Rotten Tomatoes Audiences Are Loving Avatar: The Way Of Water Even More Than The Original

The Na'vi from Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: Disney Pictures)

Perhaps of all upcoming movies, Avatar: The Way of Water had the biggest uphill climb to make when it came to capturing an audience’s attention. It has been 13 years since the release of James Cameron’s first record-setting cinematic adventure in the world of Pandora. Since then, the anticipation for the sequel (as well as the three planned Avatar follow-ups) has felt somewhat tepid. Well, the second movie has finally swam its way into theaters and, given the critical and audience reception, it seems that James Cameron has done it again. Based on the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score, moviegoers seem to enjoy the sequel even more than the original!

While first reactions to The Way of Water were reasonably positive, many of the reviewers (including CinemaBlend's own Corey Chichizola in his own review) highlighted the movie’s dazzling visual effects. However, many also pointed to the movie’s relatively thin plot -- a complaint that is reminiscent of the criticisms the first film faced. The film’s weak story is one of the critics’ main critiques of the sequel. The movie currently sits at 78% Critical approval on the tomatometer, a slight drop from its 2009 predecessor's 82%. However, the audience approval has been far more positive than the critic’s score, surpassing the original movie. The Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score for Avatar 2 is 94%, a jump from the first movie's 82%. 

This 16% split between the critical consensus and the Audience Score seems to indicate moviegoers didn’t have nearly as many problems with the less-than-original storyline. This gives the impression that the breathtaking visuals did a better job carrying the film for a general viewing audience than they perhaps did for critics. 

Rotten Tomatoes scores are notoriously controversial. While the ones from the audience indicates that theater attendees liked The Way of Water slightly more than critics, it is an admittedly imperfect metric, so your mileage may vary. 

While Avatar: The Way of Water, a sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time, isn’t setting any records itself, it made a solid $17 million on its opening night, This indicates that more than a decade between the two movies’ releases and all the naysaying James Cameron and co. faced over the years didn’t deter moviegoers from heading to cinemas to catch up with Jake, Neytiri, and their newly introduced children. $17 million is a decent box office haul for a Friday but, of course, many will be keeping a close eye on its final tally for the weekend as a whole.

It’s important to note that the first movie made the bulk of its box office sum overseas, and the sequel is following in its footsteps. The film has already been released in several foreign markets, where it is doing very well. Also, it has been suggested that it may have better box office longevity than other blockbusters. Tentpole films like Marvel movies have a lot of expectations and experience a sizable first weekend and then tend to taper off the longer it plays in cinemas. James Cameron’s sequel will likely face a more minor drop-off and should experience a more consistent gross from week to week. 

While the Rotten Tomatoes' Audience Score for Avatar: The Way of Water may be higher than the first film, only time will tell if the movie will experience the same (or better) positive word of mouth and the longevity the first film enjoyed. Be sure to keep an eye on how things shake out, and you can see the films in theaters now if you haven't already. And you can check out our schedule of 2023 new movie releases to plan your movie theater experiences for the new year. 

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.