u/c_palmtree wrote, "i thought a 'business suit' type was a nice ying yang dynamic with the military in the first movie," adding that they wished Selfridge had gotten more than just a cameo. Even characters with a lot of screen time like Lo'ak feel underdeveloped. The scene where Lo'ak takes the blame for Aonung (Filip Geljo) is fascinating, said u/ArcaneSketches, but the film could have been even better if it spent a little longer on Lo'ak growing to become friends with the former bully.

Perhaps the movie's biggest sin is neglecting to develop Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), since it's the last movie where the character will appear. As far as u/GarfieldDaCat was concerned, "[Neteyam's] death could have hit much harder if he had spent any meaningful time on screen." User u/Su_Impact called Neteyam a one-note character, insisting, "I felt more sadness about the death of the whale and her calf than about Jake's oldest son dying."

The distracting frame rate

If something seemed a little bit off to you while you were watching "Avatar: the Way of Water," that's probably because you noticed the movie's frame rate. Most movies (including the first "Avatar") are shot at 24 frames per second (fps), but the sequel was filmed at 48fps. This was meant to lend a hyper-realistic quality to the film, explains Den of Geek, but most fans agree it backfired. Because audiences are so used to seeing films at 24fps, the images in "Avatar: the Way of Water" actually seem unreal.

Viewers have said that the frame rate made the film look like a video game (per Reddit user u/tag2597), or a soap opera (per Forbes). Twitter user @DCrowsNest remarked that the frame rate reminded him of "I, Claudius," a TV show from the 1970s. Meanwhile, The Verge compared it to watching "a very expensive video meant to be played on an array of televisions in a Best Buy."

Some fans were comfortable with the 48fps but felt it was distracting when the film switched back to 24fps (usually in scenes that involved close-ups and not a lot of movement). One Reddit user pointed out that the film would often toggle back and forth between different frame rates within a single scene. "If that sounds jarring," wrote u/QuantumShart7, "that is because it was." User u/phantom_kr3 agreed, saying, "I loved the 48fps but the switch ended up messing with my head a lot."

Not enough of the recoms

One thing fans wanted to see more of was the recombinant soldiers (or recoms for short). Supposedly, Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Wainfleet (Matt Gerald) and the other recoms are a close-knit bunch of soldiers who knew each other before they were reborn in Na'vi bodies. But viewers may have a hard time buying that, because Quaritch's buddies get zero character development. According to Redditor u/ArcaneSketches, "Wainfleet is kind of just ... there. Fike gets namedropped at the beginning, and Zdinarsk is there to chew gum and look badass." Furthermore, this user argues, the recoms don't seem like much of a threat. Jake and Neytiri manage to take them out almost single-handedly.

Other fans shared this sentiment. "I LOVE LOVE LOVED the idea that the RDA is using native fauna to slip passed[sic] Eywa," declared u/JurassicGinger. Unfortunately, this plot thread never amounted to anything. Honestly, the RDA didn't necessarily need recoms for the job that Quaritch and his men were doing. While it's certainly useful for the RDA to have soldiers that don't need gas masks, the story didn't have the recoms take full advantage of their Na'vi bodies. "I was looking forward to seeing them adapt more to their Na'vi bodies and figure out the advantages," added u/JurassicGinger, but ultimately the recoms did things that human soldiers could have done just as easily.

While there's still a chance that the recoms will get more development in future movies, some fans may not want to wait that long.

The Na'vi language conveniently translated to English

Many fans watching "Avatar: The Way of Water" were wondering why there was so much English spoken as opposed to Na'vi. After all, the Na'vi only spoke English in the first movie for Jake's benefit. However, when the sequel begins, Jake is considered one of the Na'vi and speaks their language. So shouldn't the movie have been entirely in the Na'vi language (with English subtitles)? The film does offer an explanation for the switch, even if fans feel it's a contrived one. Jake explains that he has become accustomed to the native tongue. "Now when I hear it," he says, "it might as well be English," and that's when the audio switches to English.

Obviously, viewers wouldn't want to sit through a three-hour movie spoken in a tongue that nobody uses as a first language in real life. But there might have been a subtler way to explain why audiences hear only English. Reddit user u/PeterCastiglione wrote, "I understand why they did it. I just thought it was done without finesse." One comment from u/queezus77 proposed an interesting solution for how this issue could have been resolved more gracefully. The user suggested that the Na'vi speak English and "all the humans speak some weird English-sounding gobbledegook and need subtitles." That idea would actually make sense from Jake's perspective (it's probably been more than a decade since he needed to speak English, so he's probably rusty), and it would emphasize how Jake now feels more comfortable speaking the Na'vi language.

