Entertainment journalists, a smattering of movie critics and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro largely all rhapsodized over James Cameron's "Avatar" sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water," following the end of the social-media embargo by distributor 20th Century Fox.
"A staggering achievement," tweeted two-time Oscar winner del Toro ("The Shape of Water") of the action-adventure drama about human-in-avatar-form Jake Scully (voice of Sam Worthington) and his native family on the far-flung moon Pandora. Praising the film's "majestic Vistas and emotions at an epic, epic scale," del Toro said Cameron is "at the peak of his powers."
Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell lauded "this deeper dive into Pandoran myth, with improved storytelling (family + environment), spectacular H2O effects and headache-free 3D." David Ehrlich, chief film critic of IndieWire.com, called the movie "light years better than the first & easily one of the best theatrical experiences in ages," adding, "I was, uh, not exactly champing at the bit for an Avatar 2 … . [N]ow I can’t *wait* to see Avatar 3."
Most of the plaudits went to the film's breakthrough technical achievements, particularly its use of "high frame rate," in which film is shot at 48 frames per second, double the usual number.
"When you're buying tickets, look for 'High Frame Rate' next to the showtimes," advised Washington, D.C., TV journalist Kevin McCarthy of "Good Day DC. "Watching the film in 48 frames per second is absolutely incredible. … [I]t allows the 3D action to be seen in such a clear & immersive fashion. … [W]e've seen filmmakers attempt the higher frame rates … [but] they didn't feel quite right. Cameron has finally mastered it here … ."
"I’ve never seen anything like this from a technical, visual standpoint," agreed Uproxx.com senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan. "It’s overwhelming. Maybe too overwhelming. Sometimes I’d miss plot points because I’m staring at a Pandora fish. … Someone texted me, 'what’s the most visually impressive part of the movie?' And I responded, 'The whole thing honestly.' "
Entertainment reporter Germain Lussier of Gizmodo.com tweeted the film "left me breathless. Visually stunning, emotionally overwhelming, with some of the most impressive sustained action scenes I’ve ever seen." Tori Brazier, a reporter for the U.K. newspaper Metro, calling it "one of the most visually stunning films I have seen," said that, "Crucially, it also manages an engaging story … ." Reporter Drew Taylor of TheWrap.com said he was "overwhelmed by both its technical mastery and unexpectedly intimate emotional scope. Yes the world is expanded and sequels teased but the characters are most important."
Praise was not universal. "Liked it, didn't love it," tweeted Amon Warmann a contributing editor of the U.K. film magazine Empire, adding he nonetheless preferred it to the original "because it has less in your face white saviourism."
And a small percentage was dismissive. The New York Times' "The Projectionist" columnist Kyle Buchanan tweeted, "The thing James Cameron understands innately — the thing he can convey with more skill, guts and imagination than just about every filmmaker working today — is that glowing things are so, so rad." And film critic Alison Willmore of New York magazine's Vulture.com snarked, "I liked when there were whale aliens and they [i.e., the Pandorans] made friends with the whale aliens."
"Avatar: The Way of Water" is set for release Dec. 16.