The Way of Water is the sequel to 2009’s Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time.
Director James Cameron has stated that the sequel must become the fourth-largest picture ever made in order to break even.
In The Way of Water, viewers are brought back to Pandora, where the Na’vi people’s existence is once again threatened.
The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin gave the film one star, saying it “feels like being waterboarded with turquoise cement.”
“The tale, created by Cameron and a four-person writing team, is a typical work of franchise-elongation, in which nothing substantial occurs or changes, and all the parts are restored to their original locations, ready for the next instalment,” he added.
Empire’s Nick De Semlyen, on the other hand, gave the film five stars and called it “thunderingly entertaining.”
“It’s a leap beyond even what [Cameron] accomplished with the first picture, a phantasmagorical, totally immersive waking dream of a movie in which something unbelievable occurs on-screen virtually every instant,” he remarked.
Others criticised the film’s length. “With more than three hours, you will have time to silently consider geopolitics, as well as holiday arrangements, meeting schedules, and food ideas,” the Financial Times’ Danny Leigh quipped.
In the first Avatar film, crippled marine Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) used an avatar body to infiltrate the planet’s indigenous inhabitants.
He eventually defected to join the Na’vi species in order to protect the planet from a human effort to capture a valuable mineral.
The story of The Way of Water takes place many years later. Jake has a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaa), and in the film, they band together with a reef tribe as new dangers to Pandora emerge.
He called the picture “rapturous and awe-inspiring,” and said the watching experience “just isn’t comparable to anything else is playing” in theatres.