It's almost inconceivable to think of ways that James Cameron could make something better than 2009's Avatar. While its sequel can neither be called an improvement nor inferior, it does stand out in its own way, thanks to the sheer scale of the wondrous aquatic life of Pandora.
Like a talented artist who chooses to savour every moment with his paintbrush and canvas, the award-winning filmmaker takes his time in the exploration of the sea and its creatures, allowing the drama to take centre stage.
It's taken Cameron 13 years to make Avatar: The Way of Water and every frame and shot is a testament to endless hours of commitment to this passion project.
The end result is a visually stunning and immersive film that drags a little midway but is well worth the wait.
Years after the protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have settled down with their four children, danger comes knocking with the arrival of enemies on a mission of retribution.
Being parents has made the duo more mature and unlike before when they would jump into the fray, the pair makes the painful but wise decision to leave their home.
Choosing to settle with one of the water tribes, the family of six struggles to adapt to their new habitat while their relentless enemies close in on their trail.
Jake and his family can't keep running forever and when the inevitable showdown comes, it climaxes in a heartbreaking finale that is guaranteed to punch a hole in even the most fortified emotions.
As I left the cinema, I thought of ways to write this review and now as I pen this, it dawns on me that I have to start with one of the most significant tools of interpretation; the sea.
It's no secret that Cameron is a lover of the depths and his real-life exploration of the Mariana Trench (the deepest oceanic trench on the planet) has been well-publicised.
Not one to rush his storytelling, the daring filmmaker uses the mind-boggling technology at his disposal and the genius mind behind his intellect to bring Pandora's sea creatures to life, showing the viewer everything in all its majestic glory.
It was simply impossible to not be left in awe as I took in the sheer scale of the aquatic life unfolding before me. Not many people can do what Cameron does.
Like a character with its own mind, motives and aspirations, the sea taunts, fascinates and titillates.
At some point, it became a case of sensory overload as The Way of Water felt like a documentary and not a feature film. It was only at that point that the plot dragged a bit.
Visually speaking, the CGI is impeccable, and each creature is unique in a world that boasts of living things from the fearful to the bizarre.
In this immersive tale centred on family, lead stars Worthington and Saldana are the movie's finest performers.
As the patriarch, Worthington's Jake must contend with his headstrong children while being forced to confront an enemy from the past.
Tested like never before with the odds against him and everyone he holds dear, Jake realises that making the ultimate sacrifice may be all that stands between his family and annihilation.
Saldana plays the devoted and fierce wife with such fervour that leads to her owning what is perhaps the most gut-wrenching scene in the third act.
All the supporting characters bring something new and thankfully, their acting cannot be faulted.
I can't imagine how much work went into making Avatar: The Way of Water but everyone who worked on this production deserves commendation.
Now, to the question that is on the minds of movie fans; is this sequel better than its predecessor? This answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because the tilt to dramatic elements in the exposition of this sprawling tale works like a charm in ways that it never did for the original.
No, because it is nigh impossible to recreate the magic and wonder that fans felt with the first film.
Final note: James Cameron's film is well worth the wait and it is definitely one of the year's best.