Deep Sea Diving
The original Avatar was released almost 13 years ago and to this day remains the highest grossing film of all time. While the legacy of the film’s characters and story aren’t groundbreaking or even well remembered, it was the visuals and special effects that changed the cinematic landscape forever. A sequel to the film has been delayed for numerous years, with director James Cameron citing the need to build new technology and perfect his technique to deliver something groundbreaking yet again. Avatar: The Way of Water is definitive proof that James Cameron delivers on his promises. It’s visually remarkable film that immerses the audience back to Pandora with the same awe and wonder as it did in 2009 and elevates it with a new world and culture. However, the film also benefits from an improved story and characters even if it still isn’t breaking new ground in this regard. At a daunting runtime of 3 hours and 10 minutes, this is one film you do not want to miss in theaters.
The film takes place sometime after the events of the first film with Jake and Ney’tiri raising their family and doing everything to stay together. When humans return to Pandora with malicious intentions yet again, the Sully family must flee to find a new home with the Metkayina clan who are ocean dwellers. Their journey takes them through the vast open waters and in a battle that puts the family on the line.
Let me get this out of the way: PLEASE SEE THIS MOVIE IN THEATERS AND IN 3D IF YOU CAN! This movie is absolutely stunning to watch in the big screen and serves as a firm reminder of the power of the theatrical experience. The spectacle on screen with the various water effects, creature designs, and action sequences are nothing short of jaw dropping. The movie truly immerses you in the world of Pandora yet again and takes you through its various intricacies and environments to give you a dazzling treat for the eyes. Even if the story drags in a few places, there is always something beautiful and marvelous to look at on screen. James Cameron and his team went through painstakingly long efforts to make this film, and the results show it was well worth the wait. The 3D actually enhances the view and adds to the immersive effect of Pandora especially when it comes to the water sequences.
It’s a truly stunning feat to see what Cameron has done with water sequences and everything he was able to accomplish. Audiences may have seen the most recent Black Panther film and recalled the water village and characters there, but Avatar: The Way of Water is EONS ahead in terms of its practicality of effects. It’s amazing to see how well he has done this and nothing that can be truly experienced while sitting at home on the couch when it comes to Disney+. I anticipate seeing this movie multiple more times solely for the theatrical and immersive 3D experience that is truly revolutionary for cinematic experiences today.
The story in this film is also improved from the first film and more memorable even if it does drag in some parts and isn’t inventing new ground. It focuses more on the Sully family and their interactions with the new Metkayina clan as opposed to the global interactions of humans versus Na’vi in first film. The emphasis on the family dynamic certainly grounds the film more and will feel more relatable to the audience. It does follow familiar beats and archetypes from other films adding a sense of predictability to its plotting. This can make the film drag some particularly when it comes to its second act.
The characters also are more memorable this type around given more familiar and traditional archetypes that again aren’t revolutionary but add to the depth. Jake Sully embodies the dutiful father who’s mission is to protect his family while his children all have that free rebellious spirit of getting them into trouble. There are some mysteries and questions that the film poses on these characters and given that we have about 4 more Avatar sequels scheduled to come out soon, I am sure more of this information will be fleshed out. The characters of the Sully family are cohesive in nature, and while not a lot of depth is given to them and their relationships it isn’t truly the purpose of the film and I am confident we will explore more in future films.
The themes of environmentalism are still sharply present in this film. Where as the first film had an emphasis on protecting our forests, this film focuses on protecting our oceans. It’s a welcome message in a visually dazzling film that makes it a well rounded experience for adults and kids to enjoy together. The new theme present here is family, and the lengths one will go to in order to protect their family and stay together. There are some emotional moments that do truly hit showing how immersive this film is not only from a visual standpoint but a character and story one as well. Even a few days later after seeing the film, I am still thinking about the characters more than I was with the first one.
The overwhelming over 3 hour runtime certainly has audiences talking, and I can say that I didn’t feel it was always truly earned. While the majority of it is spent on world building and fleshing out this new environment for audiences to invest in, it does drag in some parts leading me to think it didn’t truly need to be as long as it was. In particular, the first act of the film spends a bit too much time in the forests of Pandora which is an environment familiar to audiences and doesn’t break any new ground visually. Easily a half hour could have been cut from the film, but with the emphasis on world building and establishing settings, characters, and story points for future films I did enjoy it more than I thought I would and I never looked at my watch once.
With that being said, do not let this stop you from seeing this visually immersive, jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and groundbreaking film in theaters and in 3D the way it was meant to be seen! This film is a revolution for cinema and demonstrates that patience is well earned and paid off. James Cameron has truly outdone himself and provided a world that is ripe with lore and intrigue that I cannot wait to revisit in subsequent viewings and in future sequels. Go this film right now! You don’t want to miss out on the theatrical experience of the decade!
(A -) Visually Stunning