Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters December 16, 2022. Here’s a spoiler-free review.
I think he was right when, in papyrus-titled dialogue, the Pandoran whale lamented that his past was “so painful” that I realized I was completely bought into Avatar: The Way of Water. The success of Avatar 2009 greatly influenced the direction of digital filmmaking and distribution, and although the world has changed a lot in the 13 years leading up to this sequel, some things never do… like how when James Cameron decided to make a sequel, It expands and embellishes the previous story in surprising and engaging ways. Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t afraid to be weird as hell, as it doubles down on the bare-bones emotion of the first film, refocuses the plot on more interesting characters, and yes, it has to be said, sets the high water mark on film visual effects again. .
Water’s Way bridges the long gap between the films with a thick intro that explains what happened after the resource-hungry humans of the RDA retreated from Pandora. Renegade Avatar pilot and now full-time Navi Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) are starting a family as the new chiefs of the Omaticaya tribe. This family grows to include three biological children and two adopted children, and is the driving force behind Jake and Neytiri’s decision to exile themselves after the RDA returns to resume their looting, led by the practically non-existent General Ardmore (Eddie Falco). Advance these early scenes Much From presentation, we breeze into important details about the current situation and the nature of certain relationships. At 190 minutes of bladder-busting, The Way of Water always finds time to spin back to bolster more important plot elements, but that means there will be times when you’ll be searching for a character’s name or their place in the social hierarchy. Cameron bets you’ll be pretty pissed off with what a decade of technological advancement has done to bring Pandora to life on screen, and the results speak for themselves.
Although we spend some brief time in the woods of the first film, the vast majority of The Way of Water takes place in the lands of the navigational tribe of the Metkayina, and the vibrant underwater ecosystem is a dreamlike palette for Cameron to work with. Bioluminescent rainbows from vegetation in the depths refract across the moving surface like the aurora borealis, sunsets on the vast horizon bounce off waves and cast beaches a lilac hue, and carefully crafted sea life enhances the sense that Pandora is a living, breathing world more effectively than an avatar ever did. . But when the time comes to blow up all that quiet in favor of mega-action, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cameron delivered the goods. Even the most chaotic action sequences are readable, thrillingly paced, and above all, impossible to take your eyes off of. An early raid on an RDA freighter featuring a train derailment I smile all the way through, surprised at how deeply devastated it feels.
Cameron’s environmental concerns remain the backbone of Avatar’s larger plot, and his heavy employment of familiar character archetypes and story devices feels like a clear message that the Na’vi good guys and military bad guys are more important as a group of individuals. And if we’re talking archetypal characters, we have to be talking about Cameron’s decision to (literally) resurrect Stephen Lang’s Miles Quaritch as the primary Water Way villain. Quaritch’s tough-as-nails drill sergeant character felt dated in 2009, little more than a vessel for all of Avatar’s worst colonial aspects, but Lang’s enthusiasm for scenery-munching always kept the character interesting. Quaritch gets his second chance at revenge thanks to his own Na’vi body, and his newfound physical prowess gives him even more swagger than he already had. His personal vendetta is not embodied in long monologues about the nature of life or the expectations of a military man; It manifests itself in the simple fact that, even given a new lease on life, it is resident Search for Solis.
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Lang managed to review without Feeling Like a showboat, with all the subtlety of Quaritch holding his human skull aloft in grand Hamlet fashion, though there are a few new wrinkles of character that suggest a little more depth than The Way of Water’s available time — yes, even at three-hours long. The Way of Water is in no rush to expand the franchise’s universe, and after a decade of seeing the pros and cons of interconnected storytelling, it serves the experience well.
Thanks in large part to the shift in focus to the next generation, The Way of Water has a lot more room for luxury than its self-serious predecessor. Jake and Niytiri’s kids bicker and fight, and share scraps with their new buddies, but above all, they stick together. Cameron is very invested in middle children Lo’ak and Kiri as new representatives of Na’vi warrior and spiritual tendencies, as they each struggle to understand their place. Spider, the adopted human child of the Soules family, doesn’t get much time with his siblings because of how the story progresses, but his combination of wild energy and wisecracking attitude helps him stand out. The older and younger Sully kids don’t have much to do and get lost in the shuffle, aside from when someone needs to be compromised to keep the plot moving.
With the Sully children taking center stage, Jake and Neytiri’s role in the story is relatively diminished, and that’s okay. Jake isn’t a more interesting character than he was last time around, but he does have a use here as a tough father figure for his kids struggling to get by. Zoe Saldaña’s Neytiri feels like the legacy character with the least to do, mostly calling her kids over to the distracted Jake. The Mytkayina chiefs, played by Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet, are cut from a very similar cloth to Jake and Neytiri, and often end up feeling redundant as a result.
Although the vast majority of the technical maneuvers in The Way of Water pay off, the stumbles in this area are much more noticeable. Specifically, Cameron exaggerates how one of Jake and Neytiri’s children is resurrected. Sully’s eldest daughter Kerry is voiced and played in a performance portrayal by Sigourney Weaver, and her connection to the late Dr. Grace Augustine (also a Weaver) is a high point in the story, but the choice of Weaver herself playing this younger incarnation is a frequent distraction. It’s not about the idea of an adult playing a child through a mo-cap but rather the fact that…well, It’s Sigourney Weaver. Of course, Weaver’s game for trying, but raising her voice and shrinking her Na’vi body isn’t quite enough to bridge the uncanny valley to hear an icon — an icon in Cameron’s movie, no less — be transformed into a teenager.
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