Name: Avatar: The Way of Water
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington,Zoe Saldaña
Rating: 3.5 / 5
More than a decade after the events of Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water focuses primarily on the Sully family, Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and their kids; Neteyam (Jamie Flatter), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). Along for the ride is Spider (Jack Champion), a human teenager more inclined towards a Pandorian lifestyle. Initially indulged in a blissful family life, Jake’s past comes back to bite him as the “sky people,” led by Colonel Miles Quaritch’s Avatar form (Stephen Lang), are on the hunt for revenge. Choosing flight over fight, Jake gives up his Omaticaya leadership and relocates his entire family – who are understandably reluctant about the move – to a remote island inhabited by the Metkayina clan, and led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his pregnant wife Ronal (Kate Winslet). Warriors on land, the Sully family has a bit of a culture shock adapting to Metkayina’s dominance in water. This is especially witnessed by the Sully kids, who go through their own reflective journeys, with assistance from Tonowari and Ronal’s children Tsireya (Bailey Bass) and Aonung (Filip Geljo). That’s not without a few water bumps, though! Similar to Avatar, the antagonist in the sequel remains pure human greed as Jake’s flight tactic soon turns into fight mode with Quaritch raising righteous hell in Pandora to get what he wants…
It’s been 13 long years since moviegoers were last left mesmerised by James Cameron’s Pandorian spell on the big screen. A pioneer of visual excellence, the revered filmmaker’s Avatar went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. Hence, sky was the limit when it came to the audience’s expectations for Avatar: The Way of Water. After watching the movie in IMAX 3D, I can attest that it was well worth the wait!
Inspite of lethargy when it comes to visual effects-heavy blockbusters within the time gap between Avatar and its sequel, James Cameron expertly manages to leave you spellbound with Avatar: The Way of Water from start to finish, in spite of the novelty disadvantage. With a runtime of 3 hours and 12 minutes, you’re never once made aware of the long duration and instead surrender yourself to the gorgeous landscapes of Pandora, specifically when the Sullys relocate to the Metkayinan island. At times, I was more invested in the intricate detailing of sizeable fishes than I was even in the characters because the hyper-realism James focuses on through high-rate frames oscillates between virtual reality and animation, almost feeling like a National Geographic documentary. In layman’s terms, expect aesthetic excellence and nothing less! While Russell Carpenter’s beautiful cinematography aptly invokes James’ unbelievable picturisation, the floppy editing by Stephen E. Rivkin, David Brenner, Josh Refoua and Cameron is cumbersome. Though not as gripping as the late James Horner’s music in Avatar, Simon Franglen does a serviceable job in the sequel in building the right tone. Avatar: The Way of Water, like Cameron’s other works, is a love letter to water and feels accurately inspired by his blockbuster hits like Titanic and even Aliens and Terminator.
As majestic as the visual imagery is in Avatar: The Way of Water, that’s how weak the screenplay is in spite of a 5-member writing team (James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno). Though old and new characters mostly get their individual time to shine, the dramatic tension never escalates in terms of storytelling. The dialogues are almost laughable to the point where even the cast seems forced to utter them. While the first half will definitely leave fans divided, with me, unfortunately, finding it on the duller side of the ratio, the second half more than makes up for it with its anxiety-driven conclusion. James Cameron works best when the stakes are high, and the explosive third act is hoot-worthy with its impressive “edge of your seat” action scenes. One notable sequence which had my fist cuffed is when a *SPOILER* is hunted down in cruel fashion, an empowering message against humanity and for environmentalism by Cameron. Given its restraint in the narrative, there are key moments which are purely there to strike anticipation for Avatar 3-4-5.
When it comes to the performances, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña take more of a backseat this time around, nevertheless, they continue to be the beating heart holding the cliched story. Zoe, in the third act, is phenomenal! Sam, too, enthrals towards the end. While Kate Winslet is a welcome addition to the Avatar franchise with an earnest performance, it’s the actors playing kids who truly steal the show. Standouts include Britain Dalton (Sure to be the Sully favourite!), Jack Champion and Bailey Bass (Guaranteed bias too!) while Sigourney Weaver makes do with the teenage girl stereotype attached to Kiri, with some enchanting scenes spruced throughout. A performance that felt too caricaturish was of Stephen Lang, not on his accord, but because of the lacklustre dialogues allotted to him. Brendan Cowell as Captain Mick Scoresby and Jemaine Clement as Dr. Ian Garvin, sadly, suffer from the same syndrome.
In spite of its very obvious flaws, Avatar: The Way of Water is just what Hollywood needs! James Cameron isn’t subtle about the fact that he wanted this film to be visually astounding and that’s exactly what the audience gets; a cinematic spectacle that’s going to be a massive box office draw.
James Cameron’s visual imagery is unbeatable in Avatar: The Way of Water, especially during the underwater sequences. A scintillating third act leaves you at the edge of your seat, backed by a strong performance by Zoe Saldaña.
A humdrum story lacks the soul of James Cameron’s previous outings, which balanced emotion and action in equal measure. The editing with the 192-minute duration is choppy.
- The masterpiece visuals through James Cameron’s innovative eyes, particularly the Metkayina ‘underwater’ scenes.
- Zoe Saldaña’s exceptional performance in the third act.
- Builds up huge excitement for Avatar 3-4-5.
In finality, all I’d say is; James Cameron, take a bow!
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