BRIAN VINER reviews Avatar: The Way of Water
Avatar: The Way of Water
The world premiere of Avatar: The Way Of Water at the Odeon Leicester Square was predictably glamorous, with a plush blue carpet rather than a red one and the paparazzi clamouring for just one more slinky pose from Sigourney Weaver.
Accustomed to an adoring public, the stars may even have thought that the distant ululating was for them, too.
Film: This sequel is tremendous fun, even bigger and better than the original, but by golly it will test your bladder: BRIAN VINER reviews Avatar: The Way of Water
In fact it was jubilant Morocco fans nearby, wildly celebrating their country’s penalty shoot-out victory against Spain in the World Cup, and incredibly they were still at it when we all filed out into the cold more than three hours later.
Yes, this is an insanely long film – but so was David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia, which director James Cameron cited as a major influence on Avatar for its ‘good, old-fashioned, adolescent adventure storytelling’, and that was even longer.
Great movies can get away with inordinate length.
Review: James Cameron’s sequel to his 2009 sci-fi blockbuster Avatar doesn’t quite qualify as great, however, merely very good
Cameron’s sequel to his 2009 sci-fi blockbuster Avatar doesn’t quite qualify as great, however – merely very good.
For starters, especially from behind a pair of 3D specs, it looks absolutely ravishing.
And the narrative is well within everyone’s grasp of understanding, whether or not they saw the original. The unwritten rule for sci-fi blockbusters is: the bigger the budget, the more incomprehensible the plot.
Not this time, though. Child-friendly, and for that matter grandparent-friendly, Avatar 2 is mercifully easy to follow.
Positive: The unwritten rule for sci-fi blockbusters is: the bigger the budget, the more incomprehensible the plot. Not this time, though. Child-friendly, and for that matter grandparent-friendly, Avatar 2 is mercifully easy to follow
Yet it is not a film for the ages, perhaps because it is tailored so carefully for our own age, with ecological and environmental messages that could not hit the audience any more forcefully if they came flying out of the screen at them, which of course sometimes they appear to do.
We are back on the exotic moon of Pandora, enough years after the story told in the first film for Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) to have embedded himself as a fully-fledged member of the blue-skinned Na’vi tribe. He lives blissfully, deep in the forest, with his partner Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their wholesome children.
But then, shattering the idyll, come the ‘sky people’ – invaders from Earth – led by General Frances Ardmore (Edie Falco, in a role that she surely never saw coming when she was having her nails done in suburban New Jersey, as Carmela in The Sopranos).
If they are to turn Pandora into their new home they must first ‘pacify the locals’ which means capturing Sully, who is spearheading the resistance.
Plot: With his adolescent sons keen to lend their muscle, Sully must lead the family out of harm’s way, and duly seeks shelter with the Metkayina, Pandora’s reef people, who live in joyful harmony with the maritime world
That job goes to the fearsomely vengeful Quaritch (Stephen Lang), whose death in the first film (like that of Sigourney Weaver’s Dr Grace Augustine) is a triviality easily sorted by Cameron and his co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who simply resurrect him as an avatar – normally an online representation, but in this case a cross-species transformation.
To make Quaritch an even more formidable foe, he and his crack squad of troops arrive in Na’vi guise.
With his adolescent sons keen to lend their muscle, Sully must lead the family out of harm’s way, and duly seeks shelter with the Metkayina, Pandora’s reef people who live in joyful harmony with the maritime world.
This sets up the most beguiling stretch of the movie as the Metkayina, led by their king (Cliff Curtis) and queen (Kate Winslet), introduce their forest-dwelling guests to their semi-aquatic way of life. Some underwater scenes are truly wondrous, and when Quaritch and his goons turn up and start massacring sea creatures to lure Sully out of hiding, it’s genuinely shocking, like watching someone mug Sir David Attenborough.
But that, undoubtedly, is precisely Cameron’s intention. As with the first film, he wants us to see beyond the blue skin and pointy ears and recognise the marauders, in a sense, as avatars for the conquistadores and all white men who displaced indigenous people, seizing and defiling their land.
But he is far too shrewd a storyteller to let the message sully, pun intended, the entertainment. This sequel is tremendous fun, even bigger and better than the original, but by golly it will test your bladder.
Avatar: The Way of Water opens on Friday in cinemas across the UK.
Talent: Director James Cameron arrives at the world premiere of Avatar: The Way of Water in London last week