LOS ANGELES — The long-awaited sequel to groundbreaking movie Avatar won praise on Tuesday from movie critics who said they were awed again by director James Cameron’s visual artistry.
Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on Friday, 13 years after the first film wowed audiences with pioneering 3D technology and became the highest-grossing movie of all time with $2.9 billion in ticket sales.
The sequel offers more advanced 3D images, showcasing aquatic creatures on the lush moon of Pandora.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 85% of 107 reviews collected on the Rotten Tomatoes website had applauded the new installment.
“Avatar: The Way of Water is such a screen-popping visual feast it earns the three-hour, 12-minute running time,” said Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Some also lauded the story about the tall, blue Na’vi people, who are forced to flee from the forest to the ocean.
“The 3-D special effects remain exceptional, but the screenplay is better this time, with a storyline more emotionally engaging than in the original,” said Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News.
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly called the movie “a meticulous world-building as astonishing and enveloping as anything we’ve ever seen on screen.”
Hollywood’s big question is whether The Way of Water can recoup its massive production and marketing costs. Studios split ticket sales with theaters, and Mr. Cameron told GQ magazine that The Way of Water will need to make $2 billion just to break even.
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, projects the movie will open with at least $150 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada during its first weekend. Walt Disney Co. is distributing the film.
Critics were not universally impressed with The Way of Water. Some objected to the long running time or said they were not drawn in by the story.
“Watching the film (feels) like being waterboarded with turquoise cement,” said Robbie Collin of the Daily Telegraph. — Reuters