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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | "Avatar: The Way of Water"

Avatar: The Way of Water
20th Century Fox
Avatar: The Way of Water

Thirteen years ago, director James Cameron presented the ground-breaking sci-fi adventure “Avatar.” Now the sequel is finally here and it’s bigger, longer, wetter and with more up-to-date special effects than ever before.

James Cameron doesn’t shy away from epics involving a lot of water. He stressed out with “The Abyss” in the late 1980s and then triumphed with “Titanic.”

For his latest saga, he confidently offers up waves, currents, floods and a heap of underwater action in a film over three hours that doesn’t give audiences a bathroom break.

"Avatar: The Way of Water” begins a generation after humans were ejected from the moon of Pandora. They were defeated by the indigenous Na’vi, including the fierce heroine Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana) and her mate Jake Sully (portrayed by Sam Worthington) the once-human soldier who became a Na’vi, as a bio-engineered Avatar, and joined the tribe.

But the Earth, still desperate for resources, has launched a new campaign to seize and despoil Pandora. Worse news: The nasty Colonel Quaritch has been resurrected as a clone/Avatar hybrid, with Stephen Lang returning in the role.

You could call this film “Avatar: The Next Generation” since Jake and Neytiri have raised five youngsters struggling to deal with their heritage. And maybe it’s Jake’s influence, but sometimes they talk like kids who might hang out at the mall.

Among them are two brothers on the verge of manhood. Neteyam is the older, more responsible sibling. (He’s played by Jamie Flatters.) Lo’ak (played by Britain Dalton) is more impetuous, the disappointment of the family often found with egg on his face.

Two of the children are adopted. Kiri is the biological daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s scientist who died in the previous film. Amazingly, Weaver is playing the role, a young Na’vi girl, thanks to motion capture and other hi-tech wizardry. The other adopted youngster, Spider, (played by Jack Champion) is human. His father is none other than Colonel Quaritch, and the movie’s most intriguing sub-plot is watching the possible family dynamic here.

Jake and Neytiri, concerned for their family’s safety, move from the forest to the seashore, the abode of the Metkayina. That tribe (modeled after the Maoris of New Zealand) lives in harmony with the sea creatures known as the tolkun—whale-like beings with mouths like the sand worms of “Dune."

One of the tolkun, cast out by his own species, forms a friendship with poor, misunderstood Lo’ak. In many ways, the core of this movie is about a boy and his fish.

There’s a lot going on in the new “Avatar.” For real devotees, it’s a big, beautiful, magical, immersive dive back to Pandora. For us rookies, The Way of Water may sound more like lava-lamp mysticism. But there’s major themes about nature and the environment, plus passing references to Vietnam, the poaching of endangered species and similar topics. It leads up to another epic battle, and the set-up for another movie. (Cameron may be planning up to three more sequels.)

Pandora worshipers should love the film—the rest of us, maybe not that much.

But “Avatar: The Way of Water” is still a big, juicy Christmas goose of a movie, and rates 3 ½ on a scale of 5.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.