When I saw the first Avatar film in 2009, I was not the biggest fan. I’ll admit, it was visually stunning and immersive—but dangling a few shiny objects can only distract me for so long. For instance, the lush, magical forests weren’t enough to make me ignore the predictable storyline and stereotypical characters. And the impressive CGI didn’t quite make up for the problematic “white savior” trope.
So, yes, I was one of the few who had a bone to pick with Avatar while the rest of the world fawned over the striking visuals in Pandora. But now, having watched the film’s follow-up, Avatar: The Way of Water, I will say that the director raised the bar with mesmerizing visuals. And while it's not perfect (particularly when it comes to showing cross-cultural differences), it does a great job of highlighting the importance of family, community and loyalty. Oh, and those action sequences? *Chef's kiss*