Avatar: The Way of Water reactions praise "bigger, better, and more emotional" sequel

Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: Disney/20th Century Studios)

Avatar: The Way of Water, the long-awaited sequel to Avatar, is finally almost here – and reactions are in from the premiere. The first movie released way back in 2009, meaning the wait for more has stretched on for 13 years. 

"Avatar: The Way of Water was truly theme-park cinema for me, for better and worse," writes Total Film's own Matt Maytum. "To strain the metaphor, the queues were worth it to get to the high points – at its immersive best, some of the set pieces are transcendent – but I found it dramatically flat and repetitive," 

Our online editor Jack Shepherd wrote: "#AvatarTheWayOfWater pushes CGI to new places and uses the word "family" more than any F&F movie. While some of the new characters are underutilized, Pandora is miraculously realized, the underwater stuff glorious, and the final third is full of incredible action – see in IMAX!"

The vast majority of review were raves. "#AvatarTheWayOfWater is pretty incredible," writes Collider's Perri Nemiroff (opens in new tab). "I had faith James Cameron would raise the bar with the effects but these visuals are mind-blowing. One stunning frame after the next. But the thing I dug most is how the technical feats always feel in service of character & world-building."

"James Cameron now has not two but THREE of the best sequels ever made," says film critic Kevin L. Lee (opens in new tab). "AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is incredible. The effects and action is, yes, breathtaking. But it is the story this time that's the beating heart. It's more personal, complicated, emotional. Wow, it really soars." 

Journalist Jake Hamilton (opens in new tab) echoes the sentiment: "As someone who LIKED – but didn't LOVE – the first AVATAR, let me tell you: AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER blew me away. Vastly superior in visuals, storytelling and performances, the sequel left my jaw on the ground for the entire runtime. James Cameron is the GOD of sequels."

"AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER: Yeah never bet against James Cameron. Trying to spare hyperbole, but I've never seen anything like this from a technical, visual standpoint. It's overwhelming. Maybe too overwhelming. Sometimes I'd miss plot points because I'm staring at a Pandora fish," says Uproxx's Mike Ryan (opens in new tab)

Fandango's Erik Davis (opens in new tab) also has high praise: "Happy to say #AvatarTheWayOfWater is phenomenal! Bigger, better & more emotional than #Avatar, the film is visually breathtaking, visceral & incredibly engrossing. The story, the spectacle, the spirituality, the beauty - this is moviemaking & storytelling at its absolute finest." 

"James Cameron once again shows filmmakers how it's done. I've said it a thousand times. Never doubt him. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is how you do epic blockbuster-ing. Emotional, visceral, and as big as movies get," says MTV's Josh Horowitz (opens in new tab)

"AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER might be James Cameron's sweetest, gentlest, most personal film. Possibly even his most emotional. It revisits all his greatest hits, but it's always totally sincere. He is never leaving Pandora. He loves this family. By the end, I did, too," writes journalist Bilge Ebiri (opens in new tab)

"I was blown away by the sheer scale of #AvatarTheWayOfWater, which fulfils every mad promise its creators have made about cinematic innovation. Underwater stuff, especially, is mind-blowing. But it's also huge, epic filmmaking of the kind that has become Cameron's trademark," is Yahoo's Tom Beasley (opens in new tab)'s verdict. 

But, not everyone was blown away. "Avatar: The Way Of Water is a silly, soggy, motion-smoothed epic of solemnity without a single interesting visual image," says The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw (opens in new tab)

"Avatar: The Way of Water is a film to be admired more than loved – some remarkable spectacle, some throwback to Titanic set pieces, some really lovely visual flourishes. But it's also interminably, ploddingly overlong, and more impressive than truly absorbing," says critic Christina Newland (opens in new tab)

Avatar: The Way of Water arrives this December 16. In the meantime, check out our guide to all the upcoming major movie release dates for everything else there is to get excited about. 

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.