First Avatar 2 reactions praise film as 'visual masterpiece': 'Never bet against James Cameron'

The first film critics have made their way back to the mythical world of Pandora, and they have a lot of thoughts.

The reactions to the first screenings of James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water landed online on Tuesday, and so far have been overwhelmingly positive, with most praising the blockbuster sequel's stunning visuals.

"Happy to say Avatar: The Way of Water is phenomenal," wrote Fandango's Erik Davis. "Bigger, better & more emotional than Avatar, the film is visually breathtaking, visceral and incredibly engrossing. The story, the spectacle, the spirituality, the beauty – this is moviemaking & storytelling at its absolute finest."

Uproxx's Mike Ryan tweeted, "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." He continued, "Someone texted me, 'What's the most visually impressive part of the movie?' And I responded, 'The whole thing honestly.'"

The sequel, which is 13 years in the making, will return audiences to the beautiful planet Pandora, with Zoe Saldaña reprising her role as Neytiri, a native Na'vi, and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, the human soldier-turned-Na'vi. The film follows their characters' family and the new threat they face. New additions to the cast include Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, and more.

While the visuals seem to be receiving near universal acclaim in much the same way as its predecessor did, some critics found the story elements to be lacking by comparison. Scott Mantz wrote, "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."

And EW editor Yolanda Machado likened it to a Free Willy for Gen Z. "James Cameron is a technology master...and his direction is at its most precise here," she wrote. "The film as a whole, while a technological marvel with a breathtaking world, is just [laugh-cry emoji]. Dances with Wolves and Free Willy for Gen Z."

Avatar: The Way of Water will be released on Dec. 16. See the reactions in full below.

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