The slang used by the Na'vi

Although many viewers were put off by the Na'vi speaking English, there's one particular aspect of the dialogue in "Avatar: The Way of Water" that has elicited a strong response from fans – and not a good one. For some reason, the teenage Na'vi characters use slang words like "cuz" or "sick," and the word "bro" is spoken several times. According to one Reddit user, the slang is cringe-worthy because it doesn't seem in-character for the Na'vi. "Why do they talk like that?" asked u/NurplePain. "They wouldn't have gotten that from Jake, he is too old to talk like that. Seems like an old man writing characters to relate to a modern teenage audience."

One fan on Reddit pointed out that the Na'vi probably aren't literally saying "bro." Rather, they are using the Na'vi equivalent — which probably sounds less ridiculous — and it is translated for viewers, just like everything else the Na'vi say. "Since Na'vi refer to each other as brother/sister often (ma tsmuk/tsmuke/tsmukan) this was included in the translation," concluded u/GurpsWibcheengs. User u/DillingerLost also had no problem accepting the slang. "I just took it as when they're speaking English, it's Jake's interpretation," the Reddit user wrote, before conceding, "I do feel 'bro' will not age well." Meanwhile, u/sam_kaktus wished the filmmakers had taken the time to develop an equivalent Na'vi word with a similar connotation, instead of relying on "bro" all the time.

The movie is too long

There's one thing fans and critics all seem to agree on: "Avatar: The Way of Water" is a little too long. Certainly, the first "Avatar" (which clocked in at two hours and 42 minutes) and Cameron's previous filmography (one of which exceeds the running time of both "Avatar" films) set a precedent. Still, many fans think the movie had no business being three hours and 12 minutes long. "The ending runs a bit long [and] the story doesn't justify it," tweeted @ThinkHero. The runtime has even alienated some moviegoers who enjoy watching super-long epics. "I'm no stranger to long movies," wrote Redditor u/JoeBleddyn, who cited extended cuts of "The Lord of the Rings" while adding, "But 'Avatar 2' really drags."

In response to criticism about the movie's length, James Cameron told Empire Magazine, "I don't want anybody whining about length when they sit and binge-watch [television] for eight hours." The director argued that viewers will just need to accept that sooner or later they'll need to get up and use the bathroom, and that's okay. Of course, some fans took issue with Cameron's statement (especially the TV show part) and responded on Twitter. For instance, @ConnYoungberg pointed out, "But ... but you can pause the TV show, James."

The movie is not long enough

Paradoxically, a lot of fans (including some who were frustrated by the long running time) also feel that "Avatar: The Way of Water" is too short.

Despite the film's lengthy runtime, Reddit user u/ArcaneSketches argues that the movie's pacing often feels too fast, rather than too slow. Cameron tries to rush quickly through the first act to get Jake and his family to the Metkayina clan as quickly as possible, without giving the characters time to breathe. We barely get to see Jake mourning what he is leaving behind. For Redditor u/saltypistol, the movie is actually strongest when it takes its time. "The downtime is what makes 'Avatar' so special IMO," they wrote. "I come to these movies for action and thrills yes, but also just to be immersed in an alien world." Twitter user @RRLL04 suggested, "The film needed like 15 more minutes of exploring certain characters in more depth."

Of course, some fans think the movie didn't need to be longer but still wish that Cameron had cut a few subplots, so that the filmmakers could focus on the most important storylines. "It's clearly a project of deep passion and love, and I respect that," declares u/pjtheman. "But I think that passion also resulted in too many ideas being crammed into a runtime that was already bursting at the seams." In other words, the three-hour running time might have been better spent on further development for the main characters.

The setup for sequels

While there is nothing in "Avatar: The Way of Water" as obvious as the Infinity Stones scene shoehorned into "Avengers: Age of Ultron," there are still several plot threads introduced in this movie that won't reach a satisfactory conclusion until later in the "Avatar" saga. For many fans, this is infuriating. Tessa Smith from @MamasGeeky tweeted, "Biggest issue: feels like a stepping stone for what's next." Likewise, Reddit user u/robust_syrup was frustrated that the valuable substance amrita — which is extracted by humans from the brains of tulkun that they brutally hunt down — was relevant for one scene and then forgotten for the rest of the movie. 

As for the main characters, it seems like Kiri in particular won't get much payoff until the sequels. Fans such as u/pjtheman wish the film had explored why Kiri has a special connection to Eywa and has seizures underwater. Redditor u/JoeBleddyn concluded, "So much is left unresolved to bait for sequels I'm not invested in."

Yet not everyone felt this was a problem. "[Any unresolved plot threads] are forgivable if you simply treat this movie as 1/4 of a large story, which it is," wrote u/Rcaynpowah. "Some very central and important characters are basically only tagging along while some other important characters get almost all of the spotlight. I am sure these characters will be given their moment in future films, so I will withhold final judgement." Thankfully, fans won't need to wait another 13 years to see the payoff: "Avatar 3" is projected to come out in 2024.