“The water’s path has no beginning,” explains a black-eyed blue alien, “and it has no end.”
Considering the Avatar franchise started 13 years ago and there are three more sequels in the works, that’s the obvious fact. Not to mention that the new Avatar: The Way of Water movie takes an almost endless 3 hours and 12 minutes, which is definitely a long time to wear 3D glasses.
But director James Cameron The epic sequel has a lot to pack into it: a good sci-fi blockbuster, a visual effects masterclass, and the best nature documentary you’ll ever see.
Avatar 2 will be released Friday, December 16. In the meantime, you can refresh your memory of the original 2009 Avatar at: Disney Plus (or just catch up with our handy guide). The first movie showed ex-sailor Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) arriving on the lush planet of Pandora wearing a giant blue alien body (or avatar) that can walk among the giant blue aliens that live there.
Instead of helping his human companions rob Pandora, he falls in love with the Na’vi and their union with the planet’s beautiful (but happy to bite) plants and animals. Especially she falls in love with the tribal princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).
Fast forward to the sequel and the now married couple leads guerrilla raids against greedy human capitalists as they raise their family of young Na’vi children and teenagers.
The new film develops from the perspective of these children, each struggling with their half-human/half-Na’vi past. When troubled teens encounter some new and decidedly hostile avatars, the Sully family hops on their flying lizards and flies across the sea to seek refuge with a new Na’vi tribe living in harmony with the ocean.
The places where the Avatar rises are the new shores. Some early scenes where aliens in war gear are scouring the environment look exactly like a video game, but that feeling fades as they spend time in and around the ocean with their Na’vi families. These scenes at sea are breathtakingly beautiful. In the shoots David Attenborough Proud (if you sent him into space), the lithe Na’vi dive into the crystal-clear water and frolic with shimmering sea creatures flecked with rays of sunlight.
Even a moment as simple as a character waving their feet in the water is filled with layers of bioluminescent action. In probably the most enjoyable use of 3D I can remember, the fishes and the Na’vi leap from the screen towards you before they dance in the depths. You can almost reach out and splash your hand in sparkling water. Totally hypnotic.
As you explore this deceptive underwater realm with the Na’vi, these CG characters become completely real and much more detailed than the real actors on the human side of things. As in the first movie, there’s a distinction between human actors on real sets and computer-generated aliens in impossible imaginary environments, but when they meet in battle it’s a lot of fun, and the difference in size means an arrow in one hand. The Na’vi becomes a giant spear that stabs a feeble human being.
Humans are rolling from exploding vehicles like action figures scattered in a sandbox, but wars are more than an empty spectacle because you have come to identify too much with the Na’vi’s harmonious existence with the planet’s ecosystem while standing up to the brutality of humans. greedy and senseless exploitation.
The greatest interaction between these two worlds is the growing relationship between a grizzled war veteran in a large blue avatar body and a human child who grew up on Pandora. They are tenacious enemies, and yet they have one thing in common, as each is split between both the human and Na’vi worlds. War veteran Stephen Lang (the brutal soldier from the first movie) returns in blue CG form, and his villain has a much more interesting story than Jake and Neytiri.
Focusing on children means leaving adult characters undeveloped. For Jake and Neytiri, the guerrilla fighters and parents must be a deeply intriguing inner conflict. What if fighting for your children’s future means you can’t see that future – or worse, what if fighting for other people’s children costs your own?
You may finally think about these questions, but there is almost no clue that neither Jake nor Neytiri is grappling with such thoughts. They seem to argue all the time, but it’s really not about anything. The pressure of the crusades on their marriage and love is as interesting as all the teenage hormones flying around. But I can’t tell you if they have opposing views on the big questions you think they’re going to tackle.
Neytiri is especially short-lived. She’s a “strong female character” in that she can shoot a bow and arrow while tumbling in an explosion, which is great. But it’s not entirely clear what he thinks about anything. It’s shocking that Jake, a newcomer to Na’vi society, not only becomes chief of the tribe but continues to speak for him – even as he fled. The first movie was heavily criticized for its “white savior” tropes. And while the heart of Way of Water seems to be in the right place, Jake is constantly telling the Na’vi how things are.
The abundance of creativity in many areas particularly disappoints him when the plot insists on exposing various old clichés. Young bullies mocking a troubled newcomer. A hostage cold with a knife to his throat. These are clichés that resonate so much that their inclusion must definitely be intentional, like winking at the audience to put us at ease, so we can go on with more silly things (subtitled whale song, anyone?). Yes, scenes like this have a certain universal clarity, and younger audiences may be seeing them at the same time. However, it seems surprising that an otherwise creative film could recycle such outdated metaphors.
The first movie was basically Dances with Wolves and intersected with Cameron’s Aliens. This time, the director uses more elements from The Abyss, Terminator 2 and Titanic movies. There is even a moment when a fish and a larger fish are involved when George Lucas did it and he was a bit of a coward. Ghost Threat 23 years ago.
Still, parental suffering and the intriguing journeys of the young characters lend emotional weight to The Way of Water. The sci-fi action is soothing and exciting, the environmental message is irresistible, and the visuals are incredible.
Even over three hours – and again, these 3D glasses can be irritating – it’s hard to think of anything that could be cut. The part floating around underwater can probably be zipped up hard, except it’s probably the best part of the whole movie.
Forget the 3D glasses, once you start you may not want this movie to end.
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