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Avatar: The Way of Water Is 'Downright Moving' and 'Bigger, Better' Than First Movie, Critics Rave

(L-R): Ronal, Tonowari, and the Metkayina clan in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.
(L-R): Ronal, Tonowari, and the Metkayina clan in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.

20th Century Studios.

Critics are overjoyed about the return to Pandora.

Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to the 2009 box office hit, had its world premiere in London on Tuesday. The first reactions from those who got to see the new film praised director James Cameron's spectacle and epic visual effects.

Entertainment Weekly's Yolanda Machado tweeted, "James Cameron is a technology master... and his direction is at its most precise here. The film as a whole, while a technological marvel with a breathtaking world, is just [laugh emoji]. Dances with Wolves and Free Willy for Gen Z!"

Critic Scott Mantz said the movie is "breathtakingly beautiful with the most incredible VFX I have ever seen (I saw it in 3D); the story itself is weaker than the first and feels drawn out at 3 hours & 10 minutes, but it's always great to look at & the last hour is amazing."

Empire's Amon Warmann liked the sequel more than the first and noted, "... good news is that 3D is good again (yay!), and the action is pretty incredible (especially in the final act). But many of the storylines feel like they have to stop and start, and the high frame rate was hit & miss for me."

Nikki Novak, a Fandango correspondent, tweeted, "If you think you've seen #Avatar think again. Only repeat from the OG is that 'never experienced anything like it' awe. Better than 1st? Easily. The 3D water world & creatures are so surreal it is downright moving. There's a major Titanic homage."

RELATED: Avatar 2 Must Be Among Top 5 Highest-Grossing Films Ever Just to Break Even, James Cameron Says

(L-R): Neytiri and Jake Sully in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.
(L-R): Neytiri and Jake Sully in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.

20th Century Studios

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The Wrap's Drew Taylor saw it twice and 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. Cameron is in top form, especially in final act. Good to have him back."

Perri Nemiroff from Collider called The Way of Water "pretty incredible." Nemiroff added, "I had faith James Cameron would raise the bar w/ 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."

Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango's Erik Davis said the sequel is "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."

The sequel stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Stephen Lang, Michelle Yeoh and more.

The Way of Water is about Jake and Neytiri's family and "the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure," according to an official synopsis.

Cameron, 68, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he already has ideas for several possible Avatar sequels. The director revealed he has Avatar 6 and mapped out, adding he'd be "89 by then."

"Obviously I'm not going to be able to make Avatar movies indefinitely," Cameron said, citing the "amount of energy required." He added that he "would have to train somebody" to continue the franchise: "I don't care how smart you are as a director, you don't know how to do this."

Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters Dec. 16